What Is Catnip? Why Cats Go Crazy for It?

What Is Catnip? Why Cats Go Crazy for It?

Let's unravel the mystery behind catnip, shedding light on its nature, its impact on a cat's mood, and the question of whether there's such a thing as too much of this feline-favored herb.

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What Is Catnip?

Catnip (or catnip grass), scientifically known as Nepeta cataria, is a widely recognized herb belonging to the mint family.

It's the kind of plant that grows easily in Malaysia, boasting feather-like light-green foliage paired with lavender flowers.

Interestingly, catnip leaves have found applications beyond the feline realm; they've been utilized to brew tea and are reputed to provide relief from coughs. Moreover, catnip takes center stage as a key ingredient in certain all-natural bug sprays.

How Does Catnip Work? Why Cats Go Crazy for Catnip?

Wondering what does catnip do to cats? Understanding how catnip influences cats involves a closer look at its interaction with a cat's unique sensory system and the subsequent behavioral changes it induces.

  1. The Cat's Scent Pathway - Vomeronasal Gland: Cats possess a distinctive scent organ known as the vomeronasal gland, situated on the roof of their mouth. This specialized pathway allows scents collected in the nose and mouth to be efficiently transported to the brain.
  2. Nepetalactone - The Catalyst for Change: Within the leaves of the catnip plant resides nepetalactone, an essential oil responsible for triggering behavioral shifts in cats. Exposure to this substance occurs through smelling the catnip.
  3. Catnip's Mimicry of Feline Sex Hormones: Catnip's magic lies in its ability to mimic feline sex hormones. As a result, cats under the influence often exhibit behaviors akin to a female cat in heat, irrespective of gender.
  4. Observable Behaviors - Affection, Relaxation, and More: Cats experiencing the effects of catnip may manifest overt signs of affection, relaxation, and an overall sense of happiness. Alternatively, some cats may engage in more active behaviors, such as playful antics or occasional displays of aggression.
  5. Beyond Enjoyment - Anxiety Reduction and Pain Relief: For cats with positive catnip experiences, the herb can serve as more than just entertainment. It has been noted to contribute to anxiety reduction and even provide relief from pain.
  6. Catnip and Separation Anxiety: In certain cases, veterinarians have suggested the use of catnip to alleviate separation anxiety, particularly when a cat is home alone for extended periods. This gentle herbal remedy may offer comfort during solitary stretches.

Does Catnip Work on All Cats?

Not every cat responds to catnip. Research indicates that around 66% of cats exhibit a behavioral reaction to catnip. If your cat doesn't respond, consider trying Silver Vine. Additionally, there's evidence suggesting a genetic basis for a cat's reaction to catnip.

How Long Does Catnip Last?

The duration of catnip effects varies among cats. Typically, behaviors associated with catnip exposure last around 10 minutes, gradually wearing off. After this period, it may take approximately 30 minutes without exposure for the cat to become susceptible again. Storing catnip in an airtight container is advised to maintain its potency.

Feed Cats Catnip vs Let Them Sniff

Many cats show a preference for sniffing rather than ingesting catnip, primarily due to the herb's entrance through the nose, triggering sensory signals that lead to a pleasurable response in the brain, akin to a sexual reaction. The satisfaction derived from smelling catnip often makes it the preferred choice for feline enjoyment.

When cats sniff catnip, nepetalactone, the active compound, takes command of their sense of smell, potentially inducing hyperactivity or a state of ecstasy. Cats under the influence may exhibit behaviors like rubbing against objects or rolling on the floor. Despite the potential for hyperactivity, there are notable advantages to cats engaging with catnip through sniffing, including stress relief.

On the other hand, consuming catnip results in distinct effects, deviating from hyperactivity. When ingested, catnip acts as a sedative, proving beneficial for anxiety management or addressing insomnia. Additionally, eating catnip can assist in cleaning a cat's intestines.

However, it's crucial to exercise moderation, as excessive consumption may lead to stomach upset. Understanding these nuances allows cat owners to harness the benefits of catnip according to their feline companion's individual needs.

How to Use Catnip

Catnip comes in various forms, including fresh (grown catnip plant), dried, sprays, and catnip-infused toys. Catnip sprays are suitable for cats prone to stomach upset. Apply to your cat’s favorite toy, tree, or scratcher. Alternatively, sprinkle dried catnip on a cat tree or roll a toy in it.

