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Catnip is an herb in the mint family that is well-known for its effects on most felines. It contains a substance called nepetalactone that causes reactions ranging from sniffing, rubbing, and licking to getting exuberant and even somewhat aggressive. Up to 80 percent of domestic felines react to the herb, although it is less likely to affect kittens and senior cats.
Catnip toys are perhaps the most popular way to administer this popular herb to playful felines. You can give your cats a wide variety of catnip-enhanced playthings, like the Kitty Mitten toy, which is stuffed with organic catnip, or any of the many toys sold by the Cosmic Catnip brand.
The two keys for catnip toy selection are freshness and density of catnip filling. Buy your toys at a store with high turnover or order them from a website. Choose items entirely stuffed with the herb rather than with fillers.
Catnip is good for other playthings like mats, not just traditional toys.
Dried catnip is the classic form of this feline-pleasing treat. You can use the dried herb on anything, from toys to scratching posts. It's also a useful training aid; for example, some dried nip on a scratching post attracts cats to this appropriate scratching spot — some, like Imperial Cat Scratch'n Shapes, which even comes complete with a catnip packet.
Like catnip toys, the appeal of dried catnip is dependent on the freshness of the product. Buy it at busy pet stores that turn their stock over frequently.
Live Catnip Plants
Live catnip plants provide your cats with the freshest possible version of this tasty substance. Many pet stores sell catnip plants or kits that allow you to grow your own from scratch. I find it much easier to buy fully-grown plants rather than waiting for the seeds to sprout and keeping them away from my four felines while they grow large enough to be served.
My cats actually prefer dried catnip to the fresh kind, but they do love live pet grass. The grass doesn't cause a reaction like catnip, but it's a great way to bring a bit of the outdoors to indoor felines.
Solid Catnip Balls
Most catnip-related toys are stuffed with the herb, but you can also purchase solid catnip balls. Some cats tire of these quickly. Other cats might be more reactive to solid catnip playthings. Their main appeal is the herb, since the balls themselves are too large to be carried around, and they don't bounce. However, stuffed toys are more commonly recommended.