What happened the first time your cat got their paws on catnip?
One sniff or taste of catnip can make your feline friend go crazy for it, eating, smelling, and rolling around in it. Or maybe, they end up in a blissful, relaxed state. It can be entertaining to watch their enjoyment of something so simple.
But what is catnip, and why do cats seem to go crazy for this “magical” product?
We’re going to talk about all things catnip, what it is, why it works, and why it makes your cat respond the way that it does.
What Exactly Is Catnip?
Catnip, also known as Nepeta Cataria, is in the mint family and was originally found in Europe and Asia but can now be found growing wild across North America. It is also sometimes called catwort, field blam, or catmint and can be purchased dried, as an oil, or as a spray.
The plant can grow up to three feet tall and has grayish-green leaves with saw-toothed edges and a thick stem. Fuzzy hairs cover both the leaves and the stems.
How Does Catnip Work?
The active ingredient in catnip is called nepetalactone, which is an essential oil.
Many believe that nepetalactone simulates the pheromones that are associated with mating. When your cat plays with the catnip, it releases the oil in the plant’s leaves. As they smell it, they start to kick, chew, rub, and roll in it to release more oil.
This of course encourages them to continue to try to get more of the oils out of the plant as they keep playing with it.
Why Does My Cat Act The Way They Do?
When the oil enters your cat’s nose, receptors in their nose activate the areas of your cat’s brain that control behavior and emotions. The catnip “high” usually only lasts 10-15 minutes.
This high varies based on how much catnip your cat consumes, as well as how your cat consumes it. For example, the effects will last longer if your cat inhales the oils.
Typically, cats will react to catnip by licking, sniffing, eating it, and rubbing their cheeks on it. However, some cats respond to catnip by drooling, jumping, stretching, and becoming hyper, but others may become mellow and relaxed.
Because it can relax them, veterinarians, foster homes, and shelters may use catnip to lower the stress level of cats. And when your cat has had enough, they will walk away and may not respond to it again for a couple of hours.
Cats can respond differently to catnip as well:
- Some cats, especially males, may become more aggressive. This aggression may be because it mimics the effects of pheromones.
- Some cats won’t respond to catnip at all.
- Kittens don’t develop the ability to react to catnip until between three to six months old.
The response to catnip is hereditary. The American Chemical Society states that one out of three cats has not inherited a nepetalactone sensitivity.
Is Catnip Safe to Use?
There is nothing in catnip that can harm your cat. It is completely non-toxic, and it is not addictive. The only thing you would need to worry about is if your cat eats too much.
And if they do eat too much, they may suffer from some mild discomfort like getting an upset stomach, or some diarrhea or vomiting.
Other than that, it is completely safe. If your cat is extremely interested in it, you may have to limit its exposure to avoid any adverse effects.
Using Catnip at Home
A bored cat is a cat that gets into mischief around the house. From scratching furniture to pushing things off the counter, cats will do what they have to do to entertain themselves.
Providing catnip is a great way to keep your mischievous feline friend occupied and keep them distracted. You can sprinkle it around your house to send your cat on a treasure hunt, spray it on their scratching post, or hide treats in food puzzles. There are even bubbles that give off a hint of catnip each time a bubble pops!
However, entertainment is not the only use for catnip. There are many other ways you can use it to help your cat.
Catnip is great for baths. Not only can catnip calm your cat down to get them into a bath, but it can also be used to soothe irritated skin. There are benefits to using it in bathwater as well. The scent will stay on their coat, and it will penetrate through their skin and will alleviate soreness.
It’s easy to grow, and you can find it in the herb section of nurseries. It is best to plant during the spring and grows best in full sun and sandy soil. You will want to place fresh catnip in an airtight container and keep it in the freezer. That way it will stay fresh for longer.
Our Favorite Catnip at Kennel Club LAX
Most pet stores sell dried catnip as well as toys. One of the products we’ve used and love is YEOWWW! Catnip toys. They come in different shapes, like fruit, fish, and other fun shapes. My cat, Peetee, loves the banana toy, and he can’t go anywhere without his banana. Your cat will be obsessed with these toys too!
When You Expect Nothing But the Best for Your Cats, Choose Kennel Club LAX!
During your cat’s stay at Kennel Club LAX, they will enjoy an afternoon of catnip! We use catnip in the cat condos to help our feline visitors have fun, relax, and feel safe and happy.
We provide VIP care for you and your cats. From daycare, boarding, grooming and transportation, we’ve got you covered. We’re a family-owned business and have been providing exceptional care to your feline friends for over 35 years!
When you book with Kennel Club LAX, you will have peace of mind knowing that we love your pets as much as you do! Your pet will feel right at home with us and you can rest easy knowing that you made the right choice.