I thought this week I’d focus on my feline companions since I have not given them their due credit on my site. However I plan to tie in a few tidbits about another easy-to-grow plant as well, so if you aren’t necessarily a cat person – there is still reason to read on! Biscuit and Brutus are my current kitties. I say current, because I previously had three indoor cats and one outdoor cat less than two years ago. They were elderly (20+) and have passed on – RIP Peanut, Bandit, Cookie and Pumpkin Merle. Biscuit really belongs to my stepdaughter but I’ve been “cat sitting” her for more than a year now. I guess it is safe to call her mine! Brutus came along about 3 months ago, first hanging out in the alley and running into the garage to scarf down food Biscuit left behind whenever the chance arrived. Now he routinely uses the doggie door to enter my house at will. He essentially has taken the place of the former “neighborhood” tomcat, Pumpkin Merle. I’ll save the story of Pumpkin Merle for another time, but I will say here that he truly was a neighborhood cat. Three other families on my street shared in caring for him!
If you are fortunate to have a cat as a pet you are probably well aware of catnip and/or catnip-filled toys. Of the above six cats I speak of, all six were/are affected at various degrees by catnip. Interestingly, not all cats are affected by the herb. Depending on the source, it is estimated that 25 – 50% of cats do not care at all about catnip. One of my former cats, Peanut, would eat it. My other three departed kitties would rub and roll around in it and either go to sleep or, on the contrary, go bananas! Biscuit is mildly affected by catnip and runs and jumps for a bit after exposure. Brutus, on the other hand, goes berserk! He grabs socks, towels, throw rugs, feather dusters or whatever else he can find and carries them through the house, rolls over on his back and kicks the objects in the air. He is hilarious to watch!
Catnip, or Nepeta cataria, prefers at least 6 hours of sun to do well. It is easy to grow from seed in containers or in the ground. If you sow it in the ground, be aware that it grows like a weed (some states, such as Ohio, consider it an invasive weed) and you may need to find some way to “contain” it! Catnip can reach up to 3 feet in height. The plant produces small whitish-lavender flowers but is grown for its foliage as the flowers are not spectacular. You may find catnip seed among the herbs at almost any hardware store or in just about any seed catalog.
As mentioned earlier, catnip is an herb. It is part of the rather large mint family. Most herbs in the mint family have a pungent odor when their leaves are crushed. It is the crushing of the leaves that releases the oily pheromone-like chemical in catnip that drives most cats wild. Surprisingly, this oily chemical has been somewhat recently discovered to not only attract cats, but to repel mosquitoes! For more information about the Iowa University study on this subject, see http://www.ag.iastate.edu/aginfo/news/catnip.html.
Through my research for this article, I came across various other sources mentioning catnip also drives away fleas, roaches and termites. What a deal!
So – whether you are a cat person or not, there is still a benefit to planting a little catnip around the house. Keep in mind after trimming your crop, however, you may have to entertain (or be entertained by) a few feline visitors!
Until next time,
Biscuit & Brutus