ANITA'S ANIMAL CORNER
"Catnip For Everyone?"
By Jean Sutherland
what is it about catnip thats makes most cats large and small
purr? The high appears to be triggered by the plants
release (in oil form) of the chemical nepetalactone, which is similar
to the sedative ingredient in the herb valerian, which has been called
the Valium of the nineteenth century. Humans, of course,
dont generally turn cartwheels in the air or bounce around on
the furniture after taking valerian: they skip straight to the gentle
sleep portion of the effect.
As with sleeping or pain medications or
almost any kind of drug that humans use, prolonged use of catnip establishes
some immunity. If catnip is too readily available, your cat is liable
to get bored and lose interest. The best way to keep your cat interested
in her catnip toys is to store them in the freezer and bring them out
once every two to three weeks for a special catnip party.
If you have more than one cat, make sure
that you have enough catnip toys to go around; cats tend to be very
possessive of their nip and will try to hide their catnip toys.
Cats can also get aggressive when given catnip, and you dont want
your fun-filled party to turn into a cat fight.
While your cats are enjoying chasing their
catnip toys, why dont you pull out the teapot and brew up a pot
of catnip tea. Although catnip doesnt give humans the same euphoria
as it does cats, it has been used for centuries to ease stomachaches
and headaches, relieve colds and fevers, soothe colicky children and
ease menstrual cramps. A cup of catnip tea can soothe anxiety, provide
a restful nights sleep and help hyperactive kids settle down.
Some companies sell catnip tea, but to create your own, simply cut up
leaves and brew them as you would other types of loose tea. Catnip can
also add an unusual flavor to sauces, soups and stews.
Catnip toys and loose catnip are both
available, but catnip toys are often the best choice because the catnip
is contained and you wont end up with loose leaves all over your
house. Its the scent of the catnip and not the taste that creates
the euphoric effect, so your cat wont be deprived if you choose
toys over loose catnip. If youre looking for loose catnip to cook
with, you can either purchase it or grow your own.
Catnip is a perennial herb with white or pale lavender flowers that
can grow up to five feet tall; it prefers full sun and well-drained
soil. You can harvest and dry the catnip leaves as needed. Plus, catnip
contains citronella and can act as a natural insect repellent. The only
caution about growing catnip is that once the leaves are bruised and
release their scent, cats will come running to play in your catnip garden.
Catnips potency, like that of other
herbs, is affected by a number of factors, including soil, growing conditions
and climate. Cats can have different reactions to catnip grown under
different conditions, so if your cat isnt responding to the catnip
in her fuzzy mouse, try buying a new catnip toy and see if theres
a different reaction.
Another factor that can affect your cats
reaction to catnip is the herbs age. Although it doesnt
take much catnip for cats to go bonkers -- they respond to catnip in
concentrations approaching one part per billion-- its important
to remember that catnip loses its potency over time because the nepetalactone
that causes the euphoric reaction breaks down. Storing catnip in the
freezer can prolong its life and keep it safely out of your cats
reach for those special occasions when you and your cat can both enjoy
And that leaves one question . . . what
is it that cats dream about when theyre on a catnip trip? Perhaps
its that ideal world of cat kind -- a world where birds fly low,
dogs run slow and people walk around with their pockets full of catnip.
If you go to the ACA in Jaltepec they
have catnip plants and should be able to tell you how to grow your own.
If you have any catnip left over, the cats at Anitas Animal Shelter
would greatly appreciate some.