Thursday, August 25, 2011
Posted by Kate at 10:58 AM
For a variety of reasons, I planted a lot of catnip this spring. It's a useful and mild medicinal, reportedly good at repelling flea beetles from garden crops, and most famously attractive to cats. I took some pains to protect the tiny live plants I ordered from Richters. I asked for a dozen of the smallest, cheapest plants, figuring that if I had many of them there was a better chance that at least some of them would survive. After planting about ten of them near each other, I laid the chicken greens feeder over them to keep the cats from either eating them whole, ripping them out of the ground, or simply rolling them to death. They had a few inches of protected headspace, but any part of the plant that grew taller than that was subject to feline depredations.
It worked. At least seven of those ten plants survived, and it didn't take too long before I was able to remove the protection of the greens feeder. Being a hardy mint family member, the catnip can now stand up to whatever abuse the neighborhood cats can dish out.
I find our cat Mojo lying between the fence and the catnip quite often. It's one of his favorite hangout spots, for good reasons: it's sunny, he can hide himself behind the herb and still have a commanding view of the whole yard, and if startled can slip under the fence to the neighbor's property. Mojo is one of the most resolutely cheerful cats I've ever known. Unless made nervous by strangers or a strange situation, he's always in a good mood, a regular Mr. Bliss. So he hardly seems the type to need routine self-medication. Or maybe I have it all wrong and he's so happy because he has such easy access to kitty dope. Maybe he'll get cranky and go into withdrawal when the plant dies down for the winter.
The thing I've noticed though about catnip is that its effect on cats seems inherently self-limiting. No matter how drugged out cats get by smelling or ingesting catnip, it only seems to last about 15-20 minutes. Repeated exposure after that has little effect. Yet Mo' will hang out in that spot for hours on a nice day. Maybe he just has wholly positive associations with that place. Or maybe he doesn't want to share with other cats, so he guards his supply.
I'm not much for recreational drugs myself, but my stoner kitty does make me ponder several questions. Is there any sense in making a plant - a natural living thing - illegal? Do cats have more self restraint than humans when it comes to psychoactive herbs? Do the ills of human society lead to addictions where a more balanced existence would allow us to use natural drugs recreationally without such complications? Or is it the added complexity of the human brain as compared with a cat's brain? Or is our tendency to synthesize natural substances into more potent drugs the real problem? I can't see that my cat comes to any harm, or creates any harm, by indulging in a profound high fairly frequently. Granted, he's not pregnant, and I have no idea how catnip would affect feline fetuses. Also, he doesn't smoke catnip, or take synthesized tabs of 'nip at a kitty rave. And perhaps if he did, the drug would affect him differently. All he can do is eat it or roll in it. Either seems to work for him. I think animals have their own wisdom sometimes, and I'm still puzzling out the lessons of cats and catnip.
Anyhow, it's nice to know I've got a homegrown supply of kitty happy leaf and that my cat can get stoned frugally. Next year I'll have enough catnip to derive some benefit from it myself. And yes, if you were wondering, this post is at least partly just an excuse to display pictures of the cat.