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Catnip: A positive influence on Cats


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Thursday, 23 de April 2009

Catnip: A positive influence on Cats

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A catnip-influenced cat is a happy cat. The catnip has no harmful consequence nor does it generate addiction on the cat; it is a very attractive plant for felines and it produces feelings of euphoria and relax on them. Making the catnip work as a benefit for the owner might actually be the answer for many of the cats’ behaviour problems.

What is catnip?

Catnip is the common name that is given to the Nepeta cataria. There are more than 250 plants from the same species, all from the Lamiaceae family, that have the same effects on the cats and a mint flavour. The Nepeta is just about 1 metre (39 inches) tall and it has perennial, greyish green leaves that grow along with white flowers with soft purple spots.

You can find catnip all around Europe and Asia, where it blooms in May and June and is usually pollinated by bees.

What is it for?

Catnip is not only good for cats, as it also said to have calming effects on humans. It is furthermore known for stimulating the sweat and therefore being good to ease fever. The digestive system also benefits from the balance that’s provided by a catnip tea or infusion. It could, however, cause you nausea and vomit if taken in excessive doses.

Raw young leaves have this light taste of mint and can even be used on salads. Mature leaves are mostly used for spicing up food. The smell of catnip is also a good mosquito and cockroach repellent, although it might not be so effective when applied on the skin. Aphids, on the other hand, are rather attracted to the smell. Catnip is also poisonous for some types of flies.


This plant was given the name ‘catnip’ for its effect on cats. Nearly two thirds of the feline population, including lions, pumas and leopards, react to the catnip, which has an aphrodisiac effect on them, by rolling on the ground, tapping, chewing or licking the leaves, salivating… Unlike you might think at first, they do not react to the flavour but to the smell of the catnip. Cats chew or lick the leaves in order to release the aromatic oil on them, not to taste the plant.

Cats that are affected by the catnip can suddenly change their behaviour because, oddly enough, the catnip works as stimulant when inhaled and as a tranquilizer when ingested. Despite all the effects, catnip is not toxic at all for cats nor does it cause addition. It is indeed quite harmless and the effects usually disappear around 10 minutes after the cat was exposed to the plant. The feline will only be susceptible to a new exposure two hours later.

The main active element of the catnip is an oil named Nepetalactone, which is very similar to the pheromone found in the male cats’ urine. That is what led scientists to easily conclude that the catnip therefore works as an aphrodisiac on felines. Besides, cats only react to the smell of catnip after they become sexually mature, which happens at 4 to 6 months of age, and eventually stop reacting to it some years later, when they become old.

In spite of what one would think, catnip does not affect all felines. In fact, many cats are actually immune to this plant’s smell and ingestion. The possibility of reaction seems to be determined by genetic heritance, which means that it is transmitted from progenitors to their descendants. Also, cat breeds from places where catnip doesn’t grow seem to be less affected by it than the European and Asian breeds.

How to use catnip

If your cat reacts to catnip, you can make use of this plant to your own benefit. The pet product industry has now realised how they can benefit from applying the scent of catnip on some of the products for cats that they put on the market. There are currently many toys and cat furniture that come with the smell of catnip. Plants and dry leaves with the same effects on cats are also sold in many pet shops.

Stimulating the cat

When inhaled, the catnip’s aroma stimulates the cat’s activity levels. Some cats actually seem to become hyperactive kittens all over again, jumping and playing around for several minutes. In case you have a lazy cat, this might just be the way to make it do some exercise.

Saving other plants

As long as you keep catnip at home, the cat will be distracted from the other plants around the house and won’t tear them down, since it will rather play with catnip.

Saving the furniture

Cats have a natural need to scratch and you cannot hold back that instinct. In order to keep the cat’s claws away from the house’s furniture, sofas and other things, you should redirect its need for scratching to proper cat furniture. Rubbing a little bit of catnip or spraying catnip oil onto the cat poles and scratchers might be one of the easiest ways of leading your cat there.

Easing the stress

If your cat has been stressed out by some changes on its routine, whether it’s a home change, an alteration on the owner’s schedules or a new baby, you can help your pet relax by giving it a small amount of catnip to ingest. Keep in mind, however, that the stress weakens your cat’s immune system and lets it more vulnerable to some illnesses. It is therefore much more advisable and effective to eradicate the source of stress than to calm your pet down with catnip.

Be aware

If you have more than one cat at home, it is recommended that you test the catnip in each one separately. Some cats, especially more dominant males, might react rather aggressively towards other cats when under the influence of catnip. If one of your cats actually becomes more aggressive than you should only let it access the catnip when it is isolated from the others.

Although catnip might turn out to be a precious help to handle with bad behaviour, stimulate activity levels or calm down your pet, you should not give it excessive amounts. If your cat gets too exposed to the catnip, the desired effects might eventually fade and even disappear. It is recommended that you offer a bit of catnip to your pet no more than once a week.

If you grow catnip at home, rather than buying it, you will be saving a good amount of money. Remember, however, that if you wish to do it inside your house, you should make sure it is out of the cat’s reach, so it won’t be overexposed to the plant. If you choose to grow the catnip outside, prepare yourself to receive uninvited guests in your garden, because stray cats are attracted to catnip as well. You should wait until the plant has grown up enough to bear the euphoria of a cat before letting your pet play with it.


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NEW An infusion of catnip herb cats go crazy for allowing you to add life to old toys and stimulate your cats into play.


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