What is catnip?
Catnip plants are member species of the mint family and they usually contain volatile oils, tannins, acids and sterols. Native to Africa, Asia and Europe, this plant was brought to America in 1600 by settlers and has become very popular as most homeowners prefer to grow it in their gardens. Various scientific studies that have been conducted have shown that catnip is not addictive and completely harmless to cats.
How does catnip work?
Just as its name suggest, catnip has a close relationship with cats. Cats usually exhibit different behaviours when they are close to this plant. Catnip actually contains volatile oils known as Nepetalactone. When this volatile oil enters the cat’s nasal tissues, the scientist believes that it binds to protein receptors that stimulate sensory neurons. The receptors are linked to a region of the brain known as the hypothalamus that controls the behaviour of the cat. As a result, cats usually exhibit different behaviours when they are around this plant.
Effects of catnip on cats
Nepetalactone, which is a major ingredient that this plant contains has been proven to have varying effects on cats. This ingredient is believed to cause hallucinogenic effects on cats. In fact, some scientists say that the effects of this ingredient are similar to that of marijuana. In most cases when cats are close to this plant, they usually tend to roll on the floor (something which mimics a female on heat). Scientists have actually suggested that this plant actually acts as an aphrodisiac but this is unlikely because both males and females react the same way. However, scientific research has suggested that a cat usually behaves this way because of feel-good pheromones that are usually released during sexual courtship. In addition to that, most cats usually exhibit behaviours such as chasing, playing and hunting.
Various scientific studies have revealed that about 50-60% of cats are usually affected by catnip and their behaviour varies. However, kitten younger than 8 weeks old usually don’t enjoy its effects. In facts, they usually show inversion to it. Older cats also don’t show any effect when around this plant. Domesticated cats are not the only ones who enjoys the effects of this amazing plant. Many other wild species of cats also exhibit varying behaviours when exposed to catnip. Typical response of a cat when exposed to catnip includes chewing, sniffing, body rubbing and chin cheek. The additional response includes jumping, stretching, rolling, licking, hyperactivity and aggression.
Is catnip harmful to cats?
This is a very common question that most people who are owned by a cat usually tend to ask. The answer to this question is NO. Unlike humans who like overusing things if they find them to be pleasurable, cats are usually very disciplined and they cannot overdose. Once exposed to catnip for a while they become resistant to it’s effects and will ignore the offered plant / toys.
Why and when to use catnip on your cat
Various studies have shown that catnip is beneficial to cats. However, it is also very important to note that not all cats will respond well to this plant. As a result experts advise that you first bring a sample and observe how your cat will react to it. If you realise that the effect is undesirable i.e. your cat shows signs of aggression, then it is best that you stop exposing or even planting catnip in your garden. On the other hand, if your cat actually shows positive effects when exposed to this plant, then it is a great idea to make it readily available. You can take advantage of catnip to encourage your cat to use it’s scratching post for example. You can also use it to encourage your cat to adapt to new environments or encourage active play and exercise.
Where can I buy catnip?
Catnip is mostly considered as a weed because it is very easy to grow. Unlike other plants, they don’t require much care and maintenance. You can buy this plant from your local garden centre and it can be bought in seedling form or as seed.
In conclusion, from the information above, it is clear that catnip has varying effects on cats. Some cats respond positively while others respond negatively. It is therefore very important to first test to know how your cat responds to it.
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