It doesn’t matter if you’re a cat person or if you think cats are little demons with claws. If there is one thing everyone knows is that catnip is the equivalent of reefer for humans. But does anyone know what catnip is and why cats react the way they do when given it?
Today, we’re going to shed some light on the topic and help cat lovers like yourself understand why our furry feline friends absolute love catnip.
What Is Catnip?
Although catnip can have your kitty acting loopier than Cheech and Chong, it isn’t a member of the Cannabaceae family-like cannabis is. Catnip (its Latin name Nepeta cataria) is a member of the Lamiaceae (mint) family and other herbs that humans like to cook with, such as basil, lavender, oregano, rosemary, sage and thyme.
What Is The Best Catnip For Cats?
Catnip is available in a few different forms:
Catnip plants are straightforward to grow; you can grow them in a garden outside or in a pot in the house. You’ll find wherever you grow it, that may be your cat’s new favourite spot.
Usually, when you give your kitty some ‘nip, it’ll be in its dried form and some toy or pouch. However, it can be purchased loose too. You can rub some of the catnip between your fingers to activate the oil, sprinkle it on the floor or a scratching post and let your cat go wild. You’ll get more for your money with dried catnip, and you need to give them a lot.
Catnip spray is when the oil is combined with water to create a robust and fragrant spray. This is an excellent choice if you have catnip toys in which your kitty’s lost interest. Spritz it on the toy, and it’ll gain your cat’s attention again. You can also use this to help them get adjusted to a new cat bed or scratching post.
What Does Catnip Do To Cats?
So what is it about this plant that makes our cats go bonkers? Catnip has a chemical compound in its leaves and stems called nepetalactone. Nepetalactone is a volatile oil that binds to your cat’s nasal tissue when they sniff it, and the compound sticks to the olfactory receptors in the olfactory epithelium.
With the sensory neurons stimulated, the neurons in the olfactory bulb will send signals to the brain, which will change your cat’s behaviour. While we can’t say for sure why this happens, many theorize that the nepetalactone mimics feline pheromones.
Once your cat smells the dried catnip, you’ll notice that they’ll start playing with the toy, they?ll lick and chew on it, they?ll rub against it, and it may even become more vocal.
The reaction cats have often described as a “high” is similar to how humans react when under the influence of marijuana or LSD. It will act as a sedative if you give your cat a fresh sprig of catnip. The effects can last anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes, and then they return to their usual selves.
Can Catnip Be Dangerous To My Cats?
If your cat finds your stash of ‘nip while you’re away at work, it’s understandable that you may be concerned that too much of a good thing will harm your cat. You’ll be happy to know that catnip is entirely safe and non-addictive.
Even though catnip isn’t addictive, limiting your cat’s exposure is still recommended so that they don’t get too used to the chemical compound. Over-exposure could result in your cat not reacting to the herb in the future.
If your cat does over-indulge, your cat may have diarrhoea or vomiting in the worst-case scenarios.
Does Catnip Work On All Cats?
Although the herb is called “catnip,” that doesn’t mean that it will work on all cats, the ability to respond to catnip is something cats must inherit from their parents; otherwise, they aren’t going to be able to enjoy the experience. Luckily for cat lovers worldwide, 70 to 80% of cats have inherited this trait.
It’s important to note that the catnip won’t affect kittens under six months old. Once your kitten reaches sexual maturity, you’ll be able to test it out and see how they respond. Also, if you have an elderly cat, they will be less likely to react to the catnip.
Can I Grow Catnip?
Catnip is very easy to grow, but like any other plant you’d like to grow, you need to consider a couple of things first.
Where Is The Best Place To Grow Catnip
Catnip can be grown in plant hardiness zones 3 to 9 (roughly from Northern Minnesota to Southern Florida). The plants do well in a spot with full sun but can also thrive in partially shady areas.
They aren’t very picky about what kind of soil they’re growing in, but they prefer slightly alkaline soil. Remember to have proper drainage because catnip plants don’t want their roots in the water.
How To Care For A Catnip Plant
You should grow catnip indoors so that pests and other cats won’t damage your plant. These plants tend to be intrusive, but you can keep them relatively contained by pinching them regularly while growing. This will result in a big bushy plant that your cat will adore.
When To Harvest Fresh Catnip
You’ll want to harvest your catnip when it begins to flower. Snip off the whole plant at its base and then hang it upside down to dry in a dark, dry, and well-ventilated area. We like hanging ours in the attic. When the plant is dried, store it in a freezer Ziplock back to preserve the oil’s potency.
Treating your cat to a little bit of catnip is perfectly fine, and, likely, your cat will love it. However, like all things, try to limit your cat’s exposure not to become immune to the magical compound nepetalactone.