Is catnip a drug? We can see a collection of videos on the Internet showing cats nibbling, licking, and rolling on the floor, and other strange behaviours upon the 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 safe to give catnip to your little furry friends?
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. Catnip can initially be found only in Africa, Asia, and Europe. Soon, it was imported both to the US and North America.
Apart from the association of cats to catnip, catnip effects on humans can be soothing. In fact, catnip is a traditional herbal medicine that has the following properties beneficial to humans:
- Tonic and others.
Science explained 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 brains susceptible to cats. This response brings a similar effect on how humans are affected by hallucinogenic drugs.
The nepetalactone found in catnips can make a reaction to even the laziest lap cat. Its stimulating effect may last for about 15 minutes. It has been found out that this type of reaction does not apply to kittens under ages of three to six months old and 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 reactions. 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).
What is catnip used for?
How to use catnip and why 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. This also applies to other cat toys that she chose to leave in the dark.
- Catnip also encourages an inactive housecat to move around.
- As it was observed to have certain effects on some cats, there are now cat toys available in pet shops with a mixture of catnip. There are people who chose to create their own use of catnip. Firstly, dry the plant. Next is to crush it into bits of pieces. After that, it can be sprinkled into 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 10 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. Note that there are 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 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 lazy or couch-potato felines to move around a bit 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.