Catnip…yum! Your feline’s favorite herb does more than make her happy. It also has healing qualities and makes a great addition to homemade kitty treats.
Catnip is crafty, just like its namesake. It has both euphoric and calming properties. It wakes up the nervous system, and also turns it right down. It’s a cool herb, with a veritable feast of uses for our feline friends, and for us!
A member of the mint family, catnip has been used medicinally for over 1,000 years. It has a variety of names: Nepeta cataria, catmint, catnep, catswort, field balm and menta de gato. The name Nepeta is thought to be derived from the Roman town Nepeti, where catnip was once cultivated. In ancient Egypt, catnip was considered sacred to the cat goddess Bast. Catnip tea was a popular drink in England until black tea was imported from China.
Catnip stimulates the appetite, aids digestion, helps calm nervous animals and encourages restful sleep. It is often used as a cold and flu remedy, and is widely recognized for its ability to support the gastrointestinal tract, relieving flatulence and even stopping diarrhea. Catnip is rich in iron, selenium, potassium, manganese, vitamins A and C, and also contains magnesium, phosphorus, calcium, chromium, sodium and B vitamins.
The nepetalactone isomers found in catnip cause intoxication in our feline companions, but they also have antibacterial and antifungal properties, act as a muscle relaxant, and even have a restful, sedative effect. Nepetalactone is similar to the valepotriate found in valerian.
Juliette de Bairacli Levy, author of The Complete Herbal Handbook for the Dog and Cat, first published in 1955, said that animals look for “remedial cures” to heal themselves. So it’s no surprise that our kitties instinctively seek out catnip for their well being!
- 2 cups whole grain flour, e.g. oat flour — a combination of whole grain flours can also be used, e.g. whole oat flour and whole brown rice flour
- 1 cup chicken stock or other liquid of your choice, e.g. liquid from a can of fish, or goat’s milk
- 1 teaspoon sea salt or kelp, or a combination of the two 2 heaping tablespoons pureéd bison or beef liver, or 2 tablespoons canned or cooked fish, e.g. salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines – liver powder can also be used
- 1 tablespoon fresh or 1½ teaspoons dried catnip
- Cold-pressed oil for basting dough before baking, e.g. olive, hemp, safflower
- Extra catnip for sprinkling on crisps before baking
Choose organic ingredients whenever possible.
Preheat oven to 325ºF. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and lightly sprinkle with flour.
Combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender. Mix well until dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl.
Turn out dough onto a clean, lightly floured surface. Knead for two minutes, adding more flour as needed, so the dough is not sticky. Roll out dough on the parchment paper covered cookie sheet to about 1/8” thickness. Add extra flour if needed.
Score the dough with a sharp knife or a pizza cutter. Lightly brush the top with your choice of cold pressed oil, and sprinkle with catnip.
Bake for 15 minutes, then turn down oven to 175ºF and bake crisps for one hour more. Turn oven off and allow crisps to cool completely before breaking along score lines.
Store in an airtight container or Ziploc bag. For extra pizzazz, add 1 tablespoon of catnip to the storage container and shake lightly. If your feline friend has a preference for softer treats, bake crisps for a shorter time. For an extra special treat, sprinkle crisps with parmesan cheese before serving.
Fishy Bits with Catnip
- 1 can wild salmon oil (185 grams to 213 grams) or other fish of your choice
- 2 tablespoons fresh or 1 tablespoon dried catnip
- 2 tablespoons fresh or 1 tablespoon dried parsley
- 1 whole egg
- 1½ to 2 cups whole grain flour of your choice, e.g. whole brown rice, whole oat, or try a gluten-free blend of all-purpose flour
Preheat oven to 350ºF degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
In a food processor or blender, whirl the catnip and parsley together. Herbs can also be easily minced by hand.
Turn out into a larger mixing bowl. Add the salmon and the egg, and combine well. Add flour slowly, until the ingredients form a ball. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead a few times. Place the ball of dough in the middle of parchment-covered cookie sheet and roll it out so it fills the sheet. Use your fingers to ensure the dough reaches out to the corners of the cookie sheet. Take a sharp knife or pizza cutter and score the dough.
Bake for 20 minutes, then turn the oven off and allow the bits to cool completely. Remove from the oven and break into bits along the score lines. Store in an airtight container or Ziploc bag in the refrigerator. These treats freeze well too.
Something for you: While you watch your feline friend get frisky with a catnip toy, make yourself a soothing cup of catnip tea. Simply pour one cup of boiling water over one teaspoon of freshly dried and chopped catnip leaves. Steep for five to ten minutes and strain before drinking.