How to Introduce Catnip to Your Cats: Guidelines for Cat Owners

For cat owners looking to introduce catnip to their feline friends, here are some guidelines to ensure a positive and controlled experience:

  1. Dose Quantity: Before determining the appropriate dose, conduct a smell test by rubbing catnip on your cat's toys and observing their reaction. If the response is as expected, start with small doses. Many owners begin with a teaspoon or tablespoon of dried catnip placed in a bowl. Adjust the quantity based on your cat's response, providing even smaller doses for kittens.
  2. Dose Frequency: To maintain your cat's sensitivity to catnip, establish time intervals for its enjoyment. Typically, the effects of catnip last for more than 2 hours before they can be affected again. It's recommended to offer catnip during playtime, two or three times a day.

Train Your Cat with Catnip

Catnip is a fantastic tool for training your cat, and here's how you can use it effectively:

Why Use Catnip to Train Your Cats?

Catnip is a herb that has been long used to captivate the interest of cats. Domestic cats are generally responsive to training and can be easily house-trained. As a cat owner, incorporating catnip toys into your training routine can enhance their activity and facilitate more effective training sessions.

Catnip Toys

Cats have a playful nature and respond positively to play sessions. Catnip toys, specially designed for cats, are excellent tools to capture their attention. These toys contain catnip, and you can further enhance their appeal by rubbing catnip on them. Catnip toys are available for purchase, including chew toys infused with catnip herbs.

Alternatively, you can craft your own catnip toy using a simple method - place dry catnip in an old sock, sew or tie it up, and voila, your homemade catnip toy is ready for play! Keep in mind that cats may respond differently to various forms of catnip, with a preference for fresh or dried catnip over catnip spray.

Training Instructions

Catnip serves as a potent motivator for cats and is often used as a training aid. For instance, if your cat tends to scratch furniture, you can redirect their attention by introducing a scratching post sprinkled with catnip. Similarly, when introducing a new bed, sprinkling catnip on the cushions can help make it more appealing to your cat.

Catnip can also function as a reward during training, reinforcing positive behaviors and encouraging faster learning. Incorporate catnip into learning sessions to make training more engaging and enjoyable, fostering the development of impressive cat actions.

By utilizing catnip strategically in your training efforts, you can enhance your cat's responsiveness and make the training process a positive and enjoyable experience for both you and your feline companion.

Can Kittens Have Catnip?

Catnip is safe for kittens, although most cats don't react until they are 6 months to 1 year old. Some cats may be exceptions, gradually increasing sensitivity over time.

Can Cats Eat Catnip? Is Catnip Safe?

Cats can ingest catnip, which may benefit their digestive tract. However, it's crucial to prevent cats from consuming large amounts to avoid digestive upset. While catnip has antidiarrheal properties, moderation is key.

Can Cats Overdose on Catnip?

Excessive catnip intake can lead to health issues like vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, or difficulty walking. Use catnip sparingly, and consult your veterinarian to determine the appropriate amount. Fresh catnip is more potent than dried, and it's advisable to avoid highly concentrated catnip oils.

How to Store Catnip? Catnip Storage Instructions

Once catnip is dry, store it in an airtight container to prevent moisture. Air-tight zip-top plastic containers are ideal for catnip storage.

Preserve catnip by keeping it in a cool, dry place away from sunlight or heat, as these factors can reduce its potency. Ensure that the storage is secure and out of your cat's reach.

Where to Buy Catnip for Cats?

Catnip is widely available globally and is effective for nearly all cat breeds. You can purchase catnip from local pet stores or through online eCommerce platforms like Shopee and Lazada. Catnip is generally affordable, making it accessible to a wide range of cat owners.

How to Grow Catnip Yourself?

For cat owners interested in growing catnip (Nepeta cataria) at home, here are some straightforward tips:

1. When to Plant Catnip

Catnip thrives in a sunny environment, which is why Malaysia is a great place to plant it, and the optimal time to plant it is during non-rainy seasons.

2. Where to Plant Catnip

Select a location with ample sunlight for your catnip to flourish. A spacious area that receives sufficient sunlight throughout the day is ideal for optimal growth. Ensure the garden has well-drained soil to support the catnip's development. In hotter and arid regions, consider placing the catnip in a shaded area to shield it from the intense sun.

3. Watering Catnip

Catnip is a hardy plant that is tolerant to drought conditions. Avoid excessive watering, as it can harm the plant. Instead, water catnip sparingly to maintain consistently moist, but not saturated, soil around the plant. Following these watering practices will contribute to the health and vitality of your catnip plant.

By adhering to these simple guidelines, you can cultivate catnip at home, providing a delightful and easily maintained source of enjoyment for your feline friend.

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