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What Does Catnip Actually do to Cats?

Maybe you have heard about catnip but do you know why your cat loves it and how it works? You will be surprised by the fact that even lions, tigers, and panthers react and salivate to the aromatic oils of the catnip.

What is catnip?

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Catnip or catmint is a species of the genus Nepeta, from the family Lamiaceae. Is it native to eastern and southern Europe, the Middle East, and China. In North America, New Zealand, and northern Europe, Nepeta cataria is known as catnip, is widely naturalized.

How does it affect your cat?

Catnip’s active ingredient is named nepetalactone, an essential oil that changes the behavior of many cat species even the wild ones. When cats have contact with catnip, they roll, flip, make different sounds, and are calm and sleepy, but some of them are aggressive when approached. The catnip’s effect only lasts 10 to 15 minutes, after that, the cat loses interest.

Catnip is not a “drug”, it works entirely on the basis of scent and it doesn’t have to be ingested or metabolized. This attraction for catnip depends on a cat’s age and genes. They don’t react to catnip until 8 to 12 months with some exceptions. Around 25% of the entire population of cats are not genetically programmed to respond to the active ingredient, nepetalactone.

Is it safe for my cat?

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Catnip is a non-toxic plant, cats can even ingest it without being harmful to them.

Studies showed that cats might be interested in catnip because it protects them from a lot of parasites and it’s not addictive. This plant has no adverse effects on cats. Some cats don’t respond to this plant but it doesn’t harm them either, rarely upset their stomach a little if they get an ‘overdose’.

Many petshops sell toys filled with the necessary amount of catnip.

When to avoid giving catnip to your cat?

You should avoid giving catnip to your sick cat or to a cat recovering from an injury or surgery. The cat can become hyperactive during catnip’s effect, which could impede recovery.

Catnip alternatives

Anyway, catnip should be offered to your pet occasionally, not as an everyday snack or treat. The more it is consumed, the more it loses its effects over time. It is not so expensive so you can treat your cat now and then with some catnip.

There are some alternative plants besides catnip such as valerian, Tatarian honeysuck, or silver vine, the last one is, surprisingly, most effective, even than catnip. These catnip alternatives are suggested in an article from BMC Veterinary Research and recommended for cats that don’t react to catnip. For most of them, you can buy seed packets to plant in your own garden. These came in different forms to pleasure your cat like sticks, balls, toys, or sprays.

Is it safe for humans?

Can humans consume catnip? The answer is yes, but not in high doses or smoked. Catnip tea is good for anxiety, stomach issues, diarrhea, sleep, and many other benefits. It is also safe for kids in small amounts.

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