Category Archives: catnip

Grow Catnip for Your Kitty – and for You Too!

By Julia Williams

If you have a cat, you’ve probably bought them a nip toy now and then. Some kitties will lick, bite and rabbit kick the toy exuberantly while others may run around like a cat possessed. Some cats will show zero interest in catnip toys, but it has nothing to do with what the toy looks like. Some catnip is more potent than others and will elicit a stronger reaction, which may account for a cat’s interest – or lack thereof –in a particular toy. However, it’s also possible that your cat is among the 10-30% of felines who won’t respond to any catnip toy. That’s because the attraction to catnip is determined by genetics, and their reaction is hereditary. In other words, some cats are genetically programmed to respond to catnip while others are not. Most senior cats and kittens under six months typically aren’t attracted to catnip either.

Although it’s been called “wacky tobacky for cats,” catnip is not a drug. Catnip (Nepeta cataria) is an herb in the mint family, and it’s the essential oil in the blossoms, leaves and stems that are the main attractant for cats. But what you may not know is that catnip is not just for cats!

While catnip is a stimulant for cats, it’s actually a relaxant for humans, and it’s been valued for its herbal and medicinal properties for centuries. Combining one part catnip with three parts mint creates a soothing herb tea with a pleasant taste. Catnip tea can help you fall asleep, get relief from cold and flu symptoms or ease digestive upsets and tension headaches. Catnip is an excellent source of vitamin C, and like other mints can be added to salads, soups and other foods.

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How to Make Your Own Cat Toys


By Julia Williams

Every cat owner on the planet has experienced buying the most comfortable looking pet bed only to have their cat choose a cardboard box instead. The same is true for cat toys. I’ve lost count of how many cute toys I’ve brought home to less than enthusiastic felines. They would take one look at the new cat toy and proceed to bat around a pen. It became quite obvious that the store-bought cat toys were more for me than them, so I decided to learn how to make my own. Turns out, there are some really creative ideas for cheap cat toys, and some are even free!

Making Cat Toys from Household Objects

A toilet paper tube makes a great cat toy all by itself, but I found instructions online for making an even better cat toy from this throwaway item. Basically, you cut slits in both ends and fold them back so it resembles a spoked wheel (read the detailed instructions here). I made one of these in under five minutes and kitty-tested it. Belle liked it quite a bit; she chased it, batted it around and just generally mauled it. No worries – it’s free and simple to make, so when it gets destroyed I can always make another one.

Make a cat toy from an empty prescription pill bottle by adding some small beans to create a noisemaker. You could also fill it with a few pieces of dry cat food; if the child-proof cap happens to come off, your cat will be rewarded with a nice little snack. An alternative is those hollow plastic eggs used to hide treats for the annual Easter egg hunt. My cats like these better than the pill bottles because they have a more unpredictable roll. They do come apart easier though, so use crunchies instead of beans.

Portable baby gyms can easily be converted into a kitty gym. They have all sorts of toys and noisemakers hanging from them, and some of these might even interest your cat. If not, it’s easy to replace them with some cat toys, feathers and other dangly things your cat can play with. If you don’t have an old baby gym, you might be able to pick one up at a yard sale.

Those “fishing pole” types of cat toys are feline favorites. I bought a furry mouse-on-a-stick at the dollar store, and when the mouse got destroyed, I tied another cat toy to the plastic pole. You can easily make a fishing pole cat toy using a sturdy, straight tree branch, thick yarn or a shoelace, feathers (look around outside to get some for free), small ball or other cat toy. Just remember that the fishing pole toys are not designed for cats to use alone; always put them away after you’re done playing.

One day while cooking supper, I accidentally discovered another household item that makes a great cat toy. I dropped a carrot onto the floor and Rocky immediately pounced on it and claimed it as his new toy. He swatted it, rolled it, and carried it around in his mouth for the longest time. Since then, I sometimes give him a fresh carrot and he still thinks it’s the greatest cat toy ever. (Shh…don’t tell him it’s not really a cat toy).

Making Catnip Cat Toys from Scratch

Catnip is a kitty-safe stimulant that many felines are very attracted to. You can easily grow your own catnip, or buy it from the pet store. Take two small fabric squares, sew three of the edges together, stuff with catnip and stitch up the remaining edge to make a little pillow catnip toy. If you want to make something a little more creative, I found free patterns online for catnip-stuffed felt critters, including a fish, bird, and mouse. These super cute toys are simple to make, but the instructions suggest using beads for eyes; to make them safer for your cat, use felt for the eyes, or leave off the eyes altogether.

You can make a Knotted Catnip Cat Toy in a matter of minutes. Simply take a small scrap of fabric and place a pinch of catnip in the middle. Carefully fold the fabric over the catnip, then tie a knot in the fabric and voila – instant cat toy.

If you knit or crochet (or would like to learn) you can make a cat toy in under an hour. It can be as simple as two squares joined together (like the pillow toy above) or two round shapes to form a ball. More accomplished knitters can make mice, fish, birds and other shapes, or use this free pattern to knit egg roll and wonton cat toys.

Making your own cat toys is easy, it’s fun, and it saves money. Basically, anything that moves, rolls, makes noise or has feathers can become a cat toy. Just use your imagination! And for more inexpensive ways to entertain your kitty, read How to Save Money on Cat Toys.

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The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

Is Catnip Safe for Cats?

By Ruthie Bently

Here in Minnesota, catnip grows wild in some areas. When I first moved to my present residence there was a catnip plant that was over six feet tall growing in one of the flower beds on the property. Since then, the original plant has died off because it was too sheltered, but it spread its progeny to my garden. I don’t mind at all, because my cats love catnip – even most of the ones that shouldn’t be attracted to it yet, as they are a bit young. So what is catnip exactly, and is it safe for your cat?

