Catnip Crazy

by Keri K. on January 5, 2010

Nepeta cataria, commonly known as catnip, is a member of the famous Lamiaceae, or mint, plant family. It’s an aromatic flowering species native to Europe, Asia and Africa, although it can now be found here in North America as well.

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Whether from a live plant or dried, your cat’s excellent sense of smell detects the compound nepetalactone, responsible for those well-known reactions like rolling, pawing, vocalizing, and generally acting crazy-happy for up to several minutes at a time.

Oddly enough, the catnip plant’s traditional “human” use is for its soothing effect!

If your cat couldn’t give a flip about catnip, it’s because he or she didn’t inherit the gene that makes cats receptive to that chemical.

It’s estimated that about two thirds of domestic cats are affected by catnip. In my household, it’s one half… Pandemonium goes wild for the stuff, but his littermate Dozo is totally uninterested. See for yourself!

Catnip is a completely safe, non-addictive indulgence for your kitties. It’s suggested you offer catnip every couple days to maximize its effectiveness. You can use it to spice up old toys, or make cat furniture or scratchers even more appealing. I like to hide it here and there and see how long it takes Pan to notice.

Here at Foster and Smith, catnip is served up many ways: grow-your-own live plant, our Feline Fantasia Flakes and Pellets, catnip spray, and even catnip markers. Pan and I are big fans of the spray, which creates much less of a situation when he paws it right out of my hand.

Is your kitty a catnip connoisseur? Let me know in the comments.

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Keri is a lead catalog designer for Drs. Foster and Smith and holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from UW-Stout. She shares a small home with her husband, two Chinese Crested dogs, two cats, two ferrets, several reptiles and amphibians, and 30-some gallons of freshwater planted aquariums. See more articles by Keri K.

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Margaret Imle February 15, 2015 at 10:27 pm

When I was 7 and my sisters were 4 and 10, our parents must have decided we were old enough to learn how to care for an animal because they took us to see a litter of k. We. were each to pick our favorite one. As we walked in a long haired brownish tabby with white face, belly, and paws left her litter mates in the box and toddled, tail up with a little curl at the top, straight to me, mewing as she scampered a bit clumsily. Her nose was a happy shade of pink and she purred as I petted her. She picked ME and never left me to explore her other options. That was to me a sign that she was to be mine, and not my sisters’, maybe there was a secret fairy godmother after all. As a middle child the joy of being first to be chosen was almost unimaginable. I was never first. The natural order of the universe always made me NOT THE FIRST ONE because I was too big to do some things like my little sister did, not old enough for the wanted privilege, too short to get a choice seat by the window in the car, and too bothersome if I insisted it was my turn. I took her home and told her all my secrets because she had chosen me and that meant we were forever connected to eachother. SHE HAD REALLY PICKED ME and all was OK in my world since she could not possibly UNchoose me! The choosing had happened and could never be undone. I was important to this kitty. So I introduced her to a string that followed me, and to the doll carriage, and the appropriate attire for riding in a doll carriage, and as evening approached I taught her to hide under the covers in my bed. I named her Paddy for her softly cushioned and mittened paws. She grew to resemble a Maine Coon cat as she matured. Her curved white whiskers were sooo long and her eyes were so green,, accenting her pink nose and clean symmetrical face, and she even had curly ear hair that matched her main tabby color. What a perfect kitty and she had wanted to be MINE, I was HER FIRST CHOICE. She witnessed my growing up, high school days, trips home from college at breaks, my first serious boyfriend and then the excitement of my marriage and moving away to live a day’s drive across Texas. She outlived the other cats, outlived some of her own kittens, and even a serious case of distemper. The vet clinic cared for her longer than any of us had ever stayed in the hospital. She just had become the family cat after all of us left home, the connection between my parents and their memories of us as little children. Our neighborhood was a semi-rural Texas small town that got annexed by the bigger city. It maintained its ruralness and cats lived outdoors in those days, sheltering under the screened porch. Each time I visited my parents I noticed her eyes growing a little hazy, but she was still the same loving cat. After nearly 17 years she seemed to have gotten lost and did not show up to eat. My mother recounted her neighborhood search for Paddy, asking each neighbor had they seen her. Most neighbors knew her well. After several days of searching, a more distant neighbor recalled seeing her, noticing she looked confused or sick. The lady called the humane society because she appeared sick. With a heavy heart my mother visited the humane society where staff remembered her but told my mother she had been euthanized the previous week because they did not know who to call and she was sick and frail by the time they received her. I know this was such a hard story for my mother to hear. Paddy was such a good companion that she really became like another person in the family, embodying so much love, history and comfort for all her 17 wonderful years. Her gift to me was ongoing. I wish that we had been better informed owners about tagging cats and keeping them indoors. We sort of thought she could walk on water. I think she did that for a long time, but even a saint should not be expected to do it full time. She tried. We lived her and miss her even. nearly 60 years later. I imagine she is happily mousing for St Peter and the angels now and welcoming newcomers who need comfort, both feline and human.

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