As a cat owner you have probably tested your cat(s) to see if they react to catnip or not. If you haven’t I recommend after reading this article you do, some cats really love it and there are some positive benefits.
Catnip is available in different strengths. You can buy it as the raw form from the plant it’s been picked, or you can buy toys and treats that include some catnip. Some go crazy for small amounts, while others are completely unaffected by this plant herb.
So what is it that drives some cats to wild and crazy? Let’s take a closer look at what catnip is and what we can do with our kitties to make the most out of it.
What Is Catnip?
Catnip is a herb, and it’s official plant name is Nepeta Cataria. This plant produces a compound known as Nepetalactone. It’s found on the plant’s flowers, leaves and stems, and it’s this compound that sends the cats into a tailspin when they get a good scent of it.
There are the obvious jokes and comparisons to recreational drugs for humans, and you’ll notice some of the similarities. Cats will chew on the herbs if they have access to them and ingest them. Cats that are affected by the herb then become very laid back and placid.
They will roll around on the floor and maybe dribble a little. I’ve seen it plenty of times, and it’s an interesting site. Its nice to see cats being so happy and carefree. Yet, around 50% of cats are completely unaffected and will have no reaction at all.
How Does Catnip Work?
There isn’t really a similar cause and effect to compare with humans, and catnip certainly doesn’t have an effect on us. So there are some unknowns and it’s hard to explain exactly how catnip works and why it causes the reaction it does.
We can clearly see that the nepetalactone chemical is having an effect on the cat’s brain. It makes them release other chemicals and much like a mood-lifting drug it helps them loosen up and can improve their mood.
Hopefully in the future there are more studies into the subject and we can have a clear answer. But for the mean time just treat it like a recreational drug, that used in moderation does no harm at all.
The plus Points to Catnip
One of the first questions please ask is ‘do cats become addicted to catnip?’ The simple answer here is, no. Cats that enjoy the herb will always enjoy it when you give them some, but there will not be any withdraw or addictive tendencies.
There is only so much they can take too. You know how that goes, too much of a good thing isn’t such a good thing. My cat will usually roll around for 30 minutes or so before deciding to move on and do something else.
Kittens are not as affected as adult cats either. It’s typically believed that a cat needs to be older than three months old before they will be aware of the herb. Even then some cats can be a lot older, so to play it safe I would say trying catnip of a cat older than a year if you want to be sure.
It’s also worth mentioning that older cats that were previously made all giddy by the herb will start ignoring it. I think we can all understand that as cats age they become more mellow and just want a calm life!
Different Strengths and Effects of Catnip
There are different strengths of catnip and this will affect your cat in different ways. There isn’t a regulation and a way to know exactly what strength the herb is you buy, but you can control the amount your offering to your cats.
The herb does wear off quickly too. If you’ve bought a toy with catnip in you will notice it doesn’t last for weeks on end. Your cat will eventually stop being affected by it as it wears off.
Although I have not heard of cats suffering any ill effects of too much catnip it’s responsible not to overload them with it. You should only give them a small amount at first, then once you see their reactions are fine you can give a little more. But a small pinch is almost always enough for a session.
How Cats React to Catnip Plants
It’s not too difficult to grow catnip plants and it can be found in gardens and fields. When a cat comes across a catnip plant, if they like what they have found they will start to rub against it and might even roll on top of it.
This makes the plant release nepetalactone. This is what drives them into a frothing frenzy. They will get the oil all over their fur, mostly on their faces, and will be in a world of their own until it starts to ware off.
Some cats will chew and ingest the plant, but others will just run on it. Either way, there is a good chance the plant is going to be damaged. If you are growing your own catnip you should enclose it in a wire fence to stop cats coming into contact with it.
There is still a lot of unknowns when it comes to exactly why cats go so crazy for this plant. But what we do know is that it’s safe, so you have nothing to worry about. Just let your kitty have fun, stand back and enjoy watching them roll around.
Catnip Has a Calming Effect on Cats
Although cats go crazy for the herb as I’ve mentioned. It has much more of a calming affect on them than an excitable one. Most cats will appear almost sedated and may even fall asleep.
It’s almost unheard of for a cat to become aggressive while enjoying some catnip. It’s possible if they become startled, but you should be stepping back and allowing them to enjoy the catnip as they wish.
The effects of catnip only typically lasts around 10 minutes. It’s also worth noting that cats who are given catnip on a regular basis become a lot less interested over time, so don’t over do it.
The Benefits of Giving Your Cat Catnip
Aside from just enjoying watching your cat roll about uncontrollably on the floor, what are the other benefits of giving your cat some catnip? Here are some reasons to pick up some catnip for your kitty:
– It’s great for mental stimulation and relieving boredom, especially if you have an indoor cat.
– It can help extremely lazy cats to move about and get a little exercise. Obviously not to be used as a form of real exercise, but giving a lazy cat reason to move is a good thing sometimes.
– You can give some old cat toys a new lease of life by soaking or filling them with catnip.
– Can be used in moderation to help soothe the symptoms of stress on a cat.
– You can use the scent to redirect a cat away from your furniture.
Now, the Downside to Using Catnip on Your Cat
There are some downsides and reasons to act with caution when using catnip. You’re dealing with a herb that has an effect on a cat’s mood and behavior. As such you need to act responsibly and always ensure the cat’s wellbeing is put first.
There are rare instances of cats becoming aggressive when coming into contact with catnip. If you notice even the smallest sign of this happening your cat you should never give them any more.
Also, prolonged use will make a cat less susceptible to the effects. So to give your pet the most enjoyment use it as a treat on occasions. Don’t keep supplying them with catnip every day, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing.
The silver lining to any ill-effects is that the herb wears off fairly quickly. 10-15 minutes is usually more than enough time to have your cat back to normal. If you notice any long-term changes you should consult a vet right away.
I will stress again however that there is nothing to be concerned about when testing your cat for the first time. Just be careful not to give them too much, and stay with them the first few times to see their reactions.