Catnip is a favorite treat for cats. It not only acts on the brain receptors but also allows you to adjust the behavioral characteristics of the animal. Today we will tell you how to grow catnip and why cats love it so much.
Where Does Catnip Come From?
Catnip is native to Europe, Africa, and Asia.
Where Does Catnip Grow?
Catnip (Nepeta Cataria) is widespread in the steppe and forest-steppe zones. Catnip is grown in Western Europe and the USA. You can find mint in Asia, Africa, and Japan. The Catnip prefers sunny areas.
What Does Catnip Look Like?
The Catnip herb has a long and straight stem with heart-shaped leaves that are serrated at the outer edge. It has small flowers of a violet or purple hue, and a hint of lemon is felt in the smell. Catnip is a perennial herb that belongs to the Lamiaceae family.
Catnip vs Catmint
Plant taxonomy classifies catnip plants as Nepeta cataria. The name catmint is preferred in the UK. Note that in the US, catmint is considered an ornamental plant and will attract fewer cats. If you are considering planting a catnip, be sure to read the scientific name to find the right plant for your needs. To make it easier for you to understand, we will tell you more about them.
- Nepeta cataria is exactly the plant that cats adore. Attracts butterflies and is deer-resistant.
- Nepeta mussinii is an ornamental plant that is often used as a ground cover. Able to grow up to 1 pound in height and attracts butterflies.
- Nepeta x faassenii are plants with gray-green leaves and flowers, similar to lavender. Not as invasive as other Nepeta species.
How Do Cats Behave?
Cats react to the essential oil in catnip – nepetalactone. The feline response is a kind of euphoria, similar to that experienced by humans after hallucinogens drugs. Your cat’s reaction will depend on whether it has sniffed or ate the grass. Sniffing is usually stimulating while eating catnip is sedating. They play with it, rub against it, ride it and kick it. Some meow, growl, drool, and just go crazy for a few minutes. And then they suddenly lose interest and leave. After a few hours, they may return to catnip and “go crazy” again.
At times, you may notice that the cat becomes wild when sniffing the catnip. The plant has a stimulating effect for 5-10 minutes, after which a period of rest begins. Interestingly, catnip does not work on all animals: about a third of cats remain indifferent to it. Also, kittens under 2 months cannot appreciate all the delights of the aroma of grass. Be aware that catnip makes some cats aggressive or not happy. If you have more than one cat, it is best to try giving catnip initially individually to avoid a fight between them.
Using Catnip for Cats
This is not just a way to pamper your pet, but also an opportunity to correct its behavior. You can use the catnip plant for cats in different cases. Aggressive cats after eating catnip become calmer, phlegmatic – more active and playful. Catnip is a great stress reliever, and makes it easier for animals to go to the vet and travel.
Also, manufacturers began to produce toys with catnip and all kinds of drops, which are applied, for example, during training to a scratching post. You can put dried leaves under the upholstery of scratching posts. If the pet is “on a diet”, catnip will also help to make the food more attractive – add chopped dried or fresh leaves to food. By the way, it is believed that catnip also prevents certain types of helminths from multiplying in the body.
Is Catnip Harmful to Cats?
Some cat owners are skeptical about a substance that produces stupid, sleepy, or out-of-control behavior. Of course, this is a matter of personal choice, whether or not to give catnip to a pet; but rest assured that it is not addictive or harmful to cats. It is a herb that grows naturally in the wild.
Catnip Growing Conditions
Catnip is an unpretentious plant, but giving it a little attention will help it truly bloom in every sense of the word. Here are the most important tips for catnip care.
Given that it is a drought-tolerant soil cover, catnip grows well in full sun in arid regions, but it also grows well in partial shade.
This perennial plant prefers well-drained soil. In general, catnip is not picky about the soil in which it grows.
Grow catnip at a temperature of at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Daytime temperatures can range from 55 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. If the temperature is higher or lower than this, it can have a bad effect on the growth of the plant.
