Nepeta Cataria: Make Homemade Catnip Toys

| 3/11/2011 9:49:00 AM

Reminded by my cats, Scarlett and Charlie, I’m writing about catnip. Although there are hundreds of species of catnip, the ones that we’re most familiar with are common catnip (Nepeta cataria) and catmint (Nepeta mussinii).

Catnip is a perennial plant in the Lamiaceae family and, like all mints, can be invasive if not contained. They’re native to Europe and Asia but have naturalized here and can grow wild all over the United States and Canada. It grows well in Zones 3 to 9 and it likes a lot of sun.  

11 March 2001 CatnipThe type of catnip that cats prefer is the Nepeta cataria, or common catnip. It can grow 2 to 3 feet and has white flowers. The Nepeta mussinii, on the other hand usually tops out at 15 inches and has purple flowers. If you would like to grow catnip, but don’t want to become a favorite feline hangout, Nepeta mussinii is the catnip for you. Some believe it’s more attractive in the landscape, too, and both are deer resistant.

The plants will bloom from June through September and should be harvested while they are flowering. Dry them upside down in bundles, then store in airtight containers.

Nepetalactone is the essential oil found in the leaves and stems of common catnip that take cats on their magical mystery tour. The effects of catnip will vary from cat to cat. Kittens and older cats are usually not interested, and some cat are never interested in catnip. How they react can be hereditary, also.  If you have sibling cats or parents, their view of catnip will most likely be the same. Research shows that even large cats, like tigers, are affected by catnip.