Tag Archives: catnip

Cats and Springtime Go Together


Owl Cat in the garden

(Owl Cat in the garden)

Kitties love our garden(s). We have a lot of cats on our farm, both the outside kitties who found us, or their mama’s did, or were dumped, and the five rescues I’ve taken into the house. Thanks to our local cat rescue organization, Cat’s Cradle, in the Shenandoah Valley, all our outside barn cats and strays, except one or two that avoided the cage, were humane trapped, neutered or spayed, medicated if needed, given shots, and returned to us in late April. Big sigh of relief here. Nineteen cats and older kittens were fixed and tended to thanks to these fine folks. I couldn’t have afforded to do all of this on my own, and I don’t have the traps or their trapping skill. I made a donation and entourage everyone to support them and other no kill rescue organizations for cats and dogs. Note: Our local SPCA has the highest kill rate in Virginia.

What about yours? Check before you take animals to these places. Seek the humane no kill rescue centers and groups. We also have good ones for dogs.

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(Owl Cat in the catnip)

Back to the farm, a shy young adult kitty we call Owl Cat, because of her notable head tilt, is apparently fine, according to the vet. The tilt may stem from an earlier injury. We’ve noted she’s gotten better since early spring when she first gained our attention. The angle of her head and intensity of her gaze gives her a deeply contemplative look. She lives in the old red barn or my garden and is one of the regulars who collect outside my kitchen door for meals. She has a lovely climbing tree there and a small cat house she likes. All the kitties are enthralled by the catnip that grows in a nearby flower bed and have favorite nooks among the herbs, flowers, and shrubs. In the summer, they stalk the rows of sweet corn like jungle cats.

Little white kitty drinking his bottle

With spring comes the kitten rescues which get very tiring, and I was hoping to avoid with the many spays and neutering we’ve had done. So far, I’ve taken in three kittens. Cat’s Cradle kindly took the two tiny Siamese babies from me when they became sick and needed more care than I felt up to giving. I was sick myself. These babies will be adopted through them in late May. Their elusive mother is one of the two adults we were unable to catch, and haven’t ever seen. She left the pair squawking in the barn. My son later caught sight of two more Siamese babies and a tabby infant that she (or some other mama) was caring for, then she moved them. She and they are hidden here somewhere,, unless she relocated  to the neighbor’s farm. The humane trapping of the other cats may have upset her. A young adult Siamese male also shunned the traps. We suspect he’s deaf. He’s a frequent visitor outside my kitchen door, and I’d like to get him tamed enough to catch and neuter.

dilute calico kitten

A third calico kitten was dumped on our farm last week, and found by my ten-yr-old-niece Cailin. The poor thing was crying its head off and hiding in a piece of farm machinery in the upper meadow. I snagged a good home for that little cutie. There may have been siblings with it, as it’s unusual for a single kitten to be dumped alone, but we couldn’t find anymore. If there were more, they didn’t make it. People shouldn’t dump kittens on farms assuming someone will find them in time. Not everyone will go to the efforts I do to take care of them, and farmers have plenty of cats already.

Five kitties live strictly inside our house–all rescues–ranging from Minnie Mae, 14, Percy, 12, Pavel, 4, and the latest are the dastardly duo, Peaches and Cream, the itty bitty buddy brothers I rescued last fall. I had bronchitis by the time I got them through those first exhausting weeks. They were had a respiratory infection too, and had to be medicated and bottle fed, plus, plus. They are forever up to some sort of naughtiness, unless it’s nap time. It’s gotten so I don’t even bother to investigate all the crashes in the house unless I hear something shatter. Their antics are the reason I’m not keeping any more kitties inside for quite a while. When I hear them purr-talking and chirruping together, I know they’re up to no good. But I love them dearly. Peaches and Cream, plus Pavel, are especially enamored with the sun porch and love my geraniums. Not that’s it’s done the plants a lot of good. They’re blooming beautifully, though, despite the nibbling.

Percy likes to snooze in a sunbeam out there. Who wouldn’t?’

Apricot tabby in geraniums

(Peaches, an apricot or buff tabby, nosing in the geraniums)

“A dog will flatter you but you have to flatter the cat.”- George Mikes

“After scolding one’s cat one looks into its face and is seized by the ugly suspicion that it understood every word. And has filed it for reference.”- Charlotte Gray

(A Peaches and  Cream are shameless and ignore everything I say. Pictured below in a deceptively innocent pose. Cream is a Siamese orange tabby mix.)

Peaches and Cream snoozing in the Sunspace

'Cream' Siamese orange tabby mix

(Cream a Siamese Orange Tabby Mix. Smart, Curious, and into everything)

“You can’t help that. We’re all mad here.” – The Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland (Definitely)

“Actually, cats do this to protect you from gnomes who come and steal your breath while you sleep.” – John Dobbin (This quite was so random I had to include it. Of course.)

Below is the old red barn where the outside cats shelter. Images are by daughter Elise, except the ones of Owl Cat, DH took those.

barn cat and roosters

Consider Catnip–Cats Do


catnipCatnip is native to Eurasia, but is naturalized over much of North America and the world, including my garden(s). During the Middle Ages, catnip was used in the treatment of nervous complaints, for colds, to sooth upset stomachs, and as a sleep aid. Catnip was rubbed on meats before cooking (possibly to disguise the flavor if it had gone off) and the leaves were added to salad. Early colonists took catnip to the New World, and it spread from there. (Image of catnip in our garden)

Colonial Tea TimeIn The Family Herbal,  English botanist John Hill says, “Catmint (another name for catnip) is common about our hedges, but of very great virtues.” He recommends it, “Be gathered just when the flowers are opening, and dried. It is an excellent woman’s medicine; an infusion of it is good against hysteric complaints, vapours, and fits, and it moderately promotes the menses.”
 
