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Is Catnip Safe? 5 Things You Should Know

The Feline Drug Craze That's Sweeping The Nation

By Amy Shojai. January 19, 2011 | See Comments

Is Catnip Safe? 5 Things You Should Know

Many felines can't resist the sweet aroma that catnip gives off. What is catnip you ask? And why does it draw your kitty like a moth to a flame? Well, here are a few things you should know about your furry friend's favorite scent.

Does your cat like catnip? Cats act like drunken fools when under the influence of this herb.

Catnip belongs to the mint family and if you crush the fresh leaves you can smell the scent. In fact, it’s the scent that intoxicates cats when they smell it. That’s why cats roll and paw the dried herb. Bruising the leaves helps the volatile oil disperse into the air so your cat can get a good sniff.

But is catnip safe? What exactly is it about catnip that makes cats purr? Here are 5 things you should know about catnip:

What is catnip?

Nepeta cataria, or catnip, contains a strong-scented minty oil that’s easily released into the air. Cats can detect catnip oil in the air at saturations as low as one part per billion.

Which cats are affected?

Cats must inherit the tendency to react to catnip, not all felines do. Most cats must be at least six months old before they’ll react. Even then, about 1/3rd of cats won’t react at all, and another 1/3rd are moderately affected. Only about 1/3rd of cats react strongly to catnip.

How does catnip affect cats?

Catnip is a mild feline hallucinogen, but it is completely nontoxic to cats. It also resembles some properties of male cat urine, which may be why some cats react to the herb as though in heat with yowling, rolling, and slobbering.

Is catnip addictive?

Catnip isn’t addictive. The effect only lasts about 5 to 15 minutes. People used to use catnip to brew tea to soothe upset stomachs. Catnip doesn’t affect people the way it does cats, though. However, other kinds of mint or even honeysuckle may also cause a similar reaction in sensitive cats.

Can catnip be over-indulged?

Your cat won’t want you to know this but yes, you can wear out the catnip affect by offering it too often. A catnip “high” can be great fun for your cat and you, so it’s a good idea to only provide this treat no more than about once a week.

Amy Shojai is a certified animal behavior consultant, consultant to the pet care industry and the award winning author of 23 pet care books.

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