Why Do Cats Love Catnip?

By September 19 | See Comments

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There is no doubt that cats absolutely love catnip. Cat owners often treat their furry friends by allowing them to play with catnip but are not entirely sure why their cats get so excited when introduced to the scent of this mysterious herb. Read on to find out more about catnip and its effect on your feline friend.

Origins of Catnip

Catnip is another name given to Nepeta Cataria, an herb that was originally grown in parts of Europe, Asia and the Middle East as a perennial plant. Today, the herb is cultivated all over the world. The plant can be used in many ways and also provides mild sedative effects when used on humans. The herb has plenty of medicinal uses but is not used for those purposes as often.

The Effects of Catnip

We often see our cats reacting with excitement when they smell catnip. These behaviors include rubbing or rolling around in it, hyperactive jumping and leaping, moaning or purring, licking and even aggression. Research has concluded that not all cats are sensitive to this herb. Only about 50 to 60 percent of the cat population is affected by this herb, exhibiting different behavioral characteristics when they come across the scent of catnip. Cats carry a gene that is sensitive to the scent of nepetalactone, an organic compound found in the herb. The compound triggers the smell receptors and activates the pleasurable pheromones in cats.

Every cat reacts differently to the scent of catnip based on the exposure and freshness of the plant. Leopards, cougars, servals, and lynxes are also known to be triggered by the scent of catnip. Lions and tigers also react to the scent but not as strong as the other felines. The effects of catnip can last between 10-15 minutes, during which time the cat is noticeably excited. After this period lapses, it can take another few hours for the cat's olfactory senses to be reset to normal.

Is Catnip Safe?

Research shows that catnip is very safe for cats to consume or play with. Cats cannot become addicted to catnip and are only triggered by the scent of the herb. Cat owners often get worried when their pet becomes erratic, which could probably mean that your kitty is most likely sensitive to the scent. Catnip is best suited for adult cats in the form of fresh catnip leaves or a catnip scented toy. As cats become energetic after their exposure to catnip, this can help your kitty stay active and healthy.

Catnip is not entirely safe for pregnant kitties as the triggers may cause the cat to become too excited and possibly injure itself. Research has also not provided concrete evidence about the effects of catnip on a pregnant cat and whether any effects could pass on to unborn kittens. Catnip is a wonderful herb to bring some excitement and playfulness to your kitty’s life. You can also opt to grow fresh catnip in your garden to provide your kitty with the best entertainment.

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