In general, most cats react to catnip in an excitable way. Once they get a sniff of it, they’ll roll around in it, swat it and then dart around the room in an erratic manner. This reaction can be entertaining, as well as puzzling, especially if you have a cat that is normally pretty laid back. For cats to have such a reaction, it makes one wonder, “What Is Catnip?” One might also wonder, what does catnip do to cats? To help answer these questions, below is a brief explanation of catnip and why cats react the way they do to it.

Catnip Explained
What is catnip? Catnip is an herb that continually grows throughout the year. It belongs to the mint family, even though it looks like oregano when it is dry. Catnip origins begin in Asia, Europe and Africa, but because it was imported, it now grows wildly all over North America—it’s growth height can reach up to 2-3 feet.

Catnip that is freshly grown has leaves that are shaped like a heart growing from the stems. Catnip is also capable of growing lavender, blue, pink and white blooms. It’s very easy to grow and benefits from full exposure to natural light.

This makes it easy for just about anyone to grow catnip. In order to dry catnip, just trim the leaves and hang them in a place without light. To prolong the potency, place the catnip in a plastic bag, then refrigerate it.

Note: If you’re growing catnip indoors, make sure it is safely out of the reach of your cat. If your cat nibbles away at it, it might not reach full maturity. Also, your cat could end up making a mess.

How Does Catnip Effect Cats?
Catnip contains an active ingredient named nepetalactone—this is an essential oil. Once this chemical is released from the catnip—mostly through the cat’s interaction with the catnip—it excites the sensory neurons that connect to a cat’s brain. It then creates a euphoric feeling, that is considered similar to the effects of cat pheromones.

However, the effects of catnip doesn’t last very long. A cat’s excitable reaction to catnip can last 15-30 minutes, afterwards, she’ll come down from her high and go into a calm state. She may perhaps even take a nap. It can take several hours for your cat to react to catnip again.

The effects of catnip can be darting around the room, meowing/purring, rolling around and drooling. Catnip can also give a subtle hallucinative reaction, which could be why cats paw at the air or seem to chase something that isn’t there. When a cat smells catnip, they become stimulated; when cats eat catnip, they enter a state of calm.

Catnip can also cause some cats to be slightly aggressive—watch for swats or growling. When there are several cats in a home—to avoid conflict—consider giving catnip to one cat at a time. Also, monitor your cat as they react to this potent herb.

Although a good percentage of the cat population are affected by catnip, there are some cats that are not. Sensitivity to catnip is considered to be an inherited trait. Furthermore, 2-3 month kittens are unlikely to be affected by catnip and older cats may have a declining sensitivity to it as well.

How Safe Is Catnip?
Although it is possible for cats to get an upset stomach—diarrhea and vomiting—from consuming too much catnip, there are no reports of catnip being hazardous to a cats health. Also, cats are typically good at managing what they intake, so if they get into some catnip without permission, they most likely won’t go past their limit.

Even though catnip isn’t hazardous, it’s important to be aware that—while under the influence—cats can get into accidents, because of how fast and furiously they dart around the room. It helps to provide a wide open space, with minimal obstructions to run into and/or no heights to fall from.

Another thing to be mindful of, is the fact that cats typically react less, if they’re over exposed to catnip. So, consider using catnip as an occasional treat.

Is Catnip Beneficial?
Just like humans, cats need to routinely exercise. If for what ever reason a cat is not moving as much as she could, catnip can be a helpful motivator. This is especially the case with senior cats. If catnip can entice them to move around more frequently, then their weight can be a little more manageable, joint pain can be reduced and the exercise can help to prevent diabetes.

Also, catnip can be a useful training aid, when you want your cat to use a scratching post, instead of your favorite piece of furniture. This is because catnip is like pheromones, in that it works as a good attractant. A few sprinkles can help your cat to be interested in cat beds, toys, scratching posts, mats, etc. As far as your cat(s) are concerned, catnip can be used to make the uninteresting, interesting.

Catnip can also be used to reduce stress. When a cat nibbles on fresh catnip, it can act as a natural sedative, that will put your kitty into a relaxed state. This is ideal for times when you want to help calm your cat, for activities like car rides to the veterinarian, moving day, when strange animals or people enter the house or experiencing a loud thunderstorm.

A Few More Things To Know

  • Catnip can be used as a mosquito deterrent; However, it doesn’t work
    well when used on the skin
  • Lions, tigers and other big cats are affected by catnip
  • Catnip can be made into a tea and used to treat nausea, headaches and insomnia
  • By grinding up dry catnip and adding water, you can make a paste that can treat wounds
  • Catnip is available as a spray, dried, pressed shapes or fresh

In conclusion, catnip can be a fun way to naturally stimulate a cat. It’s available in many forms and has a variety of uses. It’s safe—especially when used in moderation—and can have a lot of benefits, if it’s applied appropriately. In short, catnip is an ideal way to add a little happiness in your kitty’s life. Thanks for reading, “What Is Catnip?”