What is Catnip? And is it Good For Your Kitty?

You asked, and we listened. One of the more frequently asked questions we get here at H&R headquarters is ‘what is catnip and what does it do to cats’? So we thought we would answer that, as well as a whole lot of other catnip related queries.

In case you didn’t know, catnip is to cats, what LSD is to humans. It is the meowijuana of the cat drug world, and most cats go absolutely wacky-doodle for the stuff. But is it safe for your cat? Can a cat get too much of it,? And what about other health benefits? 

Carry one reading to find out everything you have ever wanted to know about kitty crack.

What Exactly is Catnip?

There are five common types of catnip, but the most popular one is Nepeta cataria. It is a member of the mint family and is also known as catmint or catwort. The herb is native to Africa, Asia and Europe. In these areas, the plant is considered an invasive weed, but domestic and wild cats wouldn’t have it any other way.

How Does Catnip Work?

In a word, catnip makes cats go doolally. But if you want a more scientific explanation, here it is. The herb contains an oil called nepetalactone. When a cat gets a whiff or taste of the plant, it replicates pheromones which flip the kitty’s receptor switch on. This results in an explosion of neurons in a cat’s brain, that has it whooping, whirling or even roaring like a lion. 

Don’t believe us? Take a look at this hilarious compilation of cats on ‘catamine.”

What Happens When Cats Eat or Sniff Catnip?

When cats eat the plant, the effects are more calming, leaving them sedated, or cat-atonic, if you will. This usually only lasts for a couple of minutes, and it takes a few hours before your feline will need its next hit.

what is catnip

However, when cats get a whiff of the weed, the effects can be somewhat different, to say the least. They become frenetic and look like they are hallucinating as they swat and swipe at invisible things. The results are hilarious and definitely worth recording. But you will have to be quick – after 10 minutes or so the effects wear off, and your feline reverts back to its usual self.

Why Do Cats Love Rolling Around on Catnip?

Ask a cat, and they will tell you it is because they can! The real answer though is that cats like rubbing themselves on catnip to bruise and crush the leaves. This is a smart strategy to release more nepetalactone, which is what they are after.

Can Catnip Cause an Overdose?

Because catnip is found naturally, there is very little chance of a cat overdosing from it. That isn’t to say that if your kitty comes across a stash of it and overindulges he won’t feel the worse for wear. And there might be a little bit of vomiting and diarrhoea, but these symptoms should pass reasonably quickly. It would be a case of catnip-1, cat-zero.

Does Catnip Have Other Health Benefits?

You will be surprised to hear that catnip does more than just get your cat feeling sunny-side-up. This herb has a wide range of health benefits for cats and their paw-rents.

For humans

Digestion – if you are experiencing discomfort after a meal, catnip helps ease the tension and as a result, stops the spasms that are responsible for tummy aches.

Relaxation – if drunk as a tea, catnip, like valerian root, acts as a sedative. This could help with anxiety, restlessness and promote better sleep.

Menstrual cramps – catnip is often used to help women during their menstrual cycle. It alleviates cramps and other pains associated with menstruation.

For cats

Flatulence – if your kitty is particularly flatulent, this herb has been found to help with the removal of gas from the abdominal area. If your cat’s flatulence is stressed related, it reduces stress and calms your kitty down.

Stress relief – when eaten, catnip helps reduce your cat’s stress levels, making them more relaxed. This is especially helpful around noisy celebrations that often include fireworks or other loud noises.

Ease skin conditions – if you notice your cat is scratching more than usual, you could prepare a catnip bath. This is because one of the effects of catnip on cats is that it works to relieve itchy or inflamed skin.

Helps with sluggishness – if your cat is more sluggish than usual and you are worried about its weight, sniffed catnip will undoubtedly perk it up. Running, bouncing, pouncing and rolling around, your cat will shift those extra pounds pretty quickly.

Do All Cats Like Catnip?

No, not all cats like catnip. In the same way, humans are genetically predisposed to like (or dislike) some things, there is a gene in cats that causes them to enjoy the plant. When this gene is not present, cats aren’t affected by it at all.

Do you give your cat catnip? Have you maybe got a hilarious clip or photo you want to share with us? We want to see, so leave a comment below.

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