Why does catnip have an intoxicating effect on cats?
Most cats love the smell of catnip. Read here why this is the case, how to sow catnip yourself and make a great toy for your cat from dried leaves.
Catnip has an intoxicating effect on many cats. We explain why this is so and show you how to sow and care for the decorative medicinal plant yourself. You can also find free instructions for a homemade catnip play pillow for your cat here.
Catnip: Effect on cats
Many cats are magically attracted to the scent of catnip. They rub against the leaves, some even nibble on leaves and flowers. Catnip is non-toxic to cats. The scent of catnip activates the play instinct in many cats. Big cats like lions and tigers also react to the smell of catnip.
Studies have shown that sexually mature tomcats are particularly attracted to the smell of catnip. Catnip contains actinidin, which is also found in valerian. This substance is similar to a liquid found in the urine of unneutered female cats. However, not every cat reacts in the same way to the smell of catnip.
Using catnip can help in the following areas:
- For indoor cats, the smell of catnip can encourage exercise and play.
- New scratching posts can be made attractive to the cat with dried catnip or catnip spray.
- The smell of catnip can help on the way to the vet. It makes the transport box more attractive and has a calming effect on the cat over time.
The plant’s attraction to cats is practical for the plant: if the cat rubs itself against the plant, the small claustrophobia fruits stick to the fur and the cat spreads the catnip seeds further.
Plant catnip, location and varieties are important!
Catnip (Nepeta cataria) is the most attractive plant to cats. It has purple and white flowers. The effect isn’t quite as strong on some blue-flowered species of catnip, which bloom in many gardens and have a lemony scent.
Catnip was also a popular medicinal plant in the past and was used to treat colds and fevers.
Sow, cut, multiply catnip
If you want to give your cat a scent in the garden or on the balcony, you can sow catnip. This is how your catnip grows particularly well:
If you want to plant catnip, you have two options. You can buy plants in the garden trade and only have to plant or transplant them. Or you can buy seeds and grow your own catnip. With catnip, this is relatively easy.
You can sow the seeds directly outdoors and also in boxes and tubs. The germs become visible after two to four weeks. After a few weeks you should prick out the young plants so that they can develop well.
To encourage your catnip to flower a second time, you should prune it early after the first flower. As soon as more than half of the first flower has withered, cut off all shoots a hand’s breadth above the ground. You can dry the leaves and thus always have a great lure for your cat at hand.
However, freshly planted catnip should not be cut for the first two years.
Catnip grows and multiplies very vigorously. If you want to increase catnip specifically, you have the following options:
Don’t cut back the catnip. This is how the seeds mature and spread.
In the spring, cut off 10 cm sprouts of catnip and place them in a glass of water until they root. Then you can plant the cuttings. If you pull the cuttings in the fall, you should overwinter the young plants indoors.
In spring, you can simply divide the catnip rootstock. To do this, take it out of the ground and divide it with a sharp spade. Water the segments well before planting them out again.
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