Is catnip a drug? We can see a collection of videos on the Internet showing cats nibbling, licking, rolling on the floor, and other unusual behaviours upon exposure to catnip. That being said, most cat owners may have heard about the effects of catnip on feline behaviour. However, only a few seem to understand the reason behind this. Is catnip good for cats? Is it really safe to give catnip to your cat?
Catnip as a herbaceous species
Catnip is one of the diverse types of species under the mint family Nepeta cataria. This is a perennial herb that can grow up to two to three feet tall (50–100 centimetres) with heart-shaped leaves. Initially, catnip can only be found in Africa, Asia, and Europe. Soon, it was imported to North America.
Apart from the association of cats to catnip, it also had soothing effects on humans. Catnip is a traditional herbal medicine that has the following properties beneficial to humans:
- Tonic and others
Science explains the relationship between cats and catnip
So what is catnip and how is it useful? Catnip contains aromatic oil from a chemical called nepetalactone, which stimulates a response in the brain and is susceptible to cats. This response brings a similar effect on how humans are affected by hallucinogenic drugs.
The nepetalactone found in catnip can make a reaction to even the laziest lap cat. Its stimulating effect may last for about fifteen minutes. It has been found that this type of reaction does not apply to kittens age between three to six months old, as well as senior felines.
The sensitivity to catnip is said to be hereditary. There is an estimation of 50 to 75 per cent of cats with susceptibility to such a reaction. Even the family of large cats such as lions, leopards, cougars, and tigers may inherit nepetalactone sensitivity. If your furry companion belongs to the one-third of cats who have no reactions to catnip, she may instead respond to valerian (Valeriana officinalis).
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What is catnip used for?
How do you use catnip and why do you use it?
- It serves as a great insect repellent against cockroaches, mosquitoes, flies, and termites. However, nepetalactone loses its ability as an insect repellent when rubbed onto the skin.
- Catnip in capsule form is used as a treatment for digestive upsets and headaches.
- When catnip is sprayed over her scratching post and other cat toys, it entices your furry friend to use it.
- Catnip also encourages an inactive house cat to move around.
- As it has certain effects on some cats, there are now cat toys available in pet shops with a mixture of catnip. There are people who choose to create their own use of catnip powder. Firstly, dry the plant. Next is to crush it into bits of pieces. After that, it can be sprinkled onto your cat’s toys.
Cats’ catnip experience
Know that cats are very sensitive to the scent that emanates from the catnip. They can detect the smell of nepetalactone per 1,000,000,000,000 (trillion) parts in the air. Research suggests that catnip stimulates a response from the ‘happy’ receptors of the feline’s brain with just a whiff. However, it may have a reverse effect when eaten.
When cats encounter a whiff of a catnip plant, they are likely to rub and roll on the plant. You may see them flipping, rubbing, rolling, and zoning out. They may purr, growl, or meow at the same time. Some may react with hyperactive behaviours and others can behave aggressively. With these unpredictable reactions, it is best to introduce catnip separately for a multi-cat household.
However, when eaten, instead of being in a euphoric state, you may observe him relaxed and calm. They may appear sedated. The effect may last for ten minutes or so and may take at least two hours for her to show interest on the catnip again.
Advantage and disadvantage of catnip
It is important to consider things when purchasing catnip. Be sure that the plant comes with leaves and flowers. Watch out for companies that use fillers to bulk their packages. Here are some final things to consider before doing the final purchase:
The benefits of catnip:
- Introducing scratching posts with the help of catnip scent will help her recognise which areas to scratch and not. This helps keep them away from scratching the furniture.
- It encourages cats to play with their ‘old’ toys again.
- It helps to keep them entertained and prevents them from getting bored.
- It helps enhance cat moods, especially on stressful events.
- It comes with a relaxing effect when chewed and ingested.
- It helps an anxious feline get acclimated to a new home around new people.
- It encourages couch-potato felines to move around more, which helps them to burn off some calories.
The downside of catnip:
- The fact remains that the effect of catnip does not apply to all felines.
- Some reactions may result in an aggressive cat especially to multi-pet households. Although this effect does not last long, it should be taken with precaution.