Everything you need to know about catnip and how it affects your cat
What is catnip?
Catnip is a plant commonly found in gardens around the world. It is part of the Lamiaceae family of flowering plants, such as basil, oregano, thyme, and mint. This herb has a repellent effect on rodents while attracting butterflies and cats. The latter has a stronger relationship to the herb, as cats tend to be overly enthusiastic towards the plants' smell, hence the name: catnip.
How does catnip affect cats?
There has been much dispute in the world of cat fanatics regarding whether catnip is safe for cats and how it affects them. Some cats love catnip; others do not care at all. Kittens and older cats rarely care for the plant's essence, while most sexually mature cats respond to the herb. It is uncertain why the plant affects them, but there are a few theories.
The herb contains an oil named 'nepetalactone' that works as a feline attractant. Which, recreationally, is used as a stimulant for domestic cats.
When the cat eats or smell this oil, the result is usually fifteen minutes of strange vocalisations, leaping around, drooling, sleepiness, and playful scratching and biting before 'olfactory fatigue' sets in.
About two-thirds of cats get a stimulating effect from the oil. At the same time, the remaining part has no desire nor get any effect from consuming the plant. The cats who don't react to it are either old cats or kittens, and scientists believe this is due to their lack of sexual maturity.
The herb causes the release of a pheromone in sexually mature cats, making them feel a bit extra 'in love'.
Is catnip safe for felines?
The herb is a sedative and has gotten an unfortunate reputation, likely due to its many off-putting names;
- Cat crack
- Cat grass
Despite the unflattering names and the sedative effect the herb has on a cat, there is no evidence suggesting that it harms the animal. They just simply feel a bit woozy for a while, and they seem to love it.
Is catnip addictive?
The herb is not addictive; however, the cat can get overly attached to it. When they can sense catnip in the household, they will likely try to find it. It is not uncommon for them to try to reach it, even if it is in a drawer or a cupboard. If you hold it in your hand and try to keep it away from the cat, it might scratch or bite to get a hold of it.
Though, when you don't keep catnip in your household, the cat will not crave catnip and will behave like a normal cat again.
Where should I store catnip?
It would be to your advantage to keep the catnip in a room the cat doesn't have access to. If placed in a drawer or a cupboard, the cat might attempt to open the storage room to reach and consume the herb.