If you have ever given your cat a toy stuffed with catnip, you have probably witnessed them acting weird and wild. Even though it’s fun to film their reactions and see what hijinks they’ll get up to, the question still remains: Why do cats like catnip so much?
What is catnip?
Catnip is native to Europe, Africa, and Asia. However, it was imported to America and now grows there as well.
Catnip is a perennial herb that is a member of the mint family. The leaves and stems contain a chemical compound called nepetalactone, which is what attracts cats. When the scent hits them, they experience a sense of euphoria.
You can purchase an entire jar of catnip at the pet store or you could buy toys that have catnip hidden inside like balls, mice, or pillows.
However, kittens are not impacted by catnip until they reach six months of age, around the same time when they reach sexual maturity.
Even once they mature, not all cats have a strong reaction to catnip. Around thirty percent do not experience any effects when exposed to the product. Their reaction to catnip is inherited from their parents, so if their mother loves catnip, then they are going to feel the same way. If their mother is indifferent to catnip, then they are going to feel the same way.
What effects does catnip have?
You might have heard that catnip is the kitty version of weed or that it is similar to LSD. Even though it will give your pet a high, it is not technically a drug.
Catnip can have two completely different effects. If your cat starts eating or licking the catnip, they will become sleepy because the catnip will act as a sedative.
However, if they smell catnip, they will become hyperactive. They might roll around, run around, salivate, or start making a lot of noise. Some researchers believe this is because the scent mimics feline pheremones.
Basically, once the scent enters the cat’s nasal tissue, the cells provoke a response in neurons in the olfactory bulb, which project to several brain regions including the amygdala and the hypothalamus. Then the amygdala integrates the information flow from the olfactory bulb cells and projects to areas governing behavior responses.
The effects of catnip will last for ten to fifteen minutes. For a half hour after that, they will not feel any effects if they continue to sniff the catnip. However, once those thirty minutes are up, they can go right back to their high.
Is catnip safe for cats?
Not only is catnip safe for cats, but it is also safe for humans. It is contained in certain teas to help calm nausea, headaches, cramps, gas, indigestion, insomnia, and nervousness. It can also be used as a mosquito repellent.
Catnip is non-addictive. It is completely safe if used in moderation. However, if you give your cat too much catnip in a short period of time, they might suffer from diarrhea or begin to vomit.
If you overuse catnip, your cat could also develop an immunity to it. That means they will no longer experience any effects.
Although your cat might be happiest when playing with catnip, it’s in both of your best interests to only use the product every two to three weeks.