What is catnip? – What is in catnip?
So what is this strangely alluring plant? And what does catnip do to cats?
Catnip, which can also be known as catwort, catmint, or field balm. This plant (Nepeta cataria), belonging to the Mint family which blooms through late Spring to Autumn, has long been associated with cats.
This plant is native to Southern and eastern Europe, the Middle East and Asia. About half of all cats seem to not be able to get enough of this plant. Large cats and small (domestic or not), the effect seems to be just the same! It just depends on the genetics of your cat.
This plant produces Nepetalactone oil, is what is to blame for your cat’s bliss-like behaviour when cats are close enough for to sniff the wonderous herb. You may find your kitty chewing/licking, rolling over and rubbing it’s head around under the influence of this drug-like substance.
The leaves, stems and seedpods of the plant itself are coated with microscopic bulbs. These bulbs release the nepetalactone when they rupture.
Is catnip safe for my cat?
Do not worry, catnip is completely safe for your cat and surprisingly, not addictive! For all breeds. Even Lions and Tigers are affected by catnip in a similar mannar to your house cats.
The lasting affect for cats is aroung 5 to 15 minutes, after which you cat will usually take about 2 hours or so before they become responsive to it again.
Also, cats will not overdose on this plant. Generally speaking, they will not want any more of it after they’ve had a certain amount. Not for a little while at least!
What does catnip do to cats?
Some cats may respond in a playful and slightly aggressive manner, whilst others may become more calm and mellow. Catnip can be seen as a mild hallucinogenic for cats.
The sensory neurons leading to your cat’s brain are stimulated by the nepetalactone chemical. Several areas of the brain result in altered activity. Noteably the hypothalamus, which has a role in regulating the cat’s emotions.
When cats get a smell of catnip, it can seem to give them a high which is thought by many researchers to mimic feline pheremones. However when a cat eats this plant, it can seem to act as more of a sedative.
You could also use catnip to train your cats! If you find your cat is scratching at the side of your door or leg of a fine chair, then get a scratching post and rub it with catnip to make it more appealing to your cat to divert it’s attention away from the things that you don’t want harmed by their sharp claws!
Many cat toys are infused with catnip to keep your cats playing away from the things that you want to be kept safe from their claws.
How often should I offer my cat catnip?
If you want your cat to remain responsive to catnip then it is advisable not to treat your cat to it more than once a week. The affect of catnip can be worn out by over-indulging your cat too often! So if remember this if you want to keep this plant as a treat for your cat!
Cats tend to respond more to the dried/fresh version of the herb, as opposed to catnip sprays. As theys don’t generally contain enough Nepetalactone to keep your cat interested.
Catnip affects on humans
Not only is catnip safe for cats, but people used to also use it in the for of tea to soothe an upset stomach. Catnip does not at all affect humans in the same way as it does for cats. So don’t worry, you won’t be rolling around in delight after your catnip tea!
People have also been documented chewing and smoking the leaves and catnip has at various times been believed to relieve certain ailments.
Also it was once believed that smoking the leaves from this plant would cause euphoria and hallucinations but scientists have since determined that this is not true.
Another benefit that people will find from Catnip it that is can be used as a mosquito repellent!
It’s affect is more potent than DEET however not as long lasting. Catnip-based mosquito repellents can still be found today.
Sources and more info
2020 – https://www.easyologypets.com/blogs/news/truth-about-catnip-and-cats