In Colonial America: A tea brewed from the leaves was used to treat stomach ache and head colds. Catnip was also steeped in wine and imbibed that way. If a woman wanted to increase her fertility she might soak in a catnip sitz bath. Catnip will take over the garden if you let it, but I like the scent, and the plant, though kind of weedy, is appealing in full flower. Very cheery.
Pavel: Siamese tabby mixOur cats, particularly our Siamese Tabby Mix, Pavel, love catnip. He rolls in it and chews on the leaves when I sprinkle some on the climbing perch. Even if Pavel is upstairs, he appears in seconds when I get out the catnip. I’m not sure why cats are so besotted by it, just that many are. Though not all. Percy doesn’t care one way or the other. Our kittens, Peaches and Cream, are fans. This summer, daughter Elise and I gathered seeds of various plants to save, including catnip. We put them in an envelope and left it on the counter, only to discover the contents scattered and Pavel’s mouth suspiciously covered with the leaves of catnip that had accompanied the seed gathering. He claimed to know nothing about it, with that innocence felines can conjure. 
 worried kitten

Catnip


CATNIP: I like catnip.  We’ve grown it for years whether intentionally or not.  It comes back freely.  Yes, our cats like it but not to the point of ecstasy.  It’s a member of the mint family but has a distinctively different scent. A hardy, upright, perennial, it has sturdy stems bearing hairy, heart-shaped, grayish-green leaves. The flowers are white or lilac and occur in several clusters toward the tips of the branches. Catnip is a native of Eurasia, naturalized in North America so that it seems as if it’s always grown here.

From A Modern Herbal:

Catmint: Nepeta cataria, Catmint or Catnep, a wild English plant belonging to the large family Labiatae, 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, especially in chalky and gravelly soil.  It is less common in the north, very local in Scotland and rare in Ireland, but of frequent occurrence in the whole of Europe and temperate Asia, and also common in North America, where originally. However, it was an introduced species.

History: The plant has an aromatic, characteristic odour, which bears a certain resemblance to that of both Mint and Pennyroyal. It is owing to this scent that it has a strange fascination for cats, who will destroy any plant of it that may happen to 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 don’t 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.

In France the leaves and young shoots are used for seasoning, and it is regularly grown amongst kitchen herbs for the purpose. Both there and in this country, it has an old reputation for its value as a medicinal herb. Miss Bardswell, in The Herb Garden, writes of Catmint:

‘Before the use of tea from China, our English peasantry were in the habit of brewing Catmint Tea, which they said was quite as pleasant and a good deal more wholesome. Ellen Montgomery in The Wide, Wide World made Catmint Tea for Miss Fortune when she was ill. It is stimulating. The root when chewed is said to make the most gentle person fierce and quarrelsome, and there is a legend of a certain hangman who could never screw up his courage to the point of hanging anybody till he had partaken of it. Rats dislike the plant particularly, and will not approach it even when driven by hunger.’

This dislike of rats for Catmint might well be utilized by growing it round other valuable crops as a protective screen.

Medicinal Action and Uses: Carminative, tonic, diaphoretic, refrigerant and slightly emmenagogue, specially antispasmodic, and mildly stimulating.

Producing free perspiration, it is very useful in colds. Catnep Tea is a valuable drink in every case of fever, because of its action in inducing sleep and producing perspiration without increasing the heat of the system. It is good in restlessness, colic, insanity and nervousness, and is used as a mild nervine for children, one of its chief uses being, indeed, in the treatment of children’s ailments. The infusion of 1 OZ. to a pint of boiling water may be taken by adults in doses of 2 tablespoonsful, by children in 2 or 3 teaspoonsful frequently, to relieve pain and flatulence. An injection of Catnep Tea is also used for colicky pains.

The herb should always be infused, boiling will spoil it. Its qualities are somewhat volatile, hence when made it should be covered up.

The tea may be drunk freely, but if taken in very large doses when warm, it frequently acts as an emetic.

It has proved efficacious in nervous headaches and as an emmenagogue, though for the latter purpose, it is preferable to use Catnep, not as a warm tea, but to express the juice of the green herb and take it in tablespoonful doses, three times a day.

An injection of the tea also relieves headache and hysteria, by its immediate action upon the sacral plexus. The young tops, made into a conserve, have been found serviceable for nightmare.

Catnep may be combined with other agents of a more decidedly diaphoretic nature. Equal parts of warm Catnep tea and Saffron are excellent in scarlet-fever and small-pox, as well as colds and hysterics. It will relieve painful swellings when applied in the form of a poultice or fomentation.

Old writers recommended a decoction of the herb, sweetened with honey for relieving a cough, and Culpepper tells us also that ‘the juice drunk in wine is good for bruises,’ and that ‘the green leaves bruised and made into an ointment is effectual for piles,’ and that ‘the head washed with a decoction taketh away scabs, scurf, etc.’