What Is It About Catnip?

Does your cat go crazy on The Nip? Not all cats do, but if you’re fortunate enough to have a kitty who does go coo-coo for Catnip, you can be sure you’re in for some antics. But what is it about this plant that seems to take most cats to a whole new level? Is it really safe? Can your cat have too much?

These questions are quite common. While most pet owners readily indulge their cats with this plant, others want to know more about what Catnip is conjuring in their kitty’s brain. Whether you know it as Catnip, Catswort, Catmint, or Nepeta Cataria (if you’re fancy), you might not know the specifics on how this herbaceous plant works. Let’s break it down!

How Catnip Works

The leaves of this plant secrete an oil that contains the active ingredient nepetalactone. This chemical is responsible for the effects on your kitty that many liken to mind-altering drugs. For cats, the effects of nepetalactone are triggered by sheer smell.

Remember, though, not all cats are affected by this chemical. Enjoying the euphoric state Catnip can bring is all in the genes. If mom and dad cat weren’t able to get their jollies with The Nip, their offspring won’t be enjoying it either.

What Does Catnip Do?

You may already be familiar with the effects of Catnip on your kitty, but for those who haven’t experienced the Catnip high, here’s what to expect:

Almost instantly, after taking in the scent, most cats will either roll in it, rub on it, or simply just go cat-crazy as the ecstasy of the Catnip experience sucks them in. Most cats tend to get hyperactive, mischievous, extremely playful, and outright happy. This thrill typically lasts upwards of ten minutes and then the cat becomes “immune” to the Catnip’s effects for a little while.

Usually, within an hour or so, the same cat can be enticed yet again.

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Is Catnip Safe?

If you ask almost any veterinarian, you’ll get a resounding “yes.” This non-toxic herb is considered completely harmless, though some debate has been brought up in the past about its use. Studies have shown that Catnip doesn’t carry any addictive substances, yet some cat owners still show concern over this wacky weed.

While addiction may not be something to worry about, it is still well advised to monitor your cat while they are under the influence. It’s possible for some cats to become too hyped and aggressive, as they tend to conduct themselves much the same way they would with mating behavior. If you find that your kitty can’t keep their cool, it’s best to keep The Nip out of reach.

Using Catnip

While many cats and pet owners alike enjoy the comedic effects of Catnip, it has other uses outside of being recreational. Using Catnip during training as a reward, instead of treats, can be a sure way to entice the pleasure centers of your cat’s brain without the added calories. Like treats, Catnip acts as positive reinforcement for good behavior.

Catnip can also be used as a mild, natural sedative. It may help calm hyperactive cats and even aid as a distraction during times of stress, such as car rides and travel. When introducing new cats to each other, Catnip can even help break the ice. Have a cat who is reluctant to eat their food? Try sprinkling some catnip in!

Keep in mind that you will want to avoid overexposure. Too much Catnip too frequently may snuff out your cat’s sensitivity, leaving you without this trusty tool.

Where Is Catnip Found?

While originally native to Europe and parts of Asia, Catnip can grow almost anywhere. This herb can be kept either indoors or outside, and bares a hearty resemblance to its cousin, mint.

Growing fresh Catnip can be a fun hobby that both you, and your cat, will enjoy. Fresh leaf clippings can be kept in the refrigerator so they don’t spoil. You may also go the route of drying, or dehydrating, Catnip leaves, as this helps avoid spoilage.

If you don’t feel like growing your own, simply take a trip to your local pet store to stock up! Many toys, treats, and loose leaf varieties are readily available. Overall, Catnip can be a fun way to interact with your favorite feline.