Cats & Catnip: The Herb That Makes Kitty Go Ga-Ga

May 19, 2024
By: Adriana Valle

Catnip, also known as catmint or catwort, is an herb in the mint family that has a powerful effect on felines. It’s been observed and used for centuries, likely originating in the Mediterranean and Middle East. For many cats, it’s a potent playtime stimulant. For others, it’s a relaxant, causing them to mellow out after exposure. But, what exactly is it about catnip that makes cats act this way, and how much is too much? Today we’ll answer those questions with Cats & Catnip: The Herb That Makes Kitty Go Ga-Ga.

Cats & Catnip: The Science Behind the Nip

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The secret ingredient in catnip is a compound called nepetalactone. When a cat encounters nepetalactone, it binds to receptors in the olfactory system, the part of the nose responsible for smell. It then triggers a response in the limbic system, the part of the brain associated with emotions and behavior.

Exactly how this translates to a cat’s behavior isn’t completely understood, but it’s believed to mimic feline pheromones, chemