Catnip mice, 2017 edition.

In all the rush and flutter of holiday shopping, do you find yourself saying “OMG! I forgot about the cats!”? Thankfully, I am not in this position. Something about having four cats makes it hard to forget about them. Last weekend I embarked on my seasonal hand-made cat gift extravaganza. You guessed it, the making of catnip mice.

This year’s catnip mouse making experience refreshed my understanding of how enjoyable and dangerous this activity can be. Fortunately, my 50-year-old sewing basket (thank you, Grandma Gretchen) was stocked with everything I needed to proceed:

Felt

Jingle bells

Needle and thread

Yarn

Cheesecloth

Scissors

Ziplock bag

A sewing basket is not nearly secure enough to hold catnip. We keep our catnip in the freezer (long story and not for today). I bought a fresh tub of the stuff for the holiday season at Wags to Whiskers in Walla Walla, WA (you can visit them at facebook: https://www.facebook.com/wagstowhiskerswallawalla/ ). There was more than one brand of catnip so I asked the shop keeper for advice. She pointed to a container and told me other customers had commented that particular brand had “the best buds.”

Tip one: Leave the catnip in the freezer until you’re really, really ready to stuff the catnip mouse. Seriously.

One of the creative aspects of making a catnip mouse is deciding on a shape. When I was younger and more literal I made mouse-shaped catnip mice. Bo-ring! You can go anywhere with shape, as long as you remember to:

Tip two: Define a mouse the way a cat does.

Think about it. To a cat, a mouse is:

  1. Something small
  2. To be tormented and
  3. Possibly eaten.

Last year I shaped my mice like diamonds. This year I opted for triangles. First, make a pattern from thin cardboard (so both sides of the mouse are the same size). Trace the pattern onto the felt; the simpler the design, the easier it is to cut out. Also in terms of design, it’s a good idea to:

Tip three: Give the mouse a tail.

I craft my mouse tails from three strands of yarn, braided. There’s a knot at the top of the braid (the “knot” end) to secure it in the body of the mouse and a knot at the other end (the “fringe” end) with an inch or so of unbraided yarn for kitty’s further enjoyment.

Felt cut? Tail braided? Now you’re ready to sew. If you’re like me you’ll want your highest power reading glasses so you can see well enough to thread the needle (the eyes of needles are so much smaller than they used to be). In years past I’ve packed the jingle bell inside the mouse but this mutes the jingle considerably. This year I attached the bell to the exterior, where I pictured the nose would be. If this sounds like a good idea to you, now is the time to sew that jingle bell on the outside of the felt. Warning: jingling may attract cats!

Next, assemble the mouse’s body. Put the front and back together and stitch as evenly as you can, most of the way around the perimeter and leaving about a quarter inch margin all around. The knot end of the tail should go within the body; double-stitch through the knot itself for durable hold. Leave an opening of an inch or two for (you guessed it) stuffing the mouse with catnip. Do not tie off and cut the thread as the next step requires the utmost expedience.

At this point, sneak the catnip out of the freezer and, with mouse-in-progress, scissors and a small square of cheesecloth, retire to the bathroom.

Tip four: Stuffing a catnip mouse is best done behind closed doors.

Once the bathroom is cleared of cats and the door is firmly closed, lay out your mouse-making loot on the counter or, if there’s no counter space, the top of the toilet tank. Open the catnip container and place a healthy pinch in the center of the square of cheesecloth. Twist the edges of the cheesecloth together to contain the catnip and stuff it into the mouse (also the jingle bell, if you chose the internal option). If meowing and scratching on the other side of the bathroom door commences, do not be deterred. Sew up the opening ASAP, tie a good knot and cut the thread.

Your catnip mouse is now complete but there’s one step more. Put the catnip mouse in a freezer bag and:

Tip five: Stow the catnip mouse in the freezer until you give it to the cat.

Why tip five? Because cats know catnip! They can sniff it through cardboard boxes and will happily chew up whatever the catnip is contained in. Sure, you can put the mouse in your cat’s Christmas stocking (we have four of them) but be ready for a ruckus. Even if the stockings are hung where the cats can’t get at them, they will sit underneath the stockings and yowl.

There you have it, catnip mice in a few easy-to-follow steps. Apologies that these instructions came too late for cats and cat owners who celebrate Hanukah or the Winter Solstice. But next year, right?

Until then, I wish you a Merry Meow.

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