I am a gardener, and I love to try to get anything to grow. Once upon a time, I had an herb garden. The vegetable garden was nearby and got a lot more attention. The herb garden tended to get forgotten, because I was an overambitious gardener who took on more than she could handle. I planted catnip seeds in the herb garden. Nothing happened for a few years. Then, suddenly, the catnip grew. It got established. It is a perennial, and it kept coming back and back and back. I had bushes of the stuff. Suddenly my cats had catnip — a lot!
What can you do with an abundance of catnip? Plenty:
When I adopted Chester, the shelter sent him home with a catnip pillow toy. To this day, this is Chester’s favorite toy. He will walk around the house, toy in mouth, and howl until someone throws that toy. He sleeps with it and drops it in obvious places, like in shoes or in the middle of doorways. These toys are great because they’re just the right size for a cat to pick up. Most of the ones I have are about two inches by three inches. The toys can be washed and your cat may still love them, even if the catnip has long lost its scent. Chester still loves his original Baba even after it’s been washed.
These are even easier than the catnip pillows, and no sewing is involved. Angie Bailey created this neat toy and gave it away when we sold books at a cat show a few years ago. Take a small rectangular piece of fleece material, put a small heap of dried catnip in the middle of the rectangle, roll it up, and knot both ends. Your cat has a toy that can easily be batted around or carried around in his mouth.
Catnip leaves dry well. Pick the leaves before they’ve gone past — late spring and all summer in my northern climate. Get the leaves off the stems and dry in the air (or in the oven on low heat, if you prefer) on a cookie sheet. Or put the leaves in a big paper bag and let them slowly dry in a dry place. Stir them once in a while with your hand to encourage drying and to prevent mold. (If you live in a particularly moist area, drying the leaves in the oven might be a better idea.) I have dried catnip in all of these ways with good results.
Some plants really attract bees. Catnip is this kind of plant. The small flowers grow on a spike, and bees love them. It’s a good thing to encourage pollination in your garden, especially since evidence indicates that pollinating insects are on the decline.
Do you want your cat to scratch on the new post you bought for him, instead of the couch cushion? Do you want to encourage your cat to use a particular cat bed? Rub fresh catnip leaves on places where you want to encourage your cat to go. If you have dry leaves, break them up a little to release the oil within the leaf, then rub on the desired surface.
If your cat is bored with his toys, some exposure of the toys to catnip might be a good thing. Try putting the toy in a jar and tearing up a few fresh (or dry) catnip leaves. Add these to the jar and seal it tight. Bring out the toy after some time and see if your cat acts more interested in the toy.
I can’t tell whether my cats prefer fresh or dried catnip — they seem to love both. But if you have if fresh and you have a healthy plant, you should never ever run out. If you have too much to deal with, give it to your cat-loving friends. If you’ve grown it organically, all the better!
Do you grow catnip? What do you do with the bounty? Tell us in the comments!
More by Catherine Holm:
About Catherine Holm: Told that she is funny but doesn’t know it, accused of being an unintentional con artist by her husband, quiet, with frequent unannounced bursts into dancing liveliness, Cat Holm loves writing about, working for, and living with cats. She is the author of The Great Purr, the cat-themed memoir Driving with Cats: Ours for a Short Time, the creator of Ann Catanzaro cat fantasy story gift books, and the author of two short story collections. She loves to dance, be outside whenever possible, read, play with cats, make music, do and teach yoga, and write. Cat lives in the woods, which she loves as much as really dark chocolate, and gets regular inspiration shots along with her double espresso shots from the city.