You know how you can go out and buy an expensive toy for your cats and they wind up preferring to play with the bag (or box) the toy came in? I’ve created a simple toy my kitties never seem to tire of: catmint mouse. If you have more than one cat (I have two) make sure that each one gets their own to play with; my Riley can get very punky about sharing his.
If you don’t have catmint in your garden, no doubt one of your neighbors does. It is prolific here in the Midwest. I keep trying to give it away, but many of my gardening neighbors see how fast and wide it grows and don’t want anything to do with it. Personally I love catmint for those reasons and because it blooms almost all summer. The bonus is that my kitties go ga-ga over it, fresh or dried.Catmint (Nepeta faassenii) and catnip (N. cataria) are in the same mint family. It is a hardy perennial (zones 4-8) that thrives on neglect. Because it tries to take over my perennial bed each year, I cut it back at least once per season. It has a wonderful, almost woodsy, aroma. My cats love this stuff.
Dry It Out First
So get yourself a big bundle of catmint. I usually wait until mid-August, well after its peak blooming season. Dry it. When I had a gas oven with a pilot light on, I’d lay it out on cookie sheets for a couple of days. This year, I hung it outside under the eaves of my back porch.
Once it’s dried, I strip the stems of foliage, trying not to crush the flowers or leaves too much, so my cats get the full benefit of doing it themselves.
Any Old Cotton Sock Will Do
I grab a couple of old cotton socks that no longer have a mate. I found the easiest method for stuffing the socks is to use the ring from wide mouthed quart canning jars. Stretch the sock opening over the ring all way to the heel. It’s really easy to stuff as much of your dried catmint into the sock as you want. Knot the sock just above the stuffing, so now the mouse has a little tail, and let your cat have at it!
I suppose the crafty, creative types would like to add eyes, whiskers, ears, and all, but I don’t. What my kitties love is the smell of catmint. They will wrestle with that little stuffed sock, roll on it, bat it around. My cat Maya has played with her sock for as long as 30 minutes at a time. She can’t seem to get enough of it.
For more information about catmint, check out this article in About.com.