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Catnip (Nepeta cataria) is a perennial herb of the mint family native to Europe, Africa and Asia. Legend has it that Captain John Mason introduced catnip to Newfoundland around 1620 as an essential plant for settlers’ gardens. https://www.motherearthliving.com/plant-profile/catnip-and-cousins Catnip enjoys a long history worldwide as an important herb with both culinary and medicinal uses. Although undocumented, the Egyptians, known for their love of cats, may have been the first to discover catnip’s recreational aspect by providing the herb to felines in their care. http://catniptoy.co.uk/the-history-of-catnip/
Have you ever wondered who put the “cat” in catnip? Catnip has long been a mainstay of herbal medicine, but it is taken orally for its calming effect and to soothe digestive upsets. The ingredient that makes kitties leap for joy is nepetalactone, a volatile oil. Although many cats enjoy nibbling on catnip, the euphoria (and downright silly behavior, if I do say so myself) comes from sniffing the nepetalactone. Due to our special nasal receptors cats (as well as our wild cousins: leopards, lynxes, lions and tigers) are the only mammals who can enjoy the delightful sensations. http://www.chm.bris.ac.uk/motm/nepetalactone/nepetalactoneh.htm
Do all cats love catnip? As a matter of fact, no. Sensitivity is genetically controlled so not every cat will feel the effects. It is commonly thought that 10-30% show no interest at all as they did not get the “catnip gene.” In general, kittens are not affected until they are three months old.
Fresh catnip is the best (especially just before flowering), but it is hard to grow if you can’t keep the local cats away from your garden. If you must buy the dried variety consider quality. The active ingredient is highest in flower buds and leaves, but inferior commercial blends may be 80% stems. https://www.motherearthliving.com/plant-profile/catnip-and-cousins
Wanting to grow your own? The seeds have a rather poor germination rate, so plant lots! Also plant them away from your house or every cat in town will be loitering and rolling around crushing the plants! Some parts of the US produce very good catnip and other parts produce catnip that’s not so potent – it’s all about soil and weather.
All of the cats at my house enjoy catnip to varying degrees. I have to admit that I am a bit of a “nip head” and am a little down if I don’t get my daily dose. I positively adore it! Fortunately it is nontoxic and non-habit forming. We cats know when we’ve had enough. Some people don’t want to give catnip to their cats because the crazy behavior makes them uncomfortable. However, a little catnip can encourage play (especially in older cats), elevate moods and ultimately act as a mild sedative facilitating the all-important ritual of cat napping. A little loose catnip on the scratching post can also encourage proper manners around furniture.
Cat Faeries Legendary Catnip Toys are my favorite way to enjoy catnip. The catnip is wildcrafted from catnip which grows in a secret place in the US where, due to soil and weather conditions, the level of nepetalactone is the highest on the planet! The smell is irresistible right through the box and the toys are adorable and are very durable. I know mine get a lot of use. Of course, if you’re not a cat you may prefer a soothing cup of catnip tea while you watch Kitty enjoys her new toys. Just keep in mind that a big cup of catnip tea can cause you to doze off to slumberland!
Catnip has some surprising health benefits for people including: sleep aid, menstrual cramp killer, hot flash cool down, and upset tummy settler! For cats it’s great for their immune system.
We often think about the interesting relationship between cats and water. They seem to be blissed out when lapping it up out of their water bowl, but usually, but not always hate getting wet. Then there are the cats who sneak into the shower after we’ve used it to sit in the water remaining on the tile or who practically want to join us! We thought we’d ask Newton, our feline editor at large to cat-chat about cats and water.
Newton’s Purrspective – Cats and Water
Cats have a reputation for hating water. I’ve always wondered if this is deserved or just urban legend. True, domestic felines did evolve from desert dwelling ancestors conditioned to an arid environment. Early cats probably didn’t encounter much water, and the fact that they do not need to drink a lot is no surprise. Cats today drink what they need to maintain health if the water is clean and free of distasteful chemicals or minerals (hard water).
However, when it comes to other encounters with water… we have a real game changer!
