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Catnip Vs Catmint Important Differences and Uses

We have received a lot of queries about the use of catnip or catmint to deter cats in your garden. Although they may immediately seem to be two words for the same plant, they are different and so we have put together some information for you to better help!

Catnip and Catmint both belong to the Nepeta genus and are from the Lamiaceae family, but their differences are certainly worthy of note. Nepeta cataria is the Latin name for catnip and Nepeta Faassenii is catmint. You will find that catmint has little to no effect on your cats, but the effects of catnip are well documented!

So let’s have a closer look at how you can use these two wonderful herbs in your garden.

Catnip Vs Catmint

There are a lot of similarities between these cousins and unless you are growing for your pet cat then the differences are too slight to worry about.

catnip vs catmint at a glance
  • Both catnip and catmint can tolerate full sun to partial sun, but catmint can also handle partial shade.
  • Catmint will not stimulate cats in the same way as catnip will. Cats have extra sensory glands in their mouths that are stimulated by the nepetalactone which is released by nepeta cataria. This then causes all of those great effects we love to watch in our pets.
  • Catmint can take around 2-5 years to grow to the full height and spread of around 50cm, whereas catmint can quickly grow to a little below a metre in height and spread.
  • Both are perfect in containers or borders. They will require little to no maintenance in cooler climates. Overwinter by cutting back and providing a good mulch for around the base of the plant.
  • Both plants will be great at attracting pollinators to your garden and are therefore ideal companion plants.
  • Catmint tastes great in herbal teas and can be used by humans to relieve upset stomachs.
  • Catmint can be propagated by division at the start or end of the growing season. Softwood cuttings can also be taken and grown on in water or soil. Catnip can be propagated by softwood cuttings in Spring or seeds through the early Spring.

Can Cats Eat Catmint

Well this question is more about whether your cat will want to eat catmint or not. There will be no toxic side effects to your cat if they eat catmint, but perhaps the question is more applicable to catnip. This is because there is no effect from catmint, but only from catnip. Most cats will respond in some manner to catnip, on occasion eating it. This is not to deter you from growing it in your garden as even the most flattened of patches will regrow.

It is possible for a cat to overdose on catnip and symptoms would include diarrhea, vomiting, dizziness or troubles walking. It is important that you monitor where possible and always consult a veterinarian if in any doubt.

catnip feathery leaves

How To Safely Use Catnip

  • Catnip spray or bubbles can be a great way to avoid direct contact. KONG are great for selling the spray, you can get one here as a one ounce bottle. People have likened the effect of catnip on cats to that of marijuana on humans, selling it in an ounce bottle sort of doesn’t help with this idea!
  • Fresh Catnip under supervision can be great for cats. The growing season is pretty much all year round for this hardy perennial and you can easily use it to encourage cats away from certain flower beds that you would rather not have dug up! We use a chicken wire cloche when we don’t want the cats to get at it, but it grows through and allows the cats a little munch without doing much more than trimming it back for us.
  • Dried catnip can be readily bought from online. KONG sell great dried catnip available here and suitable for use in their toys or sprinkled on the ground. Airtight storage is a must and you can use as a reward during training.
  • Catnip stuffed toys – Top tip is to buy several and store them in an airtight container. You can get some great Catnip Stuffed Toys from Amazon here. They are perfect as your cat can bite them without fear of intoxication.

Effects Of Catnip On Cats

Effects of catnip are not guaranteed and your cat may well be part of the 20-30% of felines that are unaffected.

  1. Catnip may act as a sedative on your cat, making them sleepy and ready for a nap.
  2. Catnip may also make your cat hyperactive. So it is a bit of a roulette where they can either become very sleepy or extremely active and remind you of their kitten self! Sometimes the same cat can react in totally different ways which is also lovely to see.
  3. Some cats behave as if they are in heat and will rub themselves up against you or a post. Therefore a short burst of catnip can help your cats to feel relaxed but also to replicate those feelings of being in heat and can be used at the right time by breeders.
  4. Catnip can make your cat playful and again this reminds most owners of when they had a playful kitten.
  5. You may see your cat acting like a happy drunk, swaying and falling gently to the floor. Catnip can have the same effect, but with no ill side effects as alcohol!
  6. Catnip can also produce feelings of happiness in your feline friend. That generalized happy glow that you will observe in your favorite pets. You will know your own pet best but we see an almost smug and content little smile from time to time. Certainly after the first 15 minutes of fun time, she then goes into contentment.
  7. Some cats can drool when rubbing themselves in catnip, this is not something for you to worry yourself about though. It is the natural response to a ‘happy drug’ for cats. It will last for around ten minutes and that initial euphoria can seem like they are going crazy but it is just releasing natural drugs inside their furry little brains.

Let’s see just how far reaching this effect of catnip can be! Even big cats respond in all of these ways as listed above, see how many you can spot in this short video from Big Cat Rescue.

Where To Buy Catnip and Catmint In The UK

Because these can be quite specialist herbs to come by you may find a lot of luck via online specialist nurseries.

For a lovely prairie style border you may want to try Nepeta x faassenii ‘Kit Kat’ which you can buy from the fabulous Sarah Raven online store here. We intersperse with other hardy perennials like echinacea and hyssop.

catmint from sarah raven

For catnip you can buy from seed and Mr Fothergill’s have seeds available via amazon here or alternatively you can buy small plug plants to grow outdoors. Suttons have a great range available here and you can get the right height and growth mix for your own garden or pots and containers.

What Next?

We love to encourage people like you to grow your own herbs. So why not learn how to grow catmint and catnip in more detail? Subscribe to our site to find lots of inspiring ideas for getting the most from your herb garden!

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