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Quina Baterna

Why Cats Go Crazy for Catnip


Many cat owners love the wildness that is inherent to our feline companions. Independent, clean, and happy to be alone for most of the day, cats are often believed to be easy creatures to be around. Except, of course, those few moments when they are not.

Many cats have an urge to scratch up furniture or raise hell for being brought to the groomers or vet. Felines are also very territorial and do not always react well to sudden changes in your household.While there has been much advice on the best ways to deal with stressed-out cats, there is one piece of advice that has stood the test of time – give them catnip.

Catnip is the feline version of a miracle drug, meant to make kitties happy and relaxed in almost any situation. Despite its widespread use worldwide, many people do not know what catnip really is and what it does to our furbabies.

What is catnip?

Nepeta Cataria, or Catnip, is a plant that comes from the same family as mint. Native to Europe and Asia, it is a hardy, weed-like plant that grows up to three feet high in almost any climate. Fresh catnip has heart-shaped leaves and various colored flowers such as white, blue, or pink. While preferring direct sunlight, it is easy to grow even if you do not have a green thumb.

Within a catnip plant, the leaves, stems, and seeds all contain the secret ingredient and our cat’s most famous aphrodisiac - Nepetalactone. By containing a chemical similar to those found in the female cat's urine, catnip acts like a psychosexual stimulant.

While we commonly associate catnip as purely for our cats, it has long been a medicinal herb used by humans too. Acting similarly to chamomile, it can be relaxing when made into tea. Some people even use catnip as a form of mosquito repellant. However, this begs the question – what happens when cats consume catnip?

What are the effects of catnip?

Surprisingly, catnip does not work for all cats. Catnip sensitivity is hereditary and an estimated only one out of two cats have any reaction to it at all. A fun fact is that catnip affects even wild and big cats - lions, tigers, lynx, bobcats, and more. Many zoos that contain big cats routinely use catnip on these larger cats to ease to keep them happy, healthy, and relaxed.

Some of the common reactions are:

  • blissful demeanor
  • rolling around
  • mewing
  • running around

Catnip sensitivity does not show up until kittens are about three to six months old. Some studies show that catnip does not work for senior cats. In addition, for 50% of cats that catnip affects, there are varied reactions for each.

The bliss from catnip incites either extreme calm or aggressive playfulness, usually lasting for an average of ten minutes. Most cats also need at least an hour or two breaks for the catnip to affect them again.

Currently, there is no real way of knowing your cat's reaction to catnip until they have tried it themselves. Additionally, the experience of their parents with catnip may indicate their sensitivity and possible reaction. With this, it is best to give catnip for the first time when they are at home and within your reach.

What are the uses for catnip?

There is no argument that catnip has a range of benefits for almost every type of cat. Here are a few uses for catnip that you may want to consider:

Redirecting Destruction

For cats that get a little too excited in the presence of your holiday decorations, catnip seems like a gift. Sprinkling a little catnip on a nearby cat tree can save you the heartache of expensive, scratched up furniture by encouraging them to scratch something else.

Introducing Toys

Without the thrill of hunting outdoors, many indoor cats become bored. Many fur parents try to solve this by introducing a range of toys. However, many cats do not always know what to do with them. With catnip, cats are enticed by toys instantly. Often, many cats will continue to do so even after the catnip high wears off.

Traveling Sedative

If you are one of the lucky cat parents whose fur baby gets calm under the influence of catnip, you can easily use it as a sedative for those long, stressful rides. Whether your cat needs to go to the vet for ticks or they are flying cross-country in a plane, having an on-hand sedative such as catnip can do a lot for both of you.

Transitioning New Family Members

Cats can be very territorial and resistant to change. When it comes to introducing them to new household members like a new kitten, it can be quite challenging. Through enlisting the aid of catnip, your cat can associate change with positive experiences. Also, difficult moments can be smoother for everyone involved.

Can cats get addicted to catnip?

Unlike human beings, cats are not prone to addiction. In fact, too much catnip can do the opposite for our furry friends and make them immune to its various effects. For optimal use, many experts recommend giving cats catnip twice a week at most.

How to Store Catnip

Due to nepetalactone being UV photosensitive, catnip becomes less potent when exposed to sunlight. When catnip is stored inappropriately, it can quickly lose its scent and effectiveness.

It is necessary to keep drying catnip in a dark room. If you are not planning to use your fresh catnip right away, store it in an airtight container in your refrigerator or freezer to keep it fresh.

Keep Your Cats Happy With Catnip

No matter how much you protect your feline friend from the world, they are always bound to experience some stressful situations. Whether it is meeting your new significant other, taking core vaccination, or moving to a new home, your cat is counting on you to keep them calm.

Thankfully, catnip is there to make everything a whole lot easier. If your cat is part of 50% that catnip is sure to work on, count yourself lucky, and take advantage of it. Investing in a catnip plant for your garden or purchasing a few grams for special occasions is a great way to be prepared for whatever it is that life will throw at you and your cat.

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