If you are a cat parent, you probably have heard of catnip before. My human, Jeff, always makes sure he has some on hand to give me a well-deserved treat. But what exactly is catnip? I’m here to tell you everything I know about this great little plant.
What is Catnip?
Catnip is a perennial herb that comes from the mint family with the most concentrated area in the stem. It is sometimes called “catswort” or “catmint.”. Did you know that it came all the way from Europe, Asia, and Africa? That makes my kitty legs tired just thinking about it! Catnip was first discovered in an Italian town called Nepete, which is where the plan gets its name Nepeta Cataria. Many years ago, it was brought to North America and is now grown here today. Some cat parents even learn how to grow the herb themselves! This can be a fun way to experiment and make sure your kitty never runs out. Some have even tried to make it into a tea for humans that can be used to promote calming. That’s what I call a kitty-hooman win-win! Catnip is known to be safe for us cats and can be a fun component to playtime. In general, male cats react more intently to catnip because the chemicals found in it are also in the urine of female cats. Kittens under a few months old may not react to catnip at all. So, it’s important to wait a few months before introducing it to your cat. It’s also possible that older cats may not have a reaction to catnip. But it can’t hurt to give it a try!
How does Catnip Work?
One of catnip’s ingredients, called nepetalactone, is shown to activate the “happy” receptors in our cute little brains. It is also known to be a mood enhancer for cats. There is an oil found in catnip called “volatile oil” which triggers the “excitement’’ reaction for us. Catnip can be eaten, or sniffed. In general, when catnip is sniffed, cats will exhibit the stereotypical effects of catnip such as being extra energetic or wild. On the other hand, when catnip is ingested, it has shown to have a calming element for us. In most cases, catnip is used in toys or on scratchers to attract your kitty to use it. Catnip can also be used as a great training tool. If your cat starts scratching on furniture, you can get them a scratcher (check out ours here!) and sprinkle some catnip on it. This will allure your kitty to scratch the scratcher, instead of your furniture. If you are using catnip in this way, your kitty will usually have a similar reaction of rubbing their face on the catnip infused object, drooling or in general making them act a little more hyper than usual. These reactions will usually last for about ten to thirty minutes. Like we mentioned earlier, catnip can also be used on our food. This can help if your fur baby is having trouble eating and needs some encouragement.
Is Catnip Safe for Cats?
In most cases, when we have had enough catnip, we will refuse anymore. There is no evidence of cats being able to “overdose” on catnip. It’s possible if we have too much of it, we can get an upset tummy and throw up. These symptoms will subside after the catnip has gotten out of our system. But there is no need to worry, catnip is not believed to be addictive for us, so it’s worth letting your cat have a whiff.
How to Give Cats Catnip
There are many ways you can give your cats catnip. You can try buying toys with catnip inserts, or you can try sprinkling it on their cat trees, scratchers, or food. There is not a specific “dose” of catnip to give your fur baby. It’s best to try experimenting with small amounts and see how much your kitty prefers. It is possible that some cats do not react at all to catnip, so this is something to also consider. Most vets think that about 70-80% of cats will have a reaction to it. It’s important to store your catnip in a sealed container to keep it as fresh as possible. If it is not sealed properly, it can lose its effects and not provide the same benefits for your cat. Some cat parents even keep catnip extra fresh by keeping it in their freezer.
I may be a little biased, but I think that catnip is a purrfect way to treat your furry friend. My human, Jeff, loves watching me having playtime with my toys or cat scratchers. And I love it too! I have no doubt your fur baby will love the chance to try playing with some catnip.