What is Catnip and How Does It Work?
Have you ever wondered why your cat goes crazy for Catnip? Or what the deal is with that rather odd-smelling little plant? Well, let’s take a closer look and find out.
What Is Catnip?
Catnip (or Nepeta cataria) is a perennial herb in the mint family. There are over 250 species in existence, however, the most popular varieties are Common Catnip and Catmint. Common Catnip is the variety cats are thought to enjoy the most.
Native to Europe and parts of Africa and Asia, the lush green plant tends to take over a garden space and was once considered an invasive weed.
Catnip contains many different aromatic oils. However, there is one in particular called Nepetalactone, which is responsible for the effects we see on cats. The effect it has on cats has been compared to the effect marijuana or other similar drugs have on humans.
Humans do not react to Catnip the same way as cats do because our brains are wired much differently from cat brains. However, there was a time where Native Americans used Catnip as a treatment for colic in infants. It has also been used in some herbal teas as a mild sedative. Among herbalists, Catnip has been known to have been used to lessen the intensity of migraine headaches, nervousness, indigestion, cramps, arthritis, gas and even anorexia.
What Does Catnip Do To Cats? Cats have a very sensitive sense of smell. They have special receptors in their nose which are linked to their brain. When they inhale the aromatic oils of Catnip, they cling to receptors which stimulate neurons and send signals to their brain which affect the cat’s emotions and behavior.
Why do they like it? Because it usually induces a state of euphoria or calm. In some ways, Catnip can give a cat the same feelings as kitty pheromones do. So, in other words, the same feelings as when they’ve been making love! Often, cats will sniff, chew or rub up against the Catnip plant, which releases more of the aromatic oil.
Some of the most common ways Catnip can affect cats are as follows:
- Some cats may roll around on the floor and appear “intoxicated,” they may drool and their eyes may become wide
- Very young kittens or elderly cats are usually not affected by Catnip and may not be attracted to it at all
- 10-30% of cats will show no effect to Catnip
- Some cats will show signs of aggression
- Some cats may become hyperactive and loud
Generally, if a cat consumes Catnip by eating it, the effect on the cat will be calming and the Catnip will act as a sedative. Whereas if the cat inhales the aromatic oils of the Catnip, the effects will be more of a “high,” and the cat is more likely to become hyperactive as a result.
A cat’s response to Catnip will only last for around 10 minutes. After that, the cat becomes immune to the Catnip for around 30 minutes. Around 70-80% of cats will have a reaction in Catnip’s presence, however, some cats will not have any reaction at all. The response is hereditary. Catnip won’t affect young cats until they are at least 6-months old and have reached sexual maturity.
Is Catnip Safe?
The short answer is, yes, Catnip is safe! Although your cat may act crazy and go bouncing off the walls after consuming Catnip, and there may be some mildly hallucinogenic effects, there are no long-term negative effects to worry about from your cat sniffing or consuming Catnip. It is also non-addictive and there is no limit to how much Catnip your cat should consume or sniff.
What Are The Best Ways To Use Catnip?
There are many different ways cat owners can use Catnip. It can be a great training tool. For example, rubbing some Catnip on your cat’s scratching post can encourage your cat to scratch where he or she is supposed to, rather than on the furniture. Or perhaps you could sprinkle a little Catnip in your cat’s bed to encourage him to sleep there.
Another way to use Catnip is to place it inside cat toys. This is a great way to encourage your cat towards the Catnip through play. It is possible to buy refillable toys for this purpose, or your could make your own. Even something as simple as filling an old baby’s sock with a sprinkle of dried Catnip, and tying it up into a ball can be a delightful toy for a young cat.
Catnip can also be given to your cat with food, purchased as a fresh plant, sprinkled around your cat’s play area, or purchased in a spray form.
So, what have we learned?
- Well, Catnip is a pretty amazing little plant. For something that is essentially a weed, it has some pretty incredible powers!
- It can hypnotize a kitty into a state of bliss within seconds, but at the same time, it can send another cat into a complete state of craziness and hyperactivity!
- It doesn’t work on all cats, but when it works, it works well.
- A cat is more likely to become calm if it eats the Catnip, as opposed to if it inhales it, in which case it is more likely to act crazy and “high.”
- Young kittens and elderly cats are immune to it. As are some cats – just because they are!
- Catnip is very safe and has no negative or long-lasting side-effects for your cat.
- Catnip can be used in many different ways, from sprays to toys to food to being sprinkled around your cat’s play area.
So, there you have it! Pretty cool, right? If you’ve ever been tempted to give Catnip a try for your feline friend, but haven’t been sure what it was all about – now you know! Why not give it a shot? It may be just the thing to help calm your furry friend down (or hype him up)! Either way, you can rest assured there is no harm in trying it.