What is catnip?
- Catnip plants (Nepeta cataria and other Nepeta species) are members of the mint family and contain oils, sterols, acids and tannins
What does catnip do to a cat?
- Catnip is considered nonaddictive and harmless to cats
- Cats are susceptible to and are affected by oil found in the stems and leaves of the catnip plant
- As the cat breathes in the scent of the catnip, it inhales Nepetalactone, one of catnip's oils, and it binds to the cat's olfactory (scent) receptors. This promotes a reaction in areas of the cat's brain that are involved in emotional and behavioural responses - hence we see the cat perform silly and euphoric play behaviour when they are exposed to the catnip
- The cat behaves as if it is in complete ecstasy with a loss of inhibitions, and may do some or all of the following:
- rub, lick and mouth the catnip or catnip toy
- rub their body all over the catnip or toy
- salivate or drool
- relax and calm
- display hyperactivity
- The cats behaviour response last about 5 - 15 minutes. After this time passes, the cat becomes temporarily adjusted and immune to the effects of the catnip for approximately 30mins to 2hours. During this "reset" time, the cats body readjusts, and will then respond to the catnip when it is reintroduced
Will my cat like catnip?
- Behavioural responses to catnip vary between individuals, and susceptibility and "reset" times seem to have a hereditary component
- About 70% - 80% of adult cats exhibit behaviour changes when exposed to catnip. Elderly cats may or may not show a response
- Catnip may not have a behavioural effect on some kittens until they are about six months old and begin to reach sexual maturity - so if a kitten doesn't respond while very young; the catnip can be tried again closer to 6 months of age
How can I make catnip available to my cat?
- Dried leaves, sprays and toys are convenient and fun ways to provide your cat access to catnip
- Having multiple catnip toys with different sizes, shapes, textures, actions and noises adds to the range of stimulus your cat can experience each time they play with catnip.
- Catnip loses its potency overtime, storing dried leaf, sprays and toys in a cool location in an airtight container will help to maximise its play time effects
- Catnip toys can be reinfused with catnip essence using either dried or spray catnip
How often should my cat use catnip?
- Catnip is considered nonaddictive and harmless, and cats cannot overdose on catnip
- When they have had enough catnip play they will not seek it out or be interested when you offer catnip
- It is best to put the catnip away, out of reach of the cat, in between play sessions, to maintain the novelty and stimulation of catnip play for your cat
- Catnip is best used as an occasional treat to add interest, variety and stimulation into your cat's usual play time
Will catnip help my cat?
If catnip has a happy euphoric effect on your cat it can be useful for:
- Keeping indoor cats stimulated, content and happy
- Attracting and training cats to use scratching posts rather than furniture
- Encouraging active play and exercise with particular rewarding toys
- Reducing cat anxiety around the introduction of new cats, people, objects to the home
- Reducing cat anxiety when moving into a new home