Holiday 2000 -- Simple Gifts for Your Cat
Although shopping for holiday gifts for your cat is fun, you can also
make some great gifts for your cat with only a few items.
1. The Simplest: Shoelaces
When those tennis shoes have seen their last game, pull out the shoelaces
and tie them tightly together. You will have the perfect string for
your cat to chase. Your cat can chew and claw at the shoelaces without
ripping them to shreds. And the shoelace string will get your cat's
attention. It seems like the shoelace looks like a very inviting,
long white mouse-tail. If you don't want to bend over too far when
you trail the shoelace along the floor, tie several together so you
have a nice long string.
Don't throw away those shoelaces!
2. Next Step: Shoelace + Bell Toy
If you buy one of those plastic bell toys for your cat that has a
open grid on one half and you have some shoelaces, you can tie the
shoelaces to the bell toy to create one of the most irrestible toys
-- certainly my cat loves hers! Be sure to tie the knot tightly --
it takes a few moments to get it just right, so be patient. (Also,
be sure to keep the toy on a table when it's not in use. I've
scrunched several underfoot when I've left them lying around.)
3. The Natural Approach
Most cats love catnip. Purchasing catnip in the store is a good gift.
But cats also like fresh catnip and freshly dried catnip. Why not
grow your own? Catnip is easy to grow. Winter is a good time to
start catnip for transplant outside in the spring. Catnip is a
perennial, which means it will return every year.
First, make sure you buy seeds for Nepeta cataria. Catnip is
a member of the mint family and there are several "catnips" related
to the real thing. These other "catnips" are sometimes called
"catmint". They are grown as ornamental plants and they don't have
the proper ingredients that consititute real catnip. Unfortunately,
the seeds all look pretty much the same, so check the seed packet for
the Latin name.
Second, buy some seed starter soil or some very light potting soil. You
can also buy some little seed pots, or put some holes in the bottom of
yogurt cups. Dampen the soil before using it in a separate container,
following the instruction on the soil bag if there are any. You want
damp soil, but not soggy. If you grab a handful and squeeze it, it
should form a ball that is easily crumbled when you poke it with your
finger. If it is too soggy, add more dry soil and wait.
Third, fill up your seed pot, place 3 seeds on the top, then sprinkle
a thin layer of soil on top and press gently. Place in a sunny window,
under a plant light, or under shop lights. It will take a week or
so for the seeds to sprout. Snip out the smaller seedlings with scissors.
It will take a while, but you will have a small plant, that you can
then put in a larger pot. Or, you can plant your catnip in a sunny
location in your garden. The plant will grow very large in the garden,
so give it a lot of room to spread out.
Small catnip plant
If you choose to keep your catnip plant in a pot, in the summer
keep the plant outside
in a place that gets about 6 hours of sun and water daily. Harvest
fresh catnip as you wish during the summer. Cut the stems back to
only a few inches high before you bring the pot back inside for winter.
(Also trim the stems back if you keep your catnip in your garden.)
Keep the harvested plant matter and dry it on a paper towel where your
cat can't find it! Store in a jar or tight-fitting container. Crumble
the dry leaves just before you give them to your cat.
Keep your catnip on a sunny windowsill in the winter and make sure
you keep it watered, but not soggy. Harvest fresh catnip during
the window, then cut the stems back again in the spring before you
put the pot back outside.
You can also plant catnip in the garden, but be careful! Catnip is
a mint and will spread if you aren't careful.
You may think this is too much work, but the fresher your catnip, the
more nepetalactone there will be -- and that is the ingredient
that your cat enjoys. Also, it is the smelling that does the trick,
so the more nepetalactone there is the better -- which occurs in
fresher leaves. Leaves that have been recently dried are excellent.
And you will know how old your catnip is; obviously you can't know
how old the store-bought catnip is. As catnip ages, it loses
nepetalactone, so it is less potent.
4. A Catnip Toy
If you are feeling a little more ambitious, you can make your own
catnip toy. If you have some sturdy cotton or cotton-poly fabric
(or can buy a remnant at the fabric store), a little cotton or batting,
and some catnip, you are ready to go. The picture below shows
store bought catnip
on the left and dried, home-grown catnip on the right.
You will need a lot more than shown below. Your own catnip will be more
potent, but either will do.
Catnip toy materials
Cut a long rectangle about 3 inches wide and 6 inches long. Fold
in half lengthwise, right sides together. Sew the long open sides
to make a little pouch. Turn right side out.
Stuff the pouch with some batting or cotton,
the put a very generous quantity of catnip leaves between the
batting and the fabric. Fold over the top and sew it closed. Voila!
You have the perfect catnip toy.
Fun catnip toy
You can also tie a shoelace around the toy so you can pull it
along the floor to get your cat even more interested. And, if the
catnip seems to lose its punch after awhile, rub some catnip into
the fabric to freshen it up. Your cat will definately enjoy it!
Ricki enjoying her catnip toy