Almost every cat you know, whether you own them or just observe them, share a common trait. Gift them some catnip and watch the hijinks unfold. Crazy antics, loud noises and just plain hilarious is some of the things you could witness. But how exactly do catnip affect your pet to cause these reactions? What is catnip and is it safe? Depending on the side of the debate you fall, the answer is either yes or no. Perhaps you are like us, not 100% sure if there are dangerous side effects.
Depending on the genetic makeup of your cat, they may become hyperactive followed by a mellow, relaxed period. Strangely enough, your cat’s response is hereditary and depends on their ancestor’s reaction to determine if they even react at all! A small amount of catnip in a toy would be a wise way to test the reaction your cat will exhibit and decrease the chance of ingestion, creating stomach issues.
Throughout this article, we will look at what exactly is catnip and can it affect your feline friend. We will also discuss the possible side effects of catnip and how it can be given to your cat in the recommended small dose. Based on information provided by the ASPCA, catnip is not necessarily harmful to cats. High amounts of catnip in short periods of time, however, can cause vomiting or diarrhea due to stomach upset but it is not toxic.
What is Catnip?
Catnip is a name derived from Nepeta cataria, which is a short-lived herb plant standing at 20-30cm that originated in Europe and traveled as far as North America, to describe the portions of the plant that is attractive to felines. Cats are drawn to the scented oil found in the leaves and stems of this plant (nepetalactone), believed to mimic a feline pheromone. Studies that have been conducted on all felines from domesticated housecats to lions in captivity showed a variety of responses. Larger felines can also show the behaviors exhibited by domestic housecats, according to Readers Digest.
The Effects of Catnip in Cats
Catnip has been proven to be a mood enhancer for felines, however, these behavioral changes can show themselves in different ways depending on your cat. It could your cat suddenly starts bouncing around chasing imaginary prey or even in a zone of complete relaxation staring into space. Some cats show a state similar to being in heat with repeated rubbing against objects or meowing at the air. Catnip that is scented by your cat can lead to the hyperactive reaction and ingested catnip will lead to a mellow state. It is the second mood that led people to refer to their cat as being high or stoned! One drawback to these changes could be that your cat behaves in a more aggressive, almost feral manner, leading them to view your hands or feet as their imaginary prey. They will use these mannerisms to defend their property – the catnip. If your cat displays these tendencies, it is not recommended catnip is used in their environment.
Studies have shown that cats must be about six months of age before showing any reaction to catnip and they can have varying reactions from mild to moderate. Where catnip reactions are hereditary, it is estimated that approximately 1/3 of cats will show no signs of a reaction at all. The cats who do show a reaction will only do so for an average of 15 minutes and then will be indifferent to the herb for an extended time period. Repeated exposure to catnip will also diminish the effects over time, which is why it is recommended as a treat.
How Can I Give My Cat Catnip?
There are numerous ways to allow your cat to experience the treat of catnip and it all depends on your preference as their owner. Most wholesale retailers or pet shops will have toys available for purchase that either has the scent of catnip embedded in the material or have dried catnip leaves/stems inside a pouch. There is also the option of powdered catnip or catnip bulbs that can be sprinkled directly on cats bedding in small amounts. This option can be tricky if your cat has a sensitive stomach or an unpleasant reaction (diarrhea or vomiting) to the ingestion of catnip. Another option is a catnip oil or spray and would be available at a pet shop or even natural remedy store.
Catnip as a Tool
Catnip can be used in a way that benefits the owners while teaching basic commands. Scent their bedding or new scratching post or even their litter pan to encourage use and reward them for doing so. If your cat falls into a relaxed state, you can also complete grooming tasks such as hair maintenance or trimming their nails. By doing this, they will associate these objects with good things and decrease the chance of them sharpening their claws in your furniture.
If your cat doesn’t show any signs of being influenced by catnip, it could simply be they fall in the 33% of cats that don’t have any reaction. Please don’t increase the dosage of catnip to induce a reaction or the consequences could be very uncomfortable for your feline companion. But please remember, small amounts is always key when giving your cat their catnip treat!