Catnip has a reputation for sending cats crazy, however, it can do wonders to calm a somewhat over the top terror cat. Like Buttons.
During the day, Buttons is your typical peaceful, purring ball of fluff. But as soon as night comes, something changes.
Buttons eyes’ grow large and wild, he sprints around the house, miaowing, scratching everything that you own, destroying every piece of furniture in his path. Lucky it’s from Ikea.
Buttons generally begins his rampage as soon as the sun sets – and you’re stuck scratching your head in the aftermath, trying to figure out exactly how to salvage your Ektorp sofa.
Interestingly, there is a solution that you may not have thought of that does not involve a solo bottle of red wine on your shredded sofa – catnip!
It’s a natural remedy actually also has soothing and calming effects when administered correctly to an adorable little terror like Buttons.
Here, we delve a little deeper into the intriguing world of catnip and its many benefits for your feline friend.
What is Catnip?
The plant, catnip, scientific name Nepeta cataria, is classified as being part of the mint family. Also known as catmint, or cat grass, this herb is perennial, meaning it grows in Spring and dies off during Autumn and Winter. It then reemerges in Spring to grow again.
This plant is native to southern and eastern Europe, the Middle East, central Asia and parts of China. Today catnip is also found in Europe, New Zealand, and North America, and just about anywhere else!
A Close Look at the Catnip Plant aka Nepeta Cataria
The plant features a signature square stem, coarse-toothed leaves and flowers of either pink or white with spots of pale purple.
The parts of the plant that appeal to cats, due to the chemicals they omit, are the leaves and stems. The plant’s chemical nepetalactone stimulates cats’ olfactory receptors, leading to a heightened excitement response in the animals.
Why do Cats Like Catnip?
The active chemical, nepetalactone, causes a reaction in cats similar to narcotic substances in humans. When cats smell the catnip plant, such as in the leaves or stems, it is believed that the nepetalactone triggers the same brain receptors in felines as cat pheromones, produced at sexual maturity.
This chemical reaction in the brain to catnip is pleasurable for cats, meaning they will often seek out catnip toys, or chew on or rub against the catnip plant to release more nepetalactone.
Is Catnip for Dogs a Good Idea?
While cats are stimulated by sniffing this plant, the reaction of dogs is the complete opposite. For dogs, the plant acts as a mild and safe sedative, which can assist in stressful situations, such as car rides or a trip to the vet.
An excellent way to administer catnip to dogs is by placing some leaves in their water bowl to infuse the active ingredient into the liquid.
CBD Oil for Cats! The Purrfect Catnip Alternative to Keep Your Kitty Healthy!
Another plant-based alternative to catnip is CBD oil. Cannabinoid oil has gained popularity in human use over the past years, and also alleviates a range of conditions and symptoms in cats, including:
- Pain and inflammation
- Epilepsy and seizure relief
- Feline anxiety
- Nausea and vomiting
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Of course, CBD oil should always be given following a consultation with an experienced veterinarian to ensure it is administered safely. But you can’t go wrong with Honest Paws CBD Oil!
What Does Catnip Do to Cats?
Catnip can cause cats to go wild when sniffed. Common behaviors seen when cats inhale the volatile oil that contains nepetalactone, include head shaking, rolling and rubbing of the body on the floor, falling and stumbling, kicking front and back legs at the same time, excitement and chasing behaviors.
Interestingly, only about 50% of cats actually have a response to catnip in this way, due to sensitivity to the substance being inherited. For cats that are not biologically affected by the plant, there are several alternatives, such as Valerian root and leaves, Silver Vine, and Tatarian honeysuckle wood.
Cats react differently to it depending on how it is administered. While the above effects describe reactions to cats sniffing catnip, eating the plant can have mild sedative effects on our fluffy friends.
A cat that ingests catnip will show behavior such as rolling, flopping, rubbing and zoning out. That’s one chilled pussycat!
How Does Catnip Work?
Truthfully, scientists are not precisely sure of exactly what takes place in the brain when our feline friends smell catnip. However, they do know how it reaches the kitty mind.
When it is sniffed, the plant’s active ingredient hits the vomeronasal organ, part of the makeup of the nasal tissue and olfactory epithelium. This organ is the first stage of the accessory olfactory system, which links to the olfactory bulb. The olfactory bulb contains sensory neurons that alert the brain to chemical stimuli.
Scientists believed that the acute sense of smell possessed by felines is the reason that catnip has such a marked effect on the animals. In fact, all felines, even lions and tigers have the potential to react to it if they have an inherited sensitivity to it!
7 Catnip Effects
Common effects of catnip when sniffed include:
- Heightened play behavior
- Kicking with both legs
- Rolling on the floor
Common effects of catnip when ingested include:
- Floppy legs
- Lazy behavior
- Zoning out or falling asleep
Can Kittens Have Catnip?
Kittens need to grow up a little before they can get into the stash. It’s even thought that using catnip with your kitty before 3 months of age can cause them to develop an aversion to the substance. Wait until your cat is at least 4 months old before they get on the bandwagon!
How to Use Catnip to Help Your Kitty Find Their Chill
The best way to avoid a Buttons scenario is to use it to help calm and chill out your cat. Some methods are better than others, and it all depends on the individual cat. Try giving your cat catnip in different forms and noting their response.
The oil, such as the From the Field Catnip Spray, is an excellent and convenient way to introduce your cat to the wonder of this plant. It’s also great to spray onto older toys or scratch posts that have lost their catnip scent! The best oil is made from essential oil through a process of steam distillation.
Toys like the Pioneer Pet Nip Nibblers Cat Toy, have catnip hidden inside them are a way to get your cat exercising! They’re bound to become Felix’s new favorite.
If your cat loves to scratch anywhere except their scratching post – well we have great news: catnip scratchers! Products like the Catit Style Scratcher, are scented with the active ingredient in catnip, they will save the good ol’ Ektorp from being slashed to ribbons.
Do You Have Green Fingers? Try Growing Some for Your Kitty!
If you have a nack with plants why not try growing catnip for your pet? It is an easy plant to grow and doesn’t require much space – it even grows well in pots indoors.
Operation Catnip: How to Grow Catnip!
Growing this plant is simple. Follow these steps to grow some at home today:
1. Purchase seeds from a nursery or other stockist
2. Plant either outside in Spring, or inside with sufficient light in Spring or Autumn
3. Water well
4. Ensure the plants have at least 6 hours of sun per day
5. When strong enough, your cat can enjoy!
There’s No Need to Go Out for Catnip Seeds: Just Buy a Kit Online!
Or there’s the easy option: simply buy a catnip growing seed kit like the one by Thunder Acres, online and have it delivered directly to your home. No need to leave that Netflix cave after all. Hurrah!
Can Cats Eat Catnip? Absolutely!
If you want your kitty to chill right out, eating it is the way to go. It makes for a happy and chilled pet. Just ensure that you monitor how much Sprinkles has, as she is likely to love it so much, she won’t want to stop.
A great way to get your cat eating catnip is to brew some catnip tea for your prized puss to lap up.
Signs Your Cat Was on a Bender! Bottom Line: Is Catnip Bad for Cats?
While it is not bad for cats in any way, your domestic shorthair cat or longhair cat shows any of these signs – it’s time to cut them off!
The effects of too much catnip only last a few hours, so if your cat exhibits these symptoms, stop use and wait for them to clear.
This is an inexpensive and natural way for your cat to have fun or to chill them out. Whether you have a boisterous little Buttons or a frisky Felix you want to tame, it is a great tool for cat owners!