What is Catnip and What Does it Do to Cats

Catnip, a perennial herb from the mint family labiatae, has long fascinated cat owners and researchers alike. Let's explore the world of catnip and its effects on our feline friends in more detail. 

The term 'catnip' is believed to originate from the response cats show towards the plant. It is the nepetalcataria variety that most cats enjoy. When cats encounter catnip, they can exhibit a range of interesting behaviours and reactions. 

What happens when my cat has catnip? 

The active ingredient in catnip is nepetalactone, an essential oil that has a profound impact on the behaviour of domestic and other cat species. It is estimated that around half to two-thirds of cats will respond to this oil. Interestingly, kittens may not react to catnip initially and only develop the full behavioural change at an older age. 

 When a cat encounters catnip, a typical response includes sniffing, chewing, licking, and head shaking. This is often followed by chin, cheek, and body rubbing against the source of catnip. The body rolling behaviour observed in cats is similar to oestrous patterns and has been thought to be an aphrodisiac, although this is unlikely. 

In addition to these behaviours, cats may also exhibit stretching, drooling, jumping, increased licking, aggression, and hyperactivity. The duration of the so-called "high" induced by catnip typically lasts between five and ten minutes. 

Is it harmful to my cat? 

One common concern among cat owners is whether catnip is harmful to their feline companions. The good news is that cats won't overdose on catnip, as they usually refuse it once they have had enough. It is a self-regulating herb for them. 

If you're interested in giving catnip to your cat, there are various ways to do so. Most pet shops offer toys filled with catnip, which can provide hours of entertainment for your furry friend. Alternatively, you can grow fresh catnip indoors, allowing your cat to interact with the plant directly. Dried catnip can be sprinkled on toys or the floor to stimulate your cat's senses. Additionally, catnip spray can be used to refresh old catnip toys or play areas. 

How much can I give? 

When it comes to the amount of catnip to give your cat, there is no specific dose. If using dried catnip, it is best to sprinkle a small amount at a time on scratching posts, floors, or toys. It is important to avoid feeding catnip directly in their food bowl, as consuming too much catnip can potentially cause digestive problems. 

By understanding and responsibly incorporating catnip into your cat's environment, you can provide them with enriching experiences and create a stronger bond between you and your feline companion. Enjoy exploring the world of catnip and watching your cat's playful and contented reactions! 

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