Gardening

Protecting Nepetas From Cats

Nepetas or catmints (Nepeta spp.) are catching on as perennials and with their long flowering period, attractive coloration and dense growth, they’re bound to please. There’s just one problem: cats!

Nepetas (here, Nepeta ‘Cat’s Pajamas’) can be highly ornamental … if they aren’t torn apart by cats from the start! Photo: http://www.perennialresource.com

They don’t call this plant catmint for nothing: cats love it! That old feline favorite, catnip, is a nepeta (Nepeta cataria) and can draw cats from afar. They rub against it, scratch it and roll around on it. They’re attracted to the nepetalactone given off by bruised leaves and stems. And about two thirds of house cats are sensitive to nepetalactone.

Catnip (Nepeta cataria), seen here, is grown specifically for cats. Other nepetas are ornamental plants and you won’t want cats to destroy them. Photo: wnmu.edu

Now, catnip (N. cataria) isn’t terribly ornamental and is usually grown for the pleasure of cats anyway, so that’s not usually a problem. But the other nepetas are ornamental plants. You don’t want cats scratching them to death or digging them up. True enough, they give off much less nepetalactone than catnip, but cats certainly can make a mess of them. 

Try the following to ward cats off. 

Cat-Proofing

You only need a temporary cat barrier, like those above, while nepetas settle in and stop giving off their cat-enticing aroma. Photo: http://www.capegazette.com

The problem is not with well-established plants, but freshly planted ones.

During planting, some roots are inevitably broken or leaves are damaged, leading to the emission of nepetalactone and the resulting cat attraction. So, cover freshly planted nepetas with some sort of barrier (a cut-off gallon milk jug, for example) to keep the cats away. After 4 or 5 days, the aroma accidentally released during planting will have disappeared and cats will no longer be a bother. 

Your nepeta will then go on to live a beautiful, cat-free existence … unless you accidentally wound it or crush it, so keep your cat barrier handy!

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. After studies at the University of Toronto and Laval University where he obtained his B.A. in modern languages in 1978, he succeeded in combining his language skills with his passion for gardening in a novel career as a garden writer and lecturer. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He is a regular contributor to and horticultural consultant for Fleurs, Plantes, Jardins garden magazine and has written for many other garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening, Rebecca’s Garden and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 50 other titles in English and French. He can be seen in Quebec on French-language television and was notably a regular collaborator for 7 years on the TV shows Fleurs et Jardins and Salut Bonjour Weekend. He is the President of the Garden Writers Association Foundation and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. An avid proponent of garden tourism, he has lead garden tours throughout Canada and to the gardens of over 30 countries over the last 30 years. He presently resides in Quebec City, Quebec.

4 comments on “Protecting Nepetas From Cats

  1. I think I would prefer to grow something else rather than put plastic milk jugs out in the garden, even if only temporarily. Fortunately, the bobcats do not bother the catmint. The catnip that I used to grow for tea is grown in a hanging pot on the porch.

  2. Kathy Jentz

    Thanks for the tip! I shared it on my Cats in Gardens blog – https://catsingardens.blogspot.com/2019/05/protecting-newly-planted-catmint-from.html

  3. Pingback: Why Do Cats Go Nuts Over Weigelas? – Laidback Gardener

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: