Cats love catnip. This fact is documented as far back into history as ancient Egypt. We know that cats can go nuts for this fragrant herb, but do we really know much about it? Did you know that feline reactions can vary widely from cat to cat? Some cats get silly, roll on the floor and chatter, while others show no visible effects. Did you know that there are health benefits in addition to the high? First, let’s explore a bit about this mysterious plant and why it is Kitty’s favorite.
Catnip, or Nepeta cataria, is part of the mint family. With its soft, heart-shaped leaves and scalloped edges, it is related to herbs such as sage, oregano, and basil. Its leaves and stems contain a fragrant oil that cats can smell from quite a distance. It is this oil, called nepetalactone, that attacts them and produces their reactions. It is thought that close to 70% of adult cats react to catnip. Those that do not react are thought to have a genetic insensitivity to its special oil.
Catnip’s effects last generally ten minutes or so, with a 2-hour reset window before the cat is again susceptible to it. When given catnip, the most common reaction is giddiness and excitement. Catnip is found to work on the brain’s hypothalamus, the region that controls appetite, predatory, and sexual behavior. Some cats actually become aggressive and others roll around as if in heat.
However, there are some real benefits to catnip. Here are some of them:
Catnip alleviates boredom: Catnip toys fire up their senses by stimulating their minds and their bodies. They can play with them over and over.
Catnip calms stress and settles nerves: When eaten, catnip tends to make them sleepy. This is perfect in times of anxiety as cats calm down almost immediately.
Catnip relieves the itchy scratchies and pain: Skin conditions, allergies, insect bites have all been shown to be less bothersome to Kitty when he is under the influence. Catnip is a known analgesic so it can be used to alleviate chronic pain.
And now, answers to the most common questions about catnip and its effects:
Is catnip safe and can cats overdose? Catnip is not harmful or addictive. Cats can’t overdose, but if they overindulge this can result in a bit of stomach distress.
How do I offer catnip? Loose catnip can be sprinkled anywhere; on the scratching posts of their Armarkat cat tree or in right in their Armarkat cat bed. Store loose catnip in bags in the freezer to preserve the oils. Or, to make it easy, just provide catnip infused toys which are perennial favorites of the feline set.
What about kittens and catnip? Catnip isn’t effective in the youngest or the oldest of our feline companions. It seems that kittens need to be 6 months before they can feel its effects. Much along the same lines, older cats tend to be immune or just ignore any effects when they are exposed to catnip.
Is catnip an appetite stimulant? Catnip can absolutely increase your kitty’s hunger. Since cats are very active under its influence. So, by the time they calm down they are ready for a good meal and a cat nap. Obviously, there is a huge similarity here to the marijuana plant and its effects upon humans.
What about catnip for dogs? Though catnip is not harmful to the canine population, it does not elicit much of a reaction in dogs when they are exposed to it. So, the best advice is to save it for Kitty as her totally and uniquely feline treat!
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