There's no shortage of dispensaries opening up on street corners across Ontario but one will be sure to catch your eye, not just for its pop of colour but its unique product: catnip.
Mikey White is the owner of Catnip Dispensary Inc., in Midland, Ont., roughly 160 kilometres north of Toronto. He says the idea for the business began after he rescued a cat when living in the city.
"I found her frozen out on the street one night and she came out of the bushes and kind of picked me, in a sense," White said. "So I brought her up to my apartment and after a couple of weeks I had posters up and realized no one was looking for her."
After deciding to keep the cat, he says he wanted to give her the "best life possible," and started to transform his downtown bachelor apartment into a cat paradise.
Idea started with 'zoomies'
White put up cat shelves, walls and even flipped his patio into a "catio" to let her enjoy the outdoors. Shortly after, he bought two catnip plants and began to notice how Evol, his cat, would react differently to each one.
"I noticed when she would go up to the original one, she would get the zoomies — running up her cat climbing shelves, going crazy," he told CBC Radio's Fresh Air. The term "zoomies," according to Cornell University's College of Veterinary Medicine, is used by pet owners to refer to their animal's frenetic random activity periods, which is the scientific labelling.
"And then every time she would go to the new one, she kind of just flopped over on her side and [would] just mellow right out."
LISTEN | Catnip Dispensary Inc. owner on how the idea became a business:
That's when the idea of experimenting with different catnip plants and their effects was born. An idea that would quickly flourish into a business.
"It kind of just happened, I started off by doing a Kickstarter online and it kind of just went viral right away," White said, referring to the internet crowdfunding platform.
"Very quickly, my bachelor apartment started to shrink on me. So I needed a bigger space and I found the space up here in Midland."
White says a team of 'tester cats' are given new strains out to try by their owners and they report back to the dispensary on overall behaviour and feedback to help grow the variety of catnip strains at the shop. (Submitted by Mikey White)
Since opening in October 2022, White says customers and passersby have been curious about the shop, with many wandering in thinking it's a weed dispensary.
"There's definitely a lot of confusion. As far as I know, this hasn't been done before," he said.
White says a team of tester cats are initially given new strains to try by their owners, who report back to the dispensary on overall behaviour and provide feedback to help grow the variety of catnip strains at the shop.
White added that he is working on growing more strains at his dispensary.
"When I have a new strain, I give it to them and they'll send me video back and we talk about it [to] see if there's anything interesting that happened with it," he said. "Like if they mellow right out, if they're super energetic, if they have anxiety and it helps them come out of their shell."