Why Catnip ?
Catnip is all about fun. Fun for both you and your cat. A cat can be loving, it can be sensitive, it can be aloof but how often does it have fun ? Most cats when you give them catnip, either loose or in a toy, will play with it as if they are a kitten. You can see the joy in their face as they tumble around with the nip and that, as a pet owner, is one of the best feelings in the world.
Why Fred’s Catnip ?
80% of cats react to catnip – they have no choice, they are genetically programmed but some cats react only to stronger nip and for most cats the stronger the nip the stronger the reaction.
We used to give our two boys, Fred and Barney, the standard “sawdust like” catnip that you find in the shops. They showed an interest in it and played for a while but soon lost interest. When we took in our little girl, Minx, she showed no interest at all. We would put the catnip down in her basket and she would totally ignore it. We could see that the quality of the catnip that we were using was not great but we couldn’t find anything better on the market. So determined that we wanted only the best for our cats we decided to grow our own. Six months later we gave it to the gang and the reaction was incredible – everyone, including Minx, was hunting and throwing their catnip toys around as if they had never played before. It was, and still is, brilliant for them and for us.
Our story so far
After the reaction we got from our gang we gave some of the catnip to some friends and family members who had cats of their own. Their reaction was exactly the same as ours. The cats loved it ! We started to get requests from friends and friends of friends for catnip and realising that our catnip is so much superior to the stuff you can get in petshops and online we decided to try catnip farming in Ireland! So we rented a small amount of ground in early 2015 and started to grow a bit more. We started to sell the new crop at cat shows throughout Ireland.
The customers at cat shows are real cat lovers and naturally very demanding as they only want the very best for their cats. Yet again the feedback was 100% positive. We expanded production again in 2016 and started selling through our own website and through Amazon, where we have great ratings. 2017 was our biggest harvest so far and this year we will to start to sell through retail stores as well. Throughout this expansion the ethos has remained the same. We are working to provide fun for cats and their owners. Knowing this makes our work fun as well.
How we grow our catnip
At Fred’s Catnip farm we grow catnip on a small scale and with absolute committment in order to to ensure we sell the freshest dried catnip. All processes at Fred’s Catnip Farm are manual and free from pesticides and herbicides. Every process we go through is done with the utmost care to ensure that the maximum level of the active ingredient, Nepeta Lactone is retained in the finished product. Our care means maximum freshness and maximum fun for your cat.
We start seeding our trays in late February, we use around a half teaspoon of catnip seed in each compartment of the tray. It would be great if we could just broadcast the seed in the field but it is slow to germinate and gets out competed by weeds so this is the best technique.
The seeds take about three weeks to germinate After around another 4 weeks the seedlings have grown sufficiently to be split and transplanted into pots this allows the plants to develop and grow sturdy enough to be planted out.
In early May we start planting out the plants in our field. We do this by hand and it is back breaking but when you finish you certainly feel like you’ve done a day’s work !
From May to July we weed the fields by hand and thin out the crop to encourage bushier plants. Once the plants start to flower the essential oil, Nepeta Lactone, is at its strongest and we begin to harvest. This is usually early August and only on warm dry days. Harvesting is carried out by snipping the stems by hand around 5 inches from the ground and tying them into loose bundles. These bundles are then hung upside down in a warm, well ventilated environment to dry. This takes 3 to 4 weeks. Cutting catnip by hand our way is very physical hard work, but the smell of the catnip in bloom is wonderful!
The next process is the most time consuming but also the most vital – the stripping of the stems. Many of our competitors simply grind the plant up at this stage stems and all. This is much easier to do but since the Nepeta Lactone is only found in the leaf and flowers the end product is full of ground up stems which simply bulk out the product and do nothing for the cat. Also grinding the catnip up releases the Nepeta Lactone and the catnip loses its potency. We hand strip the leaves and flowers from the stems and discard the stems. Because we strip each stem individually we minimise the amount of nepeta Lactone lost in the stripping process and we can also discard any leaves or flowers that are not of the highest quality.
We hope you and your cat have lots of fun with our catnip. It’s what it is all about!