Wednesday, March 4, 2009

All About Catnip (and where to find it)

What IS catnip, anyway?

Technically, catnip is an herb in the mint family, a close relative of basil and oregano that looks very much like other kinds of mint when growing. But to most cats, it is something much more special – a terrific recreational stimulant (and legal, too!) One whiff, and even a complacent codger cat can become a frisky furball, first sniffing the catnip toy, then licking and chewing it, and ultimately rubbing it and flopping over happily.

This reaction usually lasts less than 20 minutes, at which time the cat returns to normal. But an hour or two later, the same results can be seen all over again -- and apparently catnip never induces a hangover!

The chemical in catnip that brings the cat’s ecstatic reaction is called nepetalactone, and its power is released when catnip (fresh or dried) is rubbed or crushed. Very young or old cats are unlikely to enjoy its effects, and an estimated 20% of the adult cat population is immune to it, a genetic trait that has nothing to do with the animal’s sex or breed.

Catnip isn’t addictive or habit forming, and it has no known ill effects on cats. Some cats even eat catnip, although it’s probably not wise to let them ingest too much of it (more than a teaspoon or so) since an excess can bring on digestive discomforts.

Where can you find catnip for your Operation Happy Sock project?

ONLINE: If you have at least 10 days before your Operation Happy Sock Production Party is planned, then you may do best to order catnip online. Operation Happy Sock enthusiastically endorses Bubba's Love organic catnip, available at (one pound of organic catnip postpaid for $23.25).

RETAIL STORES: If you’re in a hurry, then your best bet is to try Wal*Mart, Kmart, PetsMart, Petco, or other local chains. You’ll need at least 1 lb. of catnip per 100 socks, so you may need to buy several packages. Avoid catnip that appears old (brownish); it should have a greenish tint.

HOMEGROWN: Homegrown catnip is great, too! Just allow time for it to dry thoroughly, and then crush the leaves and chop the stems for use in your Happy Socks.