How to Water
A recently sown or planted catnip must be watered. Then you should water it regularly for several weeks. While the bushes are young, it is recommended to water them once every few days. Adult shrubs need additional moisture only during a prolonged drought, and watering should be abundant. Remember that you must not allow stagnation of liquid in the soil, as this can lead to the death of the plant.
Such a herbaceous plant does not need additional feeding. If there are a lot of nutrients in the soil, then this will have an extremely negative effect on the growth of the bush. Also, after the first wave of flowering and pruning, the bushes can be fed with complex fertilizer, due to which they will again delight you with lush bloom.
How to Germinate Catnip Seeds?
Unlike other perennials, it is not difficult to grow catnip from seed. In addition, it is inexpensive.
To grow seeds, you need pots, a good potting mix, and a place with adequate lighting (such as a windowsill).
Start by soaking the seeds: moisten a paper towel, squeeze out excess water, and place the seeds on one half of the towel. Then fold a paper towel so that the seeds are completely covered, place them in a plastic bag, and let them on overnight.
Before planting seeds in pots, mix the required amount of potting soil with water, and then squeeze it well with both hands. The soil should be evenly moist, but not wet. Fill your pots with this soil and tap it lightly on a hard surface to remove any air pockets. Add more mixture if necessary and level the soil so that it is flat.
How to Plant Catnip?
After preparing the soil, you can start planting. If you chose small pots for catnip seedlings, then plant one seed in each, but if you chose a large decorative pot, then plant all the seeds in it, observing a distance of 18-24 inches between them. Lightly press the seeds into the soil and sprinkle a little on top. When you’re done, water the pots and place them in a warm place to germinate.
How Long Does It Take for Catnip to Grow?
Usually, a catnip will germinate in 7-10 days, so be on the lookout. When you notice catnip sprouts, remove the plastic lids (if you have any) and move the pots to a sunny location. Keep the soil moist, but do not overfill. If you have planted everything in one pot, remember to thin out your seedlings if they grow too close to each other.
Growing Catnip Outdoors
When to plant catnip? It should be planted in the spring, after the last frost. For cultivation, preference should be given to fertile, well-drained soil in a sunny location. You can also add some nutrients. For this, you can use aged compost or other rich organic matter. Growing conditions in a container are not very different from growing conditions outdoors. The main thing to remember is to plant the plants at least 18-24 inches apart and water only when the topsoil is dry.
When to Harvest Catnip?
For your cat’s delight, it is best to harvest the catnip leaves when the plants are in bloom, around mid-summer. This is when the compounds cats love the most are at their peak in the leaves.
How to Harvest Catnip?
Do not cut leaves or branches in the first year of the plant’s life, give a bush to form and grow stronger. You can harvest much more medicinal herbs by cutting them in the second or third year after planting.
When collecting, the entire aerial part of the plant is used – the stem, leaves, flowers. Cut the main stem at a height of 20 inches from the ground. It is better to dry already cutted plants in a dark, ventilated place. At the same time, the smell and taste are fully preserved.
White Spots on Catnip Leaves
Some gardeners may notice such an unpleasant phenomenon on their plants. This may indicate a disease of the plant. Over time, the spots grow in size and darken. A heavily infested plant must be removed. To prevent the disease from occurring, keep the area clean and keep weeds under control. In this case, overhead watering should be avoided.
As you can see, catnip is a wonderful plant that can be easily added to your garden, because not only your cats will like it, but also beneficial insects. In addition, it looks pretty cute. It is not difficult to grow it, even a beginner can do it. The most important thing is to provide your plant with enough light and water on time. And also you need to monitor your pet, which is crazy about catnip. After all, paradoxically, catnip suffers most often from cats. Therefore, if you have cats that love this plant, they will ride on it, lie on it and even chew it. Mature plants, of course, can survive this “tough love”, but young plants are likely to die from such treatment.
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