All about Cat Nip

They’ll sniff it. Lick it. Cling to it. Pounce on it. Kick at it. Roll over it, and more. For a grand finale, some cats will even eat it. But why?

Catnip is a perennial herb which is part of the mint family. It contains the chemical nepetalactone, which triggers a response in cats but not in other animals or humans. It’s a stimulant to cats, causing frenetic activity in some, and a lot of drooling in others. Not all cats are affected by it.

Young kittens, up to 8-12 weeks, aren’t drawn to catnip and can even show an aversion to it. Sometimes senior cats ignore it too. But big cats – like a tiger, not a Maine Coon – also enjoy catnip. The response to catnip appears to be inherited, and it’s estimated that between 50% and 90% of household cats are susceptible to its charms.

Your cat won’t overdose on nepetalactone. Most cats will play with it for a while, then ‘lose interest’ and ignore it. Some hypothesize that your cat is on a ‘high’ by that point, and therefore has no further need for catnip! While we don’t know for sure, it will be one to several hours before your cat will again react to catnip.

Interestingly, though catnip acts as a stimulant when sniffed, it will act more like a sedative if ingested.

Dried catnip is used for cat toys and sold on its own. You can find many forms of it at your Pet Valu store, including the new organic catnip toys featured here. Fresh catnip, on the other hand, can cause vomiting or diarrhea if consumed in large quantities.This is rare and can be easily resolved by limiting or withholding fresh catnip.

You can easily grow fresh catnip in your garden – not necessarily to go to the trouble of harvesting and drying it for your cat’s enjoyment. Rats and mice are believed to have a strong dislike of catnip and will avoid places where it grows. And researchers say that nepetalactone is about ten times more effective at repelling mosquitoes than DEET, which is the active ingredient in many insect repellents (and potentially toxic).

It is also said that catnip can be used by humans to make a medicinal tea which may soothe toothaches and coughs, and maybe help induce sleep as well.

But here at Companion Magazine, we can only recommend catnip for your cat! If your cat requires more exercise, try catnip toys for a hyperactive workout session. It’s safe to use every day to help induce more activity to support a healthy weight and lifestyle.

Catnip is also a great attractant for convincing your cat to scratch a designated post and not your furniture. Simply rub some catnip or catnip oil on a scratching post and place your cat near it. Most likely your feline will sniff at the post and then rub against it and scratch too. Once you’ve reapplied the catnip a few times, your cat will be well on her way to appropriate scratching habits.

DID YOU KNOW
Nepetalactone is a terpene composed of two isoprene units, with a total of ten carbons. Its chemical structure is similar to that of the valepotriates derived from the herb valerian, which is a mild central nervous system sedative (or stimulant for some people).

Interestingly, though catnip acts as a stimulant when sniffed, it will act more like a sedative if ingested.

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