Catnip is an herb in the mint family, and the main attractant for our cats is the essential oil in its blossoms, leaves and stems. Cat may roll in it, chew on it or rub against plants, to release this oil that is pleasing to them. Some cats will even eat it, but scientists claim they are reacting to the odor of the plant, not the taste.

The active ingredient in catnip that attracts them is nepetalactone. One variety of Nepeta cataria (catnip) grows wild in many U.S. states; it was imported from Eurasia and the rest is history. The Ojibwa Indians used it for making a tea that had a pleasing taste and was supposed to bring down fevers. In fact humans have been using catnip for centuries for its healing properties.

The catnip plant is a perennial that grows about two to three feet high. It has leaves a bit larger than peppermint leaves, which feel fuzzy to the touch. I have seen its flowers in both a purplish-pink and white, though there are propagated varieties that have a more blue color. Many domestic cats are attracted to catnip and it also attracts their wilder “cousins” like leopards, bobcats, tigers and lions.

The attraction to catnip actually comes from a gene; while many cats have it, not all do. Younger cats do not always respond to catnip and may not until they are about six months old. Scientists believe that the trigger for catnip is the same that triggers sexual activity, hence the reasons that younger kittens may not like catnip.

If your cat is attracted to catnip, it’s interesting to note that two very different reactions can occur. Catnip usually acts as a stimulant when a cat sniffs it, and as a natural sedative if they eat it. Because of its calming effects, many cat owners use it when they have to transport their cat and don’t want to use a sedative from the vet. Catnip is also a great way to teach your cat to use a scratching post. Simply sprinkle some liberally over the post and watch them go wild!

Cats cannot become addicted to catnip, and it is also not harmful to your cat if they eat it. As with anything else, if you have questions, consult your local veterinarian. My cats love catnip and I love watching their antics in my garden where it grows, or when offered a catnip toy. We all get joy from the occasion.

Photo courtesy of Rose at Angelcat Haven, a non-profit feline rescue organization dedicated to helping homeless and stray cats in Plainville, MA and surrounding towns. Angelcat Haven also sells colorful handmade catnip mats on their website, with all proceeds going toward the care of their rescued kitties.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

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The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

Saving Money: Making Toys from Recyclables & Getting Rid of Those Pesky Plastic Bags

In this economy we could all use a little help. Last year Steve and I went to a free Internet seminar, as we were considering selling things over the Internet. We were in a group of ten people and had to do an exercise where we took a regular paper clip and came up with as many different uses for it as we could. While in the beginning it sounded silly to us, our group actually came up with over 50 different uses (yes 50) for a common paper clip. I came up with another use the other day when the zipper pull on my jeans broke. It was a great learning experience because it gave us a whole new perspective on what you can do with regular items. I took it a bit farther and started looking at the items I recycle to see if I could give them a new use too.
With prices up and wages down, the groceries and bills get paid, and the animals get fed. But frills are out of the question, at least for the moment in our house. Don’t misunderstand me; I absolutely love going shopping for my pets and can spend hours in a pet shop. I’ve put these ideas together to help make our household a little happier in these lean times and I thought I would share them with you. 
We are great recyclers, but I kept feeling that I could do something else with all the tubular medicine bottles we have around the house. I tried to get the pharmacy to refill my prescriptions using the old pill bottles, but there is a law in Minnesota that won’t let them. So I started making cat toys out of them. I wash them first, and then I put a few grains of rice in them, which makes them rattle and let the cats have them. While they don’t roll like a ball, the cats still chase them around the room and have mock battles when they capture one from another cat. I also have some tubular bottles from something else I buy and they are about 3-1/2 inches long by about 1 inch in diameter, with indented grooves about ½ inch from each end. I use a small nail and poke holes in the grooves and fill the bottle with catnip. The holes in the grooves, let the smell of the catnip out, but the bottle is strong enough that the cats can’t get through to the catnip. Sometimes I even tie a few pieces of rawhide around the neck of the bottle before putting the top back onto the bottle to give them some added distraction. You can use any white plastic bottle as long as it is small enough and you can poke holes through the plastic. If you have dogs in the house, make sure you supervise the cats playing with these bottles, in case the dog might try and take them away. You can even make catnip toys from recycled fabric from shirts and cotton jeans. The nice thing about cotton jeans; they won’t fall apart the first time your cat claws them with their back feet. If you want stuffing, use fabric from the jeans to make the toys plumper.
For Skye, I take old pairs of cotton blue jeans and take the side seams and the inseams out, so I have two pieces of fabric (the front and the back), then I tie the matching sides of the bottom of one leg together in a knot and make about three to five more knots in the legs of the jeans to make a tug. I will warn you though, I did this several years ago with another dog, and he could not or would not differentiate between his “tuggies” and the jeans on the laundry line. I also make tugs for Skye out of old towels, though I try to use towels that are 100% cotton, as their fibers are safer. But do not ever leave your dog alone with these toys; they should be supervised at all times.
I knit and I found out that you can knit with the plastic from grocery store bags. I cut off the bottom seam, and take a scissors to cut the bag horizontally, starting at about 1” from the bottom. I keep cutting around the bag and by the time I am done I have one long plastic strip. Then I get my knitting needles out and start knitting. I’ve tried knitting with about a size #8 US, but have found that a pair of size #12 US or larger actually work better because of the bulkiness of the plastic. I can knit all sorts of bags that are usable at the grocery store, or for hanging on a door hook to keep all the extra toys or pet supplies in when they are not in use. 
Some of these ideas are not unique to me; I just put them all in one place for us to share. We are all feeling the pinch these days and our animals love us no matter what we are feeling, this way we can recycle and our pets can keep putting smiles on our faces with their antics.

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The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.