The Truth about Catnip and Cats: Is It Good or Bad?
If you are a cat lover or at least somebody who has spent some time watching cute and silly clips online, then you have probably already come across them—videos of cats who look like they are under a trance after eating or taking a whiff of catnip.
Many people describe the effect as “being high” for felines. However, what exactly is in catnip that makes it so irresistible to our prickly furry buddies, and is it really safe for frequent use?
What Is Catnip for Cats?
A member of the mint family, catnip is a weedy plant that has been long associated with felines, as you might have guessed from its name alone. While it’s currently most popular as a comfort food and as cat toy stuffing, documented experiments show that bigger wild cats react similarly to catnip. Yes, the agile and scary lions, tigers, and leopards turn into adorable giant kitties after getting acquainted with the plant.
But what part of catnip makes them go loco?
The secret between catnip and cats lies on the oil found on the plant’s leaves, roots, and seeds. This oil contains a chemical called nepetalactone, which apparently mimics the happy pheromones in felines.
Generally, you will be able to see a strong reaction after your cat smells it, but it also produces visible results when ingested.
Common Catnip Effects on Cats
Almost immediately after smelling catnip, your cat will show a different side—one that’s all bouncy and energetic. It doesn’t matter if she’s known as a lazy bum; the catnip will transform her into a fun and cheerful kitty, rubbing her face and body all over the plant to release more of the aromatic oil she loves.
In other cats, you may notice hyperactivity and aggression, but do know that it’s mostly caused by the desire to protect their newfound treasure from others out to steal the “drugs.”
If the catnip is eaten, your cat will again show a different personality, this time a lot more mellow. This is because catnip acts as a sedative when ingested, so your cat may look tired and sleepy.
All the aforementioned catnip effects on cats only last a couple of minutes, ranging between 10 and 20 minutes. After that, it will take a couple of hours before your fur ball responds to it again.
Final Words about Catnip and Cats
Catnip has been proven to be safe for cats, although excessive amounts may result to a short spell of diarrhea. It’s found to be neither toxic nor addictive, so you can freely use it as a reward or training aid. You can rub it on scratching posts, stuff it into socks for a simple toy, and sprinkle it into new beds among others.
While it’s available in spray form, the more effective choice is the fresh and dry types. Since it’s fairly easy to grow, you can save some money by planting catnip in a pot by your windowsill or gardeb. Make sure to keep all unused herbs fresh by putting them in zip lock bags and storing in the refrigerator until later use.
It’s also important to understand that not all cats respond to catnip. Approximately one out of two cats develops sensitivity to the plant, and the effects will not show until they reach 3 to 6 months in age. So don’t be sad if it turns out your cat is immune to catnip; she just didn’t get the genes for it.
Have you tried giving catnip to your cat? What changes did you see? Share your experience with us in the comment section below!