You have, maybe, heard what catnip does to cats. You have probably even witnessed it in action yourself or watched a YouTube video of a cat that has sniffed or eaten the herb. With such a dramatic effect, you may have been left with the question, “Is catnip good for cats?” This article discusses exactly that but first…
What Is Catnip and What Does It Do to Cats
Also known as field balm, catswort, or catmint, catnip – Nepeta cataria – is a fragrant herb in the mint family. With its origin in Europe and Asia, catnip is widely known for its effect in cats: making them appear drunk. The intoxicating effect of catnip is also seen in other animals in the cat family including tigers, panthers, and lions.
A chemical compound known as nepetalactone is responsible for the intoxicating effect of catnip on cats. This is contained in the volatile oil occurring in the stem, seeds, and leaves. The oil gives the stem its characteristic smell. You can easily pick it up if you crush a catnip leaf.
Interestingly, cats don’t need to eat catnip to experience the “high” effect. All they have to do is sniff at the plant. You may, however, see your cat rubbing the catnip plant or dried powder with her chin or cheeks, licking, or even eating the plant. These are cat’s ways of bruising the leaves and stems of the minty herb to release more of nepetalactone. Some cats even paw as the plants for this purpose.
Catnip Effects on Cats
When cats whiff the nepetalactone in catnip, its hallucinogenic effect kicks in almost instantly, with the cat in question showing signs such as chewing, licking, rolling, and even drooling. The effect lasts only a few minutes, though, usually 5 to 15 minutes.
Some cats ultimately become hyperactive, with others getting very calm. Some cats may also suddenly appear as though they are on heat after sniffing the plant. Such cats will yowl, roll, and slobber until the effect of the herb goes away.
If your cat shows undesirable aggressive behavior after consuming catnip, it may be a better idea to stop using it. Instead, consider other alternatives such as honeysuckle and valerian. These have the same “high” effect on cats.
Once the effects of catnip fade away a few minutes down the line, the affected cat becomes unresponsive to the herb for at least two hours.
Do Cats Like Catnip?
In my opinion should not be whether or not cats like catnip, which by the way is named after them – cataria is Latin word meaning “of a cat” – but rather, “Why do cats like catnip so much? Cats absolutely like catnip. They most likely enjoy the feeling of “high” as much as some of us do.
Is Catnip Good for Cats – Safety Concern
It is only natural for any concerned pet owner to wonder, “Is catnip safe for cats?” The minty herb is absolutely safe for cats, not to mention that it is as well non-addictive. It is not surprising, therefore, that some pet training experts even recommend using it for cat training purposes. The idea is to use catnip to harness catnips appeal to cats and use it as a training aid to reinforce desired habits.
For example, you can apply catnip to a scratching post to make it more appealing to your cat – for clawing – than your furniture. You can even create a catnip toy by stuffing dried catnip into an old sock to entertain your indoor kit.
Some people also give catnip to cats as a treat every once in a while. If you are one of them, though, you should not over-indulge your feline friend. As Amy Shijai, a certified animal behavior expert points out, treating your cat with catnip too often can wear off the effect. Ideally, you should limit this to no more than once each week.
Is Catnip Safe For Kittens?
With the question “is catnip good for cats” answered, you may as well wonder how safe it is for kittens. Although harmless to our furry, feline companions, kittens below 3 months of age will typically not be affected by the herb like their older companions. Kitten starts exhibiting the intoxicating effects of this plant at around 3 to 6 months of age.
On the same note, old cats also tend to lose their sensitivity to catnip.
Besides age, genetic makeup is also a factor. Some cats inherit sensitivity to the minty herb while others don’t. According to PetCareRx.com, only a third of cats show catnip effects strongly.
Is Catnip Spray Good For Cats or Bad?
You may have as well seen some catnip spray products on the shelves. While not entirely bad or unsafe for cats, catnip sprays are usually not as potent. Unlike fresh and dried catnip plant leaves, stems and seeds, most catnip sprays contain so small an amount of nepetalactone to be appealing to cats. In fact don’t be surprised if your cat doesn’t show any interest in them at all.
Similarly, dried catnip eventually loses its potency as the volatile oil in the herb evaporates off over time. To slow down the loss of efficacy, keep any extra catnip “powder” that is not used in your treat or toy in the freezer.
Where to Buy Catnip for Cat Treats, Toys, and Training
Can’t wait to buy catnip? Dried organic catnip is a great way to go about but if you like, growing catnip is as well a viable option.
If you prefer the latter, various online stores stock catnip seeds and even plants (seedlings). From Petco, Petbarn.co.au, and PetSmart to Amazon, you can order conveniently from the comfort of your home.
The plant will do well placed on a sunny window. If you like, you can as well plant it in the garden. The plant grows well alongside plants in the wheat family such as barley grass, rye, oat, and of course wheat itself, just in case, a small kitty garden sounds like an interesting idea. Belonging to the mint family, it is important to remember, however, that catnip can be pretty invasive at times.
Can You Overdose A Cat On Catnip?
You will naturally want to as well know how much catnip to give to your cat and whether or not an overdose of the herb is possible. Although catnip is non-toxic and safe to cats, consuming fresh catnip it in excess amounts can technically cause an “overdose”. This is manifested in diarrhea and vomiting. However, cats are known for their ability to gauge how much of catnip is enough for them.
In that regard, Shelby Neely, VMD, the Director of Clinical Operations at Banfield Pet Hospital says that it is very unlikely that a cat overdose on catnip. And if it was to happen, the symptoms would clear away by themselves without the need for treatment.
- Is catnip good for cats? Yes.
- Do cats like the minty herb? Absolutely.
- Can a cat get addicted to catnip? No, but the “catnip effect” can eventually fade away if the herb is availed too often.