A cat in a garden with catnip

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How to Grow and Store Catnip: A Comprehensive Guide for Cat Lovers

Catnip is a well-known herb that has a special place in cat owners’ hearts. Its ability to captivate and enthrall cats is legendary. If you’re a cat lover, you might be interested in growing your own catnip for your furry friend. In this guide, we will explore why cats love it so much, whether they prefer fresh or dried catnip, how to grow catnip successfully, and the best ways to store it for long-term use.

What is Catnip?

Catnip, also known by its scientific name Nepeta cataria, is a perennial herb that belongs to the mint family. Native to Europe and Asia, catnip has been cultivated in many regions around the world. It is characterized by its square-shaped stems, coarse-toothed leaves, in triangular or elliptical shape, and clusters of small, white, or purple flowers. Catnip’s active ingredient is called nepetalactone, a volatile compound that elicits a strong reaction in cats.

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In addition to entertaining our feline friends, catnip leaves have other practical uses. Surprisingly, you can make tea out of catnip leaves, and they are even used in certain bug sprays as a natural insect repellent.

Catnip plant

Why do cats love it?

Catnip brings cats, bringing them joy by activating their pleasure centers. Acting as a mimic to cat pheromones, this herb triggers a range of behaviors when cats catch its scent. As they inhale the aroma, the nepetalactone in catnip binds to their nasal receptors. This initiates rolling, rubbing, purring, jumping, and even playful aggression.

However, when cats consume catnip, it has a different outcome. Instead of triggering excitement, it acts as a calming agent, inducing a sedative effect on them.

How Long Does Catnip Last? 

Typically, the effects of catnip last for about 10 minutes.

Interestingly, once cats have experienced the exhilaration, they develop a temporary immunity, becoming unresponsive to its effects.

It’s important to note that catnip sensitivity develops between 3 to 6 months of age in cats. Therefore, if you offer catnip to a young kitten, they may not exhibit any reaction to it.

Do Cats Prefer Fresh or Dried Catnip?

Whether cats prefer fresh or dried catnip largely depends on their individual preferences. Some cats respond better to the fresh form, while others show more enthusiasm for dried catnip. It’s a good idea to experiment with both types and observe your cat’s reactions to determine which he enjoys most.

How to Grow Catnip

If you grow catnip at home your cat can enjoy fresher catnip than what you would find at a store. To successfully cultivate this magical herb, follow these steps:

Choose the Right Location: Catnip thrives in full sun but tolerates partial shade. Select a spot in your garden that receives at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day. Catnip grows well in pots, too. Direct sunlight and a sunny sill are all you need.

Prepare the Soil: Catnip prefers well-drained soil with a pH range of 6.1 to 7.8. Loosen the soil and remove any weeds or rocks before planting.

Sow the seeds: Scatter the catnip seeds evenly over the soil, then lightly cover them with a thin layer of soil. Water gently to moisten the soil.

Watering and Care: Catnip requires regular watering. Avoid overwatering, as it can cause root rot.

Pruning and Harvesting: Pinch back the growing tips regularly to promote bushy growth. Harvest the leaves and stems once the plant reaches a height of 12-18 inches, typically in midsummer when the flowers are just blooming.

How to Store Catnip

Properly storing catnip ensures that it retains its potency and freshness for longer. Here are some tips to help you store catnip effectively:

Drying: To dry catnip, tie the harvested stems together in small bundles and hang them upside down from a hook or a drying rack.

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Make sure the area has good air circulation to prevent mold or mildew.

It usually takes about two weeks for the catnip to dry completely. When you touch the leaves and they start to crackle, it indicates that the catnip has completely dried out.

Storage Containers: Once the catnip is fully dried, remove the leaves from the stems. Store the leaves in airtight containers, such as glass jars or zip-lock bags. Ensure that the containers are clean and dry before adding catnip to prevent moisture buildup.

Cool and Dark Location: Store catnip containers in a cool and dark place, away from direct sunlight. Exposure to light and heat can degrade the potency of the catnip. A pantry or cupboard works well for this purpose.

Labeling: On average, dried catnip has a shelf life of approximately six months. It’s essential to label your catnip containers with the harvest date to keep track of freshness. Use adhesive labels or write directly on the containers. This way, you’ll know when it’s time to refresh your catnip stash.

Freezing: If you have a large quantity of catnip or want to preserve its potency for a longer period, you can freeze it. Place the dried catnip leaves in a freezer-safe container or airtight bag and store them in the freezer. Freezing helps maintain catnip flavor and aroma for an extended time.

Final thoughts

In summary, catnip is a magical herb that captivates cats. Whether you choose to grow catnip in your garden or purchase it, understanding how to properly store it ensures that it retains its potency and freshness. By following the steps provided in this guide, you can cultivate healthy catnip plants and store the harvested leaves effectively.

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