Otherwise known as catnip, Nepeta cataria is the special plant having drug like qualities for cats. Catnip has been growing in gardens the world over for centuries for this express benefit, as a cat attractant. It might be surprising to know that catnip has some other beneficial qualities as well.
Benefits of Catnip
Scientifically, catnip reacts with the amygdala in the cat’s brain and encourages a sexual response. Of course this only happens in adult cats that have the hereditary gene to elicit this response. There are other plants like valerian root to use in substitution for catnip for the remaining cats not as receptive to catnip.
Catnip is a wonderful attractant with which to train cats. It helps to associate a particular scratching post or desired behavior from the cat, as opposed to an undesirable scratching post like the family couch. It is also great for pure enjoyment of the cat.
How to Grow Catnip
Growing catnip is easily done in sunny gardens with six or more hours of sunlight daily. Its bright green leaves tend to act as a beautiful backdrop for colorful flowers. Catnip can be grown well in containers as long as the soil is enriched with fertilizer. Make sure the soil is well-drained and pinch back the plant periodically to maintain a good shape to the plant. One final growing tip if you have cats is to place it in or near your vegetable garden. While admiring the catnip, they will snag a rodent!
Uses for Catnip
Of course, training and entertaining cats is the most prevalent way most people use catnip. Placing it in a place accessible to the cat is the best thing to do for pure enjoyment. Keep in mind that the cat’s olfactory response lessens eventually.
Butterflies find the plant appealing as well. It makes a beautiful ornamental, blooming from late spring to fall. It can be quite fragrant with pink or white blossoms.
Catnip is also a great insect repellant. It has been shown to be more effective than deet when repelling mosquitoes, cockroaches and even termites. It can also help in gardens by controlling aphids and squash bugs.
Although catnip is not as common as it used to be in medicinal use, it can still be used as a tea to provide sedative effects. It also helps to calm menstrual cramps, aids in stress reduction and help with abdominal problems. Catnip is great for helping to improve scalp conditions like dandruff.
Nature is full of paradoxes. Catnip elicits arousal from our furry friends, but it can calm the most stressed, overworked person. For this reason alone, it is the cat’s meow.