If you have a cat at home or have been around cats long enough, you know about catnip. Plenty of cartoons, TV commercials, and movies portray cats as being “high” when they are exposed to catnip.
Your cat may appear fine after coming in contact with catnip, but how does it really affect your cat? But do cats really get high? Is catnip a drug?
In this article, we explore these questions and more.
What Is Catnip?
Catnip (or Netepa Cataria) is a herb from the mint family. It is an easy plant to grow, and wild catnip growth is found abundantly in North America.
This herb has feathery foliage with pretty delicate flowers. The underside of catnip has glands that contain the chemical substance nepetalactone. When your cat chews on the leaves or rubs against it, the plant releases nepetalactone oil, which has a drug-like effect on cats.
Today, catnip is also incorporated in sprays and can be used as a sedative and natural medication for indigestion, flu, and stress.
The Effects of Catnip on Felines
Catnip directly affects your cat’s brain when it is ingested or inhaled. When your cat interacts with catnip by chewing, biting, licking, rubbing, or rolling on it, the herb releases the nepetalactone oil, and this puts your cat in a delirious, stimulated frenzy.
There is an additional scent organ in cats called the vomeronasal gland that is in the top portion of their mouths. This gland helps convey any scents that the cat collects using its nose and mouth to the brain.
Catnip travels through your cat’s nose to the brain, thus triggering the “happy” and “high” chemical response. Instead of being in a frenzy, catnip makes them feel tired, warm, and sleepy.
While there are varying behavioral changes in cats, catnip typically mimics the feline sexual hormones. That is why it makes cats feel happy and satisfied. Sometimes, they even exhibit behaviors as if they are in heat.
Other observed effects of catnip are obvious signs of affection, giddiness, and playfulness. Some cats may also show aggression but it is uncommon because catnip encourages more affirmative feelings in your feline.
Due to the positive experience, catnip may help ease your cat’s anxiety and even help soothe any pain and discomfort.
So...Does It Work On All Cats?
Not all because some cats don't react to catnip at all. The capacity to appreciate the herb is a genetic trait, with somewhat more cats than not belonging to the fan club. Catnip has little effect on kittens under the age of three months.
Silvervine is another herb that can be used as an alternative to catnip. In a 2017 study, almost 80% of cats were responsive to silver vine versus 68% of cats that responded to catnip.
Too much can make them sick.
Catnip directly affects your cat’s physical and emotional behaviors. So, some catnip once in a while is okay but too much exposure too regularly may not be healthy for them.
Although your cat may look like they’re enjoying that high, excessive catnip use may cause diarrhea and vomiting.
How Long Does Catnip Effect Last?
Different cats can respond differently to it.
Usually, the behavioral changes last for around ten minutes, and then they will gradually wear off. Some may take longer, but it will take approximately half an hour to a full hour for your cat to become responsive to catnip again.
The potency of catnip doesn’t decrease as long as you store it in an airtight container. So, there’s no need to give your cat catnip too often just to avoid the catnip going stale. You can count on it to remain fresh even after months.
How To Use Catnip?
Apart from feeding catnip to your cat, rubbing it on scratching posts and cat trees makes them more rewarding for your cat, which may prevent your kitty from scratching your furniture. Adding a little catnip to toys can help keep your cat active, which is especially important for indoor cats that are prone to inactivity and obesity.
Is Catnip Safe?
All good things should be used sparingly and in moderation. Just make sure you get high-quality catnip from a reputable supplier or pet stores. You may incorporate catnip into your cats' playtime or help your cat feel more relaxed once in a while if required.