Everything you need to know about catnip

Everything you need to know about catnip

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Catnip or Nepeta Cataria is a herb that belongs to the same plant family as mint. It releases a feline attractant oil, nepetalactone, the scent of which produces a mild euphoric effect on cats. Cats bite the leaves of the plant to release more of this oil. The effects last about fifteen minutes. The plant is found all over the Middle East, Europe, Central Asia and regions of China. It is a mid-sized green leafy plant with white flowers. A pet store visit could yield you โ€œrawโ€ catnip i.e. essentially a dried and processed version of the actual plant. It is often found as an ingredient in cat toys or infused into sprays. The plantโ€™s effect on a cat can be likened to ours when introduced to a mind-altering drug.

History of catnip

Catnip has a long history. It is thought that Ancient Egyptians used it, as they domesticated cats. The Romans used it in medicines. It was introduced in America sometime around the 18th century.


Some lions, tigers and other members of the cat family are susceptible to the effects of catnip too. Then again, there are some cats that donโ€™t register the same effects. Catnip affects different cats differently.It is mostly used as a sedative or a training tool where catnip is given as reward to a well-behaved cat. It can be used as an alternative for a traditional food treat.Catnip can be used to calm down cats when hyperactive, scared or overwhelmed.Word of caution โ€“ only use catnip in sparing amounts as it can weaken or entirely kill your catโ€™s sensitivity to the chemical.

How safe is catnip?

Catnip is quite harmless and not addictive in nature, contrary to popular belief. However, excess usage can cause diarrhea and vomiting, Since catnip can work as an aphrodisiac, it has the ability to make male cats aggressive. Monitor your cat for any change in behavior and stop giving them catnip, if this happens. The best practice is to introduce a small amount of catnip to your cat, see how they react and then introduce more accordingly.

How to administer catnip?

Buy a refillable toy which you can fill yourself with catnip instead of sealed toys which use sharp stems which could injure your pet if bitten. You may also choose to buy loose leaves. You could choose to grow it yourself too.

Catnip only affects kittens over the age of six months. Cats use their extraordinary sense of smell to sniff in the reactive oil that sedates them/makes them euphoric. It can be used as a wonderful training tool but cat owners should be careful of using it in excess.

5 Ways to Entertain Your Cat with Catnip

Cats that enjoy catnip have lots of opportunities for feline fun with this herb. Did you know catnip can be a great training tool as well?

You can use catnip to change a shy catโ€™s attitude into confidence. Bully cats can be mellowed a bit when under the influence of catnip. Since today is โ€œchange a petโ€™s life day,โ€ a catnip treat could be a great pick-me-up for needy cats at your local shelterโ€”wouldnโ€™t that be a marvelous way to support their wonderful effort?

Most cats have their own idea about catnip interaction. But to get you both started, here are 5 ways to play with catnip.

Spike the scratching post

Encourage cats to leave your furniture alone and instead target the legal scratching post by making the post more attractive with catnip. You can scatter the catnip herb over top of the scratch item, purchase one already impregnated with catnip, or use catnip spray to spike the post.

Fill a sock

Dried catnip can be messy, especially after your cat rolls all over and it catches in their fur. To keep it contained, you can purchase bulk catnip and put a tablespoonful inside a sock and knot the sock. Let your cat enjoy playing with, biting and kicking or rolling on the catnip sock. You can refresh the sock with a new scoop of the herb as needed.

Offer catnip toys

A wide variety of commercial catnip toys are available. Find one that your cat enjoysโ€”catnip mice are popularโ€”and offer them to your cat.

Loft some bubbles

Many cats enjoy chasing bubblesโ€”yep, those same ones kids like to blow from soap suds. You can find catnip-scented bubbles made especially for your catโ€™s enjoyment.

Grow greens

Since catnip is an herb, you can grow the plant yourself. Catnip grow kits are a cat favorite because the herb smells so much better when fresh. Just be sure you situate your catnip garden out of feline reach or the cats will eat it up and un-plant the pots in one setting.

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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