Catnip is a treat that most cats go nuts for, but it’s different than just your regular biscuits or Temptations. Catnip is a plant that makes cats go nuts –similar to what we might call a sugar rush in children after eating too much Halloween candy.
The leaves of catnip secrete an oil that contains the active ingredient, nepetalactone, which is responsible for the effects cats have while eating it, similar to (mild) mild-altering drugs. For some cats, the effects can be triggered just by smelling the plant.
While not all cats are effected by this chemical and won’t react to it at all, most will have some sort of reaction, even if it’s just a mild one. The euphoria that catnip can bring is genetic, so a litter of kittens whose parents don’t react to it, wont react to it either.
Although catnip can seem scary, you won’t be getting your cat high by any means. They simply get excited by the chemical and get a bit of daily mental stimulation, wanting to play and run around a bit more than usual.
After taking in the scent, cats will either roll in it, rub on it, or simply go crazy just from the smell. Most cats just tend to get more hyperactive, a little more confident/mischievous, and extremely playful and happy. The overall thrill lasts about ten minutes, and then the cat can become “numb” to the effects for awhile. Usually after about an hour, the cat can become enticed by the effects once again.
Aside from simply wanting to enjoy the comedic aftermath of watching your cat on catnip, some owners use it for other things, such as a reward for good behavior, as it lights up the pleasure centers of your cat’s brain without adding extra calories.
Catnip can also be used as a natural but mild sedative. In times of nervousness, such as right before a car ride, a bit of catnip can work to aid as a distraction toward the stressful situation at hand. Sometimes using catnip to break the ice when first introducing new cats to each other works wonders as well. For cats who are picky, sprinkling a bit of catnip into the bowl could help as well.
Catnip can be bought as a fresh plant, or dried up in pouches or toys. Whatever you choose, your cat will thank you later!
As always, don’t hesitate to reach out to your local pet store if you have questions on this or any pet related topic.