How does catnip work its magic on cats?

How does catnip work its magic on cats?

Est. 2 min read

What is catnip?

Catnip is a perennial herb of the mint family. It originates in Northern Africa and the Mediterranean but now commonly grows wild throughout Europe and North America. 

Cats, from our domestic companions to lions and tigers, are all exquisitely susceptible to a volatile oil found in the stems and leaves of the catnip plant. 

It is genetics that determines whether your feline friend falls for this cousin to basil and oregano. About one cat in two inherits a sensitivity to the herb. But you won't know if your kitten is one of them until sometime between ages 3 and 6 months.

Why do they like catnip so much? Is it safe? And what does it mean if your cat doesn't like it?

  • The leaves and stems of the catnip plant contain an oil called "nepetalactone." 
  • When cats smell nepetalactone, it stimulates special receptors that sense chemicals called "pheromones." The result is a kind of chemical reaction that gives the cat a sense of euphoria or overwhelming happiness.
  • Catnip is considered to be non-addictive and completely harmless to cats. 
  • Not all cats respond to catnip and it is estimated that about 1/3 of the cats lack this gene. So don’t worry if your little one doesn’t react to catnip.

Some of the uses of catnip are:

  • Catnip toys are perhaps the most popular way to administer this popular herb to playful felines, you can give your cats a wide variety of catnip-enhanced toys.
  • Dried catnip is the classic form of this feline-pleasing treat. It's also a useful training aid; for example, some dried nip on a scratching post attracts cats to this appropriate scratching spot.
  • Catnip spray is a handy way to add the essence of catnip to virtually any item. Refresh old toys, spray your cat's bed, spritz the scratching post, or use it on anything else or any location where you want to attract your pet.
  • Use catnip in the carrier or crate to reduce anxiety and create a comfortable state during car trips.

Petsy says...

  • The appropriate dose of catnip depends on several factors such as the pet's age, health, and several other conditions.
  • If cats are exposed to catnip frequently, they may no longer respond to it. It is recommended that it shouldn’t be given more than once every two or three weeks to prevent habituation.
  • Keep in mind that these products are not always suitable and dosages can be important. Be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels and consult your veterinarian before using it.
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