Catnip – Is it good for cats? A Complete Guide
Catnip, Catmint, Field Balm, or Meowijuana – whatever slang you use, cats go crazy for it!
You may have heard of catnip but do you actually know how it works, is it good for your cat and what you can do with it?
In this guide you are going to learn everything you need to know about cat nip: how it works, is it safe, why your cat craves it, different ways of using it, and how to incorporate it into your fluffy friend’s life!
So without further ado, lets’ get into it!
What Is Catnip?
Firstly, the biological name for catnip would be Nepeta Cataria – a species of the genus which is found in the Lamiaceae family (Commonly known as Sage, Deadnettle or Mint).
The name ‘Nepata’ has been said to derive from the historical city of Neptic where it is believed the ancient Egyptians first discovered catnip. Catnip is a perennial plant which is native to Europe, Africa and Asia. However, its increasing popularity now means it has been naturalised in places such as North America and New Zealand.
Throughout history Catmint was also a herbal remedy for humans! Some of its uses being as a sedative for children or a ‘cure’ for scabies, headaches and flatulence!
Catnip contains Nepetalactone – an essential oil within the plant that enters through the cat’s nose. It’s thought to bind to protein receptors which in turn stimulate neurons in your cat’s brain.
These effects are not limited to your typical domestic cat but also they work on larger species of the cat family such as tigers, leopards, cougars, and lynxes. The more your cat licks, sniffs, chews, or rubs itself on the catnip, the more the potent oil is released.
Although it is common for cats to show signs of sleepiness, excessive drooling, anxiety, leaping, playfulness and purring after consumption, it is not unheard of for some cats to become aggressive and start growling, scratching, or biting.
Some believe that these reactions are similar to those which cats express when exposed to the pheromones released during breeding – making catnip almost an aphrodisiac.
The catnip response is hereditary. It is estimated that about 1/3 of the cats lack this gene. Additionally, kittens less than three months old don’t respond to catnip and often even show an aversionPam Johnson-Bennett
How Long Are The Effects?
The effects can generally last for about 5-15 minutes, this can vary from cat to cat. After this time, the olfactory fatigue usually takes over – just like when you walk into a bakery, the wonderful smell of freshly made bread will hit you for the first 5 mins before decreasing in it’s potency. It can take up to two hours for your cat’s behaviour to return to the ‘status quo’ and the effects of catnip will no longer work in this period.
Is it safe?
Catnip is proven to be non-addictive and safe for all cats (and humans) to enjoy! The only measure you should take to make it a great experience for you and your cat, is to set the amount you give to your feline friend during each play session. This is so you’re able to monitor your cat’s behaviour and consumption. Sometimes you will find that your cat will refuse any more catnip if they’ve had enough. If you’re worried your cat has had too much catnip, don’t fret as the substance is non-toxic and the only thing that may happen is a slight spell of diarrhoea.
Hot Tip – Ration your catnip!
If you give out catnip too often, your cat will become more tolerant and it will have no effect. Aim to offer catnip once a week to maintain a healthy tolerance levels.
Why is Catnip good for cats?
The herbal treat has many benefits for your furry friend and can be used in a variety of ways.
Benefits of Catnip:
-Decreases: Stress, Nervousness & Distress
-Incites: Vigour, Stamina, Playfulness, Energy & Zest
Different Forms of catnip
Catnip can come in many different forms which is great for when you’re deciding how to use catnip with your cat.
Loose – Often the dried flower or the live plant. A few little pinches and your cat will be laughing
Spray – Spray catnip onto toys, the environment you want your cat to explore, or around the house for added enthusiasm.
Toys – You will often see many stores offering pre-filled catnip toys. The advantage here is that they are good to go straight out of the box
Bubbles – A sure way to have incredible fun for yourself and your cat!
