If you have a cat, I’m sure you’ve given catnip before and have experienced the “crazy” side effects it involves. Have you ever wondered what’s going on? Why does my cat do that? What is actually in catnip, what are some of the benefits and is it ok for my cat? Here’s what you need to know!
What is Catnip?
Catnip is a perennial non-toxic, non-addictive herb, belonging to the mint family. It is also known as catmint, which includes oregano sage, and basil. Catnip was indigenous to the Mediterranean, now grown commonly across North America.
An essential oil called nepetalactone is the active ingredient found in the stem and leaves (named after the town of Nepete in Italy, and Cataria thought to have originated from the Latin word for cat. The active ingredient found in the stem and leaves induces a psychosexual response in both male and female felines.
When it is breathed in, it is believed it causes a “hallucinogenic high” comparable to LSD in a human, enduring 5 to 10 minutes. When eaten, however, it works as a sedative. Both male and female cats have the same reactions; humans are not affected, and some cats are also not affected by it. It can make cats hyper.
How does Catnip Work in Cats?
Catnip works through a chemical reaction through the olfactory system which cats have a specific response for; a receptor for the nepetalactone molecule, which is located in the vomeronasal (Jacobson’s) organ. This is a structure positioned above the palate that is present in many mammals. It is believed to copy the results of a pheromone effect in which it causes a range of different behaviors in cats.
When a cat approaches the catnip, sniffing it allows a reaction. Some cats go crazy over catnip, roll, purr loudly, and then run off. Some cats drool, eat it and look intoxicated for 5-15 minutes. Following the “high”, most cats are calm and sleep off the effects. Remove the cat nip for an hour before a second dose is effective.
Cats that have reactive personalities or are too young may not respond to catnip. First reactions to catnip are often shown between three to six months of age. Senior cats may no longer take effect. Cats may need a stress free home before enjoying catnip. Lions, pumas, and leopards can also enjoy catnip.
Is All Catnip Safe For All Cats?
No, not all catnip is safe for cats. Not all catnip plants are equally created and different plants have different amounts of nepetalactone. Catnip pellets can be 50% stronger than leaves, for example. Vomiting and diarrhea can occur if a large amount of fresh catnip is consumed.
The Benefits of Catnip:
Catnip has other benefits besides use for the cat.
Catnip is beneficial as a natural cockroach repellant. It can also keep unwanted insects away such as aphids, mites, caterpillars, ants and beetles when planted in the garden. Nepetalactone has been tested more effective than DEET; and also works on flies.
Catnip is also known to repel mice and rats.
Catnip is very interesting! Now you know the next time your kitty is perhaps “bouncing off the walls” what is going on.
All of our Sheepie Snack Sunday blogs & recipes can be found on our Facebook page in our album here.
Making the fur fly,
Danielle & Riggs
The Pet Professionals: Cert. Vet Assist, Professional Dog Groomer, Canine/Feline Nutritionist.