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You probably already know whether or not your cat goes crazy for catnip, but if you haven’t yet experienced the joy of watching your cat get high on catnip, then now could be the time to experiment. Although many people refer to it as a ‘drug’ for cats, you can be rest assured that it’s neither addictive nor harmful. If you’re still not sure, here’s the lowdown on catnip, its uses and effects.
What is catnip?
Catnip is a herb that’s part of the mint family, it’s also known as catmint. Here’s the science – it contains the chemical nepetalactone which affects a cat’s nervous system and acts as both a relaxant and a stimulant, sending your normally placid cat into a writhing, drooling state of bliss.
What are the effects of catnip?
Not all cats are susceptible to catnip, but it’s thought that over 50% of cats will experience the effects. Reactions to sniffing or eating catnip tend to differ from cat to cat, but often include rolling around, rubbing themselves on it, purring and dribbling, generally having fun and acting a little bit crazy. The effects are short-term and last somewhere between a few minutes and quarter of an hour, but are usually highly entertaining for us humans to watch! Interestingly, it isn’t just the domestic moggy that goes crazy for catnip; studies have shown that their big cat relatives also turn into pussycats in the presence of the herb.
What different types of catnip are available?
You’ve probably seen the abundance of catnip toys available in pet stores, but this isn’t the only way of giving your cat the good stuff. You can buy packets of dried catnip, catnip spray, or even grow your own if you’ve got green fingers. Grow catnip from seed either in the garden or in pots on a sunny windowsill, but make sure you protect the delicate seedlings from your cat until they’re robust enough to withstand a little nibble here and there. One your catnip plants have grown large enough, you can either let your cat chew on it in the pot, or pick and dry the herb to make it last longer. Once you’ve dried the catnip, it should be stored in an airtight container out of direct sunlight to keep it fresh and potent.
What should I do with catnip?
Catnip filled toys are a great way to pique your cat’s interest in playtime. A catnip toy on string is perfect as you can get involved in playing and bonding with your cat, and a stuffed toy that contains catnip will be much more interesting than one that isn’t. Cats love the thrill of the ‘hunt’, so a stuffed mouse with the enticing scent of catnip will see your cat batting, kicking and throwing the toy around, making it seem more like live prey. Catnip toys should be stored in airtight containers when playtime is over to avoid the scent being lost over time.
Fresh or dried catnip can also be used as a treat or in training your cat. Does your cat hate going into its carrier for vet trips? Sprinkle some catnip into the carrier and it’ll become much easier. Catnip can also be sprinkled on food, so if your cat is feeling under the weather it’s a wonderful way to encourage a renewed appetite. Check out Charlie and Max’s favourite recipe for homemade tuna & catnip kitty treats.
Does your cat go crazy for catnip? Please share your stories below…
Images: A Davey / Jennifer Boyer via Flickr
Christine & Riley says
I never knew all this… I know that BabyKitty (rip) loved it… but I’ve never given any to Ninja… okay that is on this weekends to do list 🙂
Kitty Cat Chronicles says
Very interesting – I learned a lot! I have catnip spray also a few catnip toys that the cats love. I think I might try growing my own!