Catnip can make your cat act like a kitten again, or it may even soothe them into a state of relaxation. What is catnip, though, and why do some cats react to it so drastically? We discuss all the basics and even give you some handy catnip treats and tips for making the most out of your catnip!
What Does Cat Nip Do?
Cat nip – also known as nepeta cataria or catnip – is a member of the mint family. Unlike other members of the mint family, however, catnip has the ability to affect most cats. With a leafy, green appearance, the catnip itself is filled with a chemical called nepetalactone. It’s this essential oil in catnip that turns cats into crazy furballs, as soon as it reaches the cat’s nose. Although, for some pets, you’ll find that the catnip toys or treats can also act as a mild sedative.
When most cats smell nepetalactone, however, the chemical reaction is believed to target receptors in the brain, via the olfactory bulb. Which, in turn, makes your kitty react in an unusual way. However, young kittens won’t develop a typical cat’s reaction until they’re a few months old. Leading to the suggestion that the cat’s brain isn’t fully formed and won’t react until the sensory neurons have fully developed and the catnip’s effects can be fully realised.
Interestingly, whether or not your cat reacts is down to genetics. Few humans realise that many cats have no response to the catnip’s leaves, as sensitivity is hereditary. As such,an estimated 50 percent of cats have no reaction. So, if your older cats are responding to catnip, chances are they’re one of those cats who don’t react to the plant.
How Do Cats Use Catnip?
These type of plants have been around for hundreds of years, as the plant grows widely across North America. Native Americans have even used it in medicines, in the past, as part of a medicinal rub, to calm the skin or even brewing it into a calming tea. But cat catnip as we know it has only become increasingly popular over the past few decades.
The smells that catnip produce are the first thing to entice your feline friend. As such, dried catnip is frequently used in cat toys to attract cats and encourage your kitty to react. The toy itself is great for encouraging the kicking, hunting and play-fighting instincts of your tiny tigers.
However, dried catnip can also be given as is, or sprinkled over toys and scratching posts to encourage your kitty to enjoy this non-addictive plant. At the same time, even wild animals and big cats, such as lions and tigers, will react to catnip. This suggests that all cat breeds have the same olfactory sensors, across the different types of animals.
If you’re wondering “do cats eat catnip?” the answer is yes! Cats can, indeed, eat catnip (and humans too, if you were wondering, although it won’t have the same effect).
Why Do Cats Love Catnip?
There are actually a couple of different species of catnip within the mint family. As well as this, you can get catnip that is still alive and ready to attract cats from all over the neighbourhood to your garden. Silver vine is one type which is very popular as a live plant – just be prepared for how quickly catnip can grow compared to other plants.
Of course when it comes to those asking “do all cats like catnip?” the answer is: unfortunately not. If your cat doesn’t like catnip, don’t take it to heart. Not all cats are interested and, in spite of the general chemical response and common reaction vids you’ll see online, some felines just don’t find it fun. In this cases, it’s simply that the volatile oil present in the plants that usually makes cats roll around and play with their toy, will have little to no effect on your pets.
Why Does Catnip Make Cats Crazy?
For other cats who are affected by catnip, the humane society suggests that the cats’ catnip affects the “happy ” receptors in the brain of your pet. Leading to them playing madly with toys or taking a distinct interest in the plant or treat. Of course, the exact cause isn’t known as to why your cat responds the way it does to catnip. But we can’t deny that it’s great find to watch our pet enjoy their latest, mentally stimulating choice of toy.
Can Cats Overdose On Catnip?
You’ll be pleased to know that it is impossible for a cat to overdose on catnip – when they’re smelling it. Indeed, the effect of catnip on your cat is likely to only last for up to 10 minutes at a time. At which point the cat seems to either lose interest or the effects wear off. Of course, that’s not to say that you shouldn’t watch your cat when they’re using catnip.
Since your cat likely has a habit of trying to consume the catnip itself, it’s always worth keeping a close eye on what your cat is up to – even when playing with a toy that happens to be filled with catnip. This is because eating the plant can lead to a lot of stomach problems. And, as anyone with a pet will tell you, the last thing you need to worry about with your pets is dealing with vomiting and diarrhoea from an over-enthusiastic puss!