Nepeta Cataria, (Cat Nip) a wild English plant belonging to the large family Labiatæ, of which the Mints and Deadnettles are also members, is generally distributed throughout the central and the southern counties of England, in hedgerows, borders of fields, and on dry banks and waste ground. The flower blooms from July to September.
The plant has an aromatic, characteristic odour, which bears a certain resemblance to that of both Mint and Pennyroyal (Pennyroyal: also known as Pudding Grass). It is owing to this scent that it has a strange fascination for cats, who will destroy any plant of it that may be bruised.
There is an old saying about this plant:
If you set it, the cats will eat it.
If you sow it, the cats donít know it.
And it seems to be a fact that plants transplanted are always destroyed by cats unless protected, but they never meddle with the plants raised from seed, being only attracted to it when it is in a withering state or when the peculiar scent of the plant is excited by being bruised in gathering or transplanting.
This commonly grown plant exudes the chemical Nepetalactone, a very effective insect repellent but one which induces almost compulsive addictive behaviour in some adult cats, although kittens seem almost unmoved by it.
Rolling in Nepeta is usually harmless but if the cat persistently goes-on-a-trip under its influence, the area may have to be wired off while the plant is in flower or, in extreme cases, it may be necessary to forgo growing this particular plant.
Cat toys containing small amount of Catnep (Catnep: also known as Catnip) do not induce such extravagant behaviour, and they are especially enjoyed by many cats during the winter, particularly those that live indoors.
Nepeta cataria is the common catnip; other Nepeta species have varying amounts of "active ingredient". A good one is Nepeta mussini, a miniature-leaved catnip that makes a good rockgarden plant. There are about 250 species of catnip, plus a bunch of hybrids between species. Only a small percentage are available commercially.
Valerian root a herb with effects very similar to catnip and generally makes cats a bit nuts. It is however not as readily available as catnip and perhaps a bit more potent than catnip.
Catnip and Valerian both act as sedatives on humans.
1 heaped spoonful of catnip
½ cup (125 ml) boiling water
½ cup (125 ml) milk or cream
Steep the catnip in boiling water for 10 minutes, stirring several times. Strain it. Add milk or cream and serve.