There is a very happy cat living in our garden this summer.
He has his very own Catnip, Nepeta cataria, growing within easy reach.
We’ve noticed him spending more time outside lately. And I had noticed the Catnip plants nibbled almost back to the ground a couple of times….
But this is the first time we’ve had the pleasure of watching him enjoy his Catnip.
A member of the mint family, Catnip is a rampant grower.
“Pinching back,” or grazing, just encourages more branching on each stem The plant will grow thicker and larger.
The essential oil which effects cats is called nepetalactone. Although Catnip has a sedative effect in people, it is a mild hallucinogen for cats.
The effect is short lived, but potent for our feline friends.
Catnip dries easily, like any other summer herb. Cut and dried, it can be saved for play on winter evenings.
Just a tiny amount will give your cat a happy playtime.
I keep a ziplock bag of it for tossing toys in when he wants to play.
He especially enjoys it on evenings too cold or wet for him to go outside and run.
You probably know already that Catnip is perfectly safe for cats.
There are no harmful effects. Cats are smart enough to know when to stop playing in it, and its effects wear off within a few minutes.
There are some medicinal uses for Catnip in humans, but it should always be avoided by women who may be pregnant.
Interestingly, Catnip is said to has proven more effective at repelling mosquitoes than DEET in trials. It is perfectly safe to pick a few sprigs to rub over the skin when working outside.
Catnip is among the herbs brought to North America by English settlers in the 17th Century. It is actually native to Europe and Asia.
Its leaves and stems have proven effective in repelling other insects which may try to invade the kitchen…. You can sprinkle dried Catnip , or lay freshly harvested stems and leaves in areas where ants or other insects may try to enter your home.
Easy to grow, perennial Nepeta cataria likes full sun and moist soil.
When it blooms in another week or so this mass of Catnip will be covered in happy insects enjoying its nectar.
Whether you have a feline friend to please, or not; this is a beautiful plant in the garden.
Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014