Cat Nip 101

Orange Cat Sniffing Dried CatnipMany cat owners are familiar with catip, the stuff that might make your cat bounce off the walls, meow like crazy, or take a long nap. However, many cat owners don’t know exactly what’s happening when they give their furbabies the green substance, or what it is exactly. Here, we’re going to explore everything there is to know about the harmless stuff that makes your cat so crazy.

What is catnip?

Catnip, more formally known as Nepeta Cataria, is a perennial plant that is part of the mint family. It is also known as catswort or catmint, and gained its many names from being so naturally attractive to cats. Catnip is completely safe for cats, and you don’t need to worry about them overdosing on it either; cats naturally know when they’ve had enough. Catnip also attracts butterflies, which is why it is a commonly favored garden plant. Who wouldn’t want flocks of cats and butterflies in their garden? Catnip is also drought tolerant, meaning that it isn’t particularly temperamental or difficult to grow. Deer don’t like it, and it repels destructive insects such as aphids and squash bugs.

Catnip isn’t only used for cats. In the past, catnip has been used medicinally on humans. It can be smoked, consumed as tea, juice, or infused in other properties. It is known to have a calming effect, but hasn’t been used for humans for many years. It can also be used as a mosquito, fly, termite, and cockroach repellent. By isolating oil from the plant through a process called “steam distillation,” it can be used as an all-natural repellent. However, it isn’t as good as today’s repellents sold in stores. One way that you can enjoy catnip with your buddy is by adding dry catnip to your tea. This remedy is known to help with upset stomachs and can be used as a sleepytime aid.

What’s happening when I give my cat catnip?

Cats are attracted to nepetalactone, an organic compound found in catnip. This attraction isn’t exclusive to domestic house cats, as it has been documented that many cat species fancy the plant. Tests have shown that lions, tigers, leopards, cougars, servals, and lynxes all have a fascination with catnip and react very similarly to how house cats do. When cats come in contact with catnip, they will rub on the plant, roll around with it, lick it, chew it, and any other affectionate ways that they can indulge in the plant. The cats’ strong sense of smell are so attracted to the nepetalactone that they can’t help but enjoy the plant whenever it’s around.

The compound gets into the cat’s system, and attaches itself to the cat’s Olfactory receptor and sends a nerve impulse to the brain. This nerve impulse causes the cat to begin to “feel” the effects of the plant. The effects of nepetalactone on a cat have been compared to that of LSD or marijuana in humans, causing a hallucinogenic effect. Cats react in a variety of different ways, including purring, drooling, drowsiness, high energy, leaping, and anxious behavior. These effects typically last for about fifteen minutes, followed by fatigue. This fatigue is also a result of your cat’s Olfactory receptors telling their brain that it’s time to get sleepy.

Do all cats like catnip?

This cat appears to be "on the nip"

This cat appears to be “on the nip”

As a matter of fact, only approximately 67-80% of cats are affected by the compounds in catnip. Whether or not your cat is affected by catnip depends on their genetics. You will be able to tell if your cat is affected by catnip very easily. All you’ll need to do is purchase a bag of catnip or a catnip plant and allow your cat to explore the plant. If they seem enthused and curious, they are likely attracted to the compounds in the nip and won’t be able to get enough of the stuff. If your cat starts to roll around or rub their face in the catnip, they are likely attracted to it. If they aren’t curious about it at all, your cat is likely not affected by catnip.

If your cat seems to be fascinated by the stuff, you should watch what happens once they’ve stopped rubbing themselves in it. Sometimes, cats are attracted to the plant, but not affected by the compounds in it. If your cat acts normal after being exposed to catnip, they likely will never be affected by it. If you want to give your cat some greenery but they aren’t attracted to catnip, you might want to look into cat grass. You’ll be able to tell if your cat is affected by the catnip pretty quickly after exposure, since they’ll start acting silly in one way or another and then probably take a nap.

Where can I get catnip?

Wicker Bowl Of Fresh CatnipYou can purchase catnip in two forms; either dried or as a fresh plant. Cats that like catnip will be attracted to it in either form, so that is just a personal choice. With catnip as a fresh plant, you can keep it on a windowsill or in your garden and pick off pieces to give to your cat at your leisure. With dried catnip, you can introduce it into your cat’s toys, hiding places, and scratching posts for maximum exposure.

You can purchase catnip at any pet store and in some garden stores. There are many catnip-infused cat toys available as well. If you want to influence your cat to use their scratching post, try shaking a bit of dry nip over the scratching area to attract your cat. It is recommended that dried catnip is stored in a sealed bag in a cool, dry area. Many cat owners swear by storing the nip in the freezer to help it keep its potency.

Catnip is a great tool that can help your cat relax, have fun, and feel at ease. If you’ve noticed that your cat chills out after a catnip session, you may want to introduce it before and after stressful tasks, such as a veterinarian visit or a nail trim. Catnip is a completely safe and all natural product that can be fun for cats and cat owners alike. It is inexpensive and can provide hours of entertainment, so grab yourself some catnip today and have a party with your furry friend!