Imagine yourself in a restaurant anticipating your favorite refreshing beverage. The waiter approaches, but instead of handing you the glass he dumps the contents on your head! Or worse, he picks you up and submerges you in a large container of your now former favorite drink. I’m sure you get the idea. If humans would not tolerate this situation what would you expect of creatures who were once worshipped as gods? Cats prefer (some say demand) everything on our own terms. I’m sure that few cats even pretend to enjoy squirt bottles and baths, but more on that later.
Instinctively we seek out the freshest, cleanest water possible. This explains why many of us balk at having food and water dishes side by side. Uneaten food transferred to the water increases bacterial growth and just tastes bad. Food and water bowls should be separated by at least 10 feet to prevent cross contamination. Running water is the cleanest in Nature, so in the absence of a ceramic cat water fountain we may insist on drinking from the kitchen or bathroom faucet.
In the wild felines get a substantial part of the water they need from their prey. However, when they share a home with a human what they eat is very different. Dry food has become popular because it is convenient and can safely be left out while Kitty is home alone during the day. However, dry food has a very low moisture content (10%), much less than canned (70 – 80 %). Cats who are fed only dry food must drink more water to compensate. Veterinarians often feel that excess thirst and unnatural water drinking from salty kibble might lead to kidney disease.
Blood has to be processed through the kidneys to remove toxins and waste products of metabolism. The more water a cat drinks the harder the kidneys must work. Extra stress on these vital organs can lead to serious problems, including kidney failure. For that reason, foods with high salt content should be avoided. One way you can tell is if you feed a cat one type of food and the water bowl is drained – that means way too much salt.
If possible, establish a baseline for what is normal for Kitty. While water is necessary, excessive thirst can be a symptom of disease. On the other hand (paw) it could be something easily fixed by changing to a food with a different combination of mineral additives. Please consult your veterinarian if you notice an increase or decrease in water consumption.
But now let’s get back to squirt bottles and baths. Many people try to (ha ha) train cats (ha ha) using water. The idea is that Kitty will dislike being squirted so much she will (ha ha) stay off the kitchen counters. I’m sorry. I just can’t stop thinking about my brother Purricane Felix (aka Purr). He LOVES getting squirted! In fact, he purposely jumps back on the table JUST so someone will squirt him again!
I don’t know how he would feel about a bath. I can’t see him floating in a tub of bubbles surrounded by scented candles. But he definitely loves to take a shower. Yes – he jumps right into the shower with Mom and demands to be petted until he is soaking wet. (He skips the soap, of course.) He’s been doing this since he was a kitten 11 years ago and never loses his enthusiasm.
When he can’t shower the best substitute is our ceramic cat water fountain. I think he would swim if the pool wasn’t so tiny. I’m not sure what swim stroke he is practicing, but we go through a lot of towels with all that splashing around.
I have to admit I sort of fit the cat stereotype since I am not a big fan of water in general. I do love the fresh fountain water though. Even though I live safely indoors, I am still in touch with my wild side. I stalk, pounce, and capture my Cat Faeries toys as if my life depended on it! Then I walk around yowling until I find Mom. I think cats do this to call their kittens to dinner. Mom isn’t much of a hunter so I know I have to provide for her. When I proudly drop the feast at her feet she pets me, says thank you, and tells me what a good boy I am. I trained her well to be appreciative of my efforts.
If she isn’t around I put the “prey” in a safe place – usually in my food dish or the cat fountain. Cats have no need to wash (or drown) our prey. I guess that’s a good thing since Mom had to put the screen on the fountain pool so Purr couldn’t splash all the water out onto the floor. We just want to keep our prize in an area where it is not likely to be found. Of course, in multiple cat households this is no easy task. I have 3 feline siblings so sometimes I have no choice but to share.
Many of our Dear Readers have asked if they can put Cat Faeries flower essences for cats and Convivial House Cat drops right in the water fountain, they wonder if the filter will diminish their effectiveness – good news – the filter will not compromise the power of these two fabulous products!
We recommend that even a ceramic water fountain be washed with soapy hot water daily to prevent any bacteria harboring sticky and slimy biofilms from forming.
“The worst canned cat food is far better than the best dry kibble.”
Debra Scheenstra, DVM