Catnip, that magic plant that can send your cat into ecstatic leaps and comatose naps all within thirty minutes! The real question is; how does catnip work and who should you buy it for? This green and grassy plant can be purchased in holistic therapy shops, pet stores, and in garden nurseries. It also comes in several forms; dried, fresh, spray form, and essential oil. Potential buyers should be aware, though, the secret is in the oil, so the liquid spray version and stale dried catnip will be less powerful.
How Does It Work?
Specifically, catnip contains nepetalactone oil, which is the active ingredient in catnip. Nepetalactone is breathed in through the cats’ nose, with the cat kneading and bruising the plant with their face and paws to facilitate the release of oil. The nasal membranes absorb the nepetalactone and cause a neural response in the amygdala and hypothalamus, eventually causing reactions in these areas controlling responses to hunger and emotions. The cat responds to this stimulus for about ten minutes and then will have a cool down period of about thirty minutes. When being stimulated by catnip, the cat can do anything from periods of high activity (jumping, rolling, racing) to drooling and meowing. Afterwards, the cat will typically become very calm and relaxed, and will not respond to new exposure to catnip for about two hours.
Who Does It Work On?
Unfortunately, this chemically-induced ecstasy does not affect all cats at all ages. A kitten must be sexually mature, or around six months, to respond to catnip at all. Additionally, only about 70% of cats are genetically able to respond to nepetalactone.
How Can You Use it?
Because catnip causes a response in the majority of cats, you can use this wonderful plant to your advantage:
Any cat owner knows that cats will find any way possible past an obstruction, such as the towels you put on your new couch to avoid it turning to an impromptu scratching post. By rubbing dried or fresh catnip onto a scratching post of your choosing, you may redirect your cats’ scratch-fever in a more appropriate direction. This also follows for enticing them to a new bed or litterbox.
Cats are curious creatures, and if left to their own devices will find something to explore that you would rather they didn’t. By providing toys and interactive environments, such as cat trees and toy mice, your cat will be less likely to find trouble their own way. An addition to your cats’ environment could be dried catnip knotted into a sock, or a fresh catnip plant growing on their favorite windowsill.
Catnip provides the same affect for cats as a nice cup of tea and bubble bath does for us – it mellows them out. If you have a new feline addition to the home who is still adjusting, or cat living on the edge after a change in household dynamic, think about stocking up on some ‘nip. Store the excess in your freezer to maintain the oils, and introduce small amounts to your cat to see a relaxed Felix.
If your cat is part of the lucky majority who responds to catnip, be sure to acquire some to add to their life. Whether they need it to relax or as encouragement to use the new litter box, catnip can be a useful addition to your grocery list.
Cats can get up to some crazy antics when playing with catnip, what is your favorite story from your frisky feline? Let us know in the comments!
By Lauren Pescarus