How To Use Catnip For Cats
Now that you’re clued up on what cat nip is and it’s effects. It’s time to introduce it into your cat’s life. Here’s a breakdown of several ways on how to use it;
Use it with cat toys;
Make a regular cat toy even more exciting or encourage a ‘lazy’ cat to move around a little more.
Don’t have a cat toy? No problem! Filling a sock with a pinch or two of catmint is a cheap and easy way to create a simple yet effective toy!
Rub it on a scratching post;
Rub dried catnip leaves onto a scratching post for your feline friend. By attracting your cat to scratching post, this will convince them to use it more often rather than clawing up your furniture or curtains!
In a carrier;
It’s almost guaranteed that we have all had a nasty experience with getting your cat in their carrier (usually when it’s time to go to the vets). By sprinkling a little catnip in their carrier, you have a better chance of getting them in there without any hassle, and keep them in a sedative state whilst travelling.
Add it to your cat’s cuisine;
Reserve this tip if you have a cat who has little to no appetite and you want them to eat more. By adding a little sprinkle of dried catnip ( or fresh – if you fancy yourself as a Michelin star chef!) to your cats food, you can allure your inappetant cat to their food and help them start eating again.
Reduce anxiety in new environments;
If you’ve introduced a cat to a new home, a new item, or even a new cat, the anxiety is palpable. Whilst it’s not guaranteed to work every time, placing catnip in new environments or rubbing on new items is an easy way to relieve any tension and promote a comfortable atmosphere.
Training better behaviour;
We all know that with a cat, it’s their way or the highway. This is because they’re so independent and have no concept of what’s ‘acceptable’ to their human friend. It therefore can be tough letting them know what’s good and bad.
The saving grace is that cats are very intelligent and can be trained – although they’re mainly food motivated, studies show that 75% of cats respond well to catnip. So the next time a cat displays a behaviour that you approve of – give a click sound and let them indulge in some catnip. This reward psychologically means that cats will associate that particular behaviour with cat nip and start to do it more often.
Give it a try!
Catnip use for humans!
Yes, this guide was meant for your cat but if you find yourself wishing you can medicate with your mate then you could even try catnip for the following:
Insect Repellent – Researchers found that nepetalactone is 10x more effective at repelling mosquitoes than DEET (The compound found in store-bought insect repellents).
Herbal tea – By mixing 2 teaspoons of dried catnip with 1 cup of boiling water (and some lemon and honey if you want). You can create an aromatic herbal tea that is useful for treating anxiety.
Bathing – The herbal tea mixture isn’t’ just for drinking – you can also use this as a hair conditioner. The compound works great for protecting your ends from splitting whilst giving light coloured hair a temporary golden glow.
Where can I get Catnip?
Catnip is readily available and can be found in your local pet store. Prefer to do your shopping online? You can find some here!
Can I grow catnip?
If you fancy yourself a green thumbed gardener then catnip is quite easy to grow both indoors and outdoors. It can grow to be 3 to 5 inches tall and flowers from autumn to spring – like most herbs you’re able to harvest the plant throughout the year as and when you need it.
Growing Tips: Ensure full sunlight exposure for at least 6 hours of the day. Keep Well watered. Use a light soil medium to promote root growth. Remove any dead flowers from the plant – otherwise known as deadheading.
Harvesting: When you’ve picked your first batch of catnip leaves, the next step before using them is drying them out. You can do this by placing them in the oven at a low setting, or by placing them on a mesh tray and hanging them in a well ventilated area until dry. You’ll know when it’s ready as the leaves will become very crumbly and you’ll be able to grind them by using your fingers. When they’re dry, keep them in a mason jar or other container and store them in a cool dark place.
Feel like you know more about catnip than when you started? I hope that this article has now given you the knowledge and confidence to start using catnip with your cat. Whether it’s for the health benefits, for training, or as a way to spice up your next playtime together – catnip is a sure way to make life more interesting with your cat companion. If you have had success with some of these tips, please write in the comments and share your story!
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