Cats, irrespective of breed or size, go crazy over one perennial herb that many people are wondering why cats like catnip. If you are also curious why your furry pet becomes such a sweetheart in front of this plant, here are the most important facts you would love to know.
What is Catnip?
Also known as catsworth or cat mint, catnip is an herb native to Asia, Europe, and Africa although it is widely cultivated in North America. This plant belongs to the mint family and it has been used as a mild sedative for humans. Another curious application of catnip is to repel insects including mosquitoes and termites.
With over 250 species of catnip in different parts of the planet, it would be easy to spot this herb. It’s not surprising why many cat toy manufacturers can easily find this herb and use it to make a plaything attractive to felines.
Cats tend to respond to fresh, grown catnip although most toys containing this ingredient use dried and ground catnip. Once cats sense catnip, they mainly feel ecstatic.
Catnip: The Hallucinogenic Drug for Cats
For those who are curious why cats like catnip, the answer lies in the oil present in the plant known as nepetalactone. This oil triggers the receptors that react to pheromones and it gives cats the feeling of euphoria. This effect is the same high people experience when they take hallucinogenic drugs.
Cats who roll around, purr or act like they are having the time of their life after being exposed to catnip are not acting unusual. Your cats are merely reacting to an artificial pheromone.
If catnip is just like a drug to cats, could it be harmful to felines? Although catnip elicits a euphoric reaction from your pets, it is not addictive and it is completely harmless. So, there is no need to worry that you are harboring a catnip addict in your home.
Your cat’s euphoric state can last for about ten minutes. Your kitty can be immune to catnip for, at most, two hours after exposure. After that crucial period, your cat will react with the same gusto to catnip that it did earlier. Humans, on the other hand, are immune to the effects of catnip although it may be taken for medicinal purposes.
Do All Cats Have the Same Reaction to Catnip?
Would you believe your cute furry friends at home are not the only ones who feel euphoria when exposed to catnips? In general, about 50 to 75 percent of cats react to catnip. If you think that household cats are the only ones who go crazy over this herb, you are mistaken since tigers and lions can also go crazy over catnip.
There are theories that a cat’s susceptibility to catnip is genetic. It has been observed that most felines from Australia do not react to catnip compared to cats from other parts of the world. In the same way, cats with parents who do not exhibit euphoric reactions when exposed to catnip also appear immune to catnip.
Adult cats are more sensitive to catnip. Older cats and kittens are less likely to react to catnip than adult cats.
When Cats Eat Catnip
Catnip is most potent to cats when the feline catches a whiff of the oil present in the plant. What happens when they eat it?
It may not be cat food but catnip is safe even if your kitty eats it. When eaten, however, catnip has an opposite effect in cats. Instead of feeling euphoric they feel sedated. This effect is pretty similar to how this plant affects humans.
When eaten in large quantities, it is not unusual for your cat to have diarrhea or vomit. There is no need to worry unless your cat’s condition is too serious since felines often revert back to normal after some time provided they don’t get more catnip. Take note that while catnip is generally safe, some felines can have allergies when they consume it.
If you are debating whether catnip is good for kitty or not, stop fretting. This herb is relatively safe for your pet. Just make sure not to expose your cats to catnip too often.
Ideally, cats should only get a sniff of catnip every two to three weeks or else they can be immune to its euphoric effect.
*This is a special guest post by Diana H., founder of Tinpaw.com. Diana is a pet lover, especially dogs and cats. “A home without a pet is just a house”.