Catnip is a perennial herb that grows wild in many parts of the United States. It’s also cultivated in gardens and as an indoor plant. It’s extremely easy to grow. An oil found in the herb’s leaves and stems contains a substance called nepetalactone. Nepetalactone interacts with special receptors in the cat’s brain, causing the typical catnip reaction when the cat sniffs it.
Response to inhaled nepetalactone is immediate and dramatic. The animal will swat, rabbit-kick, run all around, box with imaginary opponents, roll on the floor, meow loudly, and just in general go nuts. The effect is quite fleeting, lasting some five to ten minutes. After that, the whole episode often ends with the cat on the floor, drooling and staring off into space with a toothy, goofy cat grin on her furry face.
Is Catnip Safe?
Yes. According to cattime.com, there is no evidence that catnip is addictive or harmful to your pet. You can read more for yourself here: http://cattime.com/cat-facts/lifestyle/10911-why-do-cats-go-crazy-for-catnip. The effect of catnip is self-limiting anyway because after five to ten minutes of exposure to nepetalactone, the cat becomes temporarily immune to it and will lose interest for at least a half-hour. After that, the kitty will respond again. And again after that! Many cats with access to wild catnip indulge themselves several times daily.
Fun Facts about Catnip:
- Not all cats will react to it. About one-third to one-half of all felines lack the necessary gene for response to nepetalactone. These animals will show no reaction to catnip.
- Youngster cats under 6 months of age rarely respond to catnip even if they possess the necessary gene.
- It’s not just for cats! It’s a wonderful herbal remedy for humans as well. Prepared as a tea, catnip is good for treating headaches and upset stomach. Try a cup at bedtime to gently induce restful sleep.
- Catnip is a type of mint, closely related to spearmint and peppermint.
- It’s not just for domestic cats. Big cats such as tigers and leopards respond to nepetalactone as well.
Some Final Words
It’s perfectly fine to offer this harmless herb to your cat! Fresh is best, but dried works as well. Whether fresh or dried, be sure to crush the leaves between your fingers to release the oil before giving it to your kitty. As a parting tip, you can use catnip as a useful and effective training tool. For example, rub some leaves on a scratching post to attract the kitty and encourage her to groom her claws on the post instead of your furniture. Overall, catnip is harmless feline fun and cats seem to really enjoy it, so you can feel good about giving this treat to your cat on a regular basis.