Care & Health

What Catnip is and How it Works

If you’re a cat lover, chances are you may have come across a hilarious video online that involves cats going crazy and something known as “catnip”. So you might be wondering, what in the world is catnip, and how can it affect my cat?

What Catnip is

Catnip is a kind of plant, one of a category known as “catmints” – these are known because the plants themselves tend to attract felines such as domesticated cats. The plant itself is a mint plant (hence the name catmint) and was originally derived from the North of Africa. Now, it has spread out throughout the world and can be grown even in your home!

How Catnip Works

Catnip works by releasing a substance, known as Nepetalactone – this substance is found in the oils of the plant, and is released when the cat “rolls around” and plays in it. This, along with a combination of other chemicals in the oils from the plant, acts as a stimulant for the cat.

The resulting behaviours that are exhibited include drooling, sleepiness, and anxiety. Because the chemical is extremely volatile though, it eventually dissipates into the surroundings and loses its effects on your feline friend.

How Catnip Affects your Cat

So now that you know what catnip is and what the active ingredient in it is, you must be wondering, how will exposure to this plant affect my cat?  Although we can’t know for sure (the cat isn’t exactly able to explain what it is feeling) studies show that the plant causes some kind of hallucinogenic effect on your cat.

This results in the production of pheromones, which are substances that make the cat ‘feel good’ and result in behaviours that are typical of such feelings; running around, jumping, and chasing, as well as hunting behaviours. The cat may even start to rub leaves (if you are using leaves) and try and rub more oil on itself in an effort to increase the effect.

If you’re observing your cat, you’ll see that these symptoms will only last for a maximum of 5 to 10 minutes. Then, your cat will be in a refractory period of sorts, where further exposure to the catnip won’t affect them for the next hour or so.

The Signs of Exposure to Catnip

So how will your cat behave exactly when it is exposed to catnip?

  • Excessive drooling and sniffing.
  • Rubbing of body and cheek
  • Stretching, chasing and jumping
  • General hyperactivity and aggression.

Is Catnip Safe for My Cat?

So, the leaves from these plant cause hyperactivity in your cats, is it safe for them? You have absolutely nothing to worry about. For one, if you are worried about them ‘overdosing’, giving them a few pinches of catnip will have no negative effects on their health.

Plus, once they’ve had their fill, they usually will stop taking it in any case. You don’t even need to worry about a hangover! Pretty much the only time you need to stop them from taking catnip is when your cat is pregnant.

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How to Give Your Cats Catnip

So – how to share catnip with your cats? Well, there are a couple of ways to do so.

Catnip Based Toys

You can find toys that have been filled in with catnip at most pet stores, and these will be a great source of joy for your kitty, especially if you have some overweight cats that could use the hyperactivity and exercise!

Dried Catnip

Dried catnip, like catnip based toys, can be bought at local nurseries or pet stores and be sprinkled on the floor for your feline friends to enjoy.

Catnip Plants

You can also keep catnip plants around, and as you grow them, let your cats enjoy them as they see fit. Plus, if you grow catnip in your garden, all you need to do is dry them out and you can have catnip made in the comfort of your own home!

Growing Catnip at Home

Want to grow catnip in your home? You can grow the plant either as a seedling or as in the form of seeds. If you aren’t an experienced farmer, you should probably go for seedlings as getting catnip to germinate can be a difficult and trying process.

For indoor growing, keep pots inside and outside and rotate them regularly so no one gets constantly chewed on by your kitty. If the plant is just going to grow outside and you plan to take your cat out there, leave spaces around it so your hard-worked on garden doesn’t get destroyed when your cat decides to roll around like crazy.

If you’re looking to grow a beautiful garden filled with wildlife, grow catnip too! Not only will the plant attract cats, but it can also repel insects and attract hummingbirds and other beautiful species of animals.

Will Catnip Work on YOUR Cat?

For most cats (around 70% of them) catnip will work. However, some cats just aren’t affected by catnip. And unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do about it – whether they are affected or not is determined by genetics.

However, don’t worry – your cat can have recreational fun with some of the many catnip alternatives, such as Valerian Root or the Tatarian Honeysuckle Wood.

Does Catnip Effect Dogs?

Interestingly, your dogs will also be affected by catnip – just not in the way that you can expect. For dogs, catnip has a soothing effect, rather than a stimulating one. Sometimes, the plant can even be used to sedate dogs or lower their anxiety. Plus, the plant has a diuretic benefit as well, along with the ability to provide comfort for intestinal problems and during menstruation to regulate the process.

If your dog has been injured recently, you can also apply catnip oil. This helps in the healing and will push away any potentially infectious insects away. So you can use them for your dogs, but remember, too much of them may not be a good idea, especially for pregnant dogs, and that you should only ever use it for your dog with a vet’s recommendation.

Other Uses of Catnip

So we’ve covered your cat, your garden, and your dog – what else can this magical plant be used for? Well, the answer is simple – you! Catnip isn’t just out there to put your cats in a frenzy or to help your dog stay calm before his next visit to a vet – the substance can help you out too.

Catnip can be used as a supplement in tea, which helps you heal, and acts as a diuretic. Substances in the plant help you urinate, which helps you flush out toxins from your body and gives you a ‘cleansing’ feeling. And that’s not all – with a few uses of catnip, you can also consider it a home remedy for mild problems like not being able to sleep (insomnia) and a headache every now and then.

Whether it’s giving your cat a ‘high’, helping him or her exercise, maintaining your dog’s intestinal health or brewing a nice, warm cup of tea to soothe a headache after a long day of work, catnip has its uses for every cat owner out there!


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