Woman Plants Catnip In Her Yard And Attracts Every Stray In The Neighborhood

"I didn’t really understand that some of them find catnip irresistible” 😂

Last year, Nikki Byrne was a little late in planting her backyard.

She visited the local nursery, hoping to fill her terra-cotta pots with herbs, but the only healthy-looking plant left was the catnip.

She planted a couple of pots of it and didn’t expect anything to happen. Then the cats came.

stray cats swarm woman's yard
Nikki Byrne

“I didn’t grow up with cats, and I guess I’ve never really been around cats too much, so I didn’t really understand that some of them find catnip irresistible,” Byrne told The Dodo. “Shortly after planting it, I heard a little commotion outside one morning. I looked out the window, and there was a big old tabby cat up on the fence. He’d managed to knock one of the pots of catnip down when he was going after it.”

The old tabby, whom Byrne nicknamed Mister, continued to visit the patio every day. She noticed he didn’t have a collar and looked worse for wear, so she started putting food and water out for him.

Nikki Byrne

The old tabby must've deemed Byrne's yard safe, because soon every generation of Mister's kids began showing up to frolic and play under their dad's watchful eye. 

Byrne made her yard a playground for the stray cats, adding all kinds of toys, scratching posts, tunnels and a heated cat house.

Nikki Byrne

While the younger cats were more than happy to interact with Byrne, Mister remained aloof.

“We’ve had to work really hard to show him we’re not dangerous, whereas the little ones will swarm all over you," Byrne said. "They’re really friendly.”

But with time and patience, Byrne earned Mister’s trust. “He didn’t seem like a cat who’d ever been successfully approached by humans before,” Byrne said. “I let him call the shots, and now we can actually approach him and he’ll eat treats out of my hand — I can even pet him.”

As cute as the kittens were, Byrne knew they needed more than treats and toys, so she reached out to a local community cat organization in San Luis Obispo county that could help her with trap-neuter-return.

In just a year, Byrne has helped generations of cats in her neighborhood, and it was all thanks to a few pots of catnip.

To help with the care of community cats in California, you can make a donation to the Feline Network of The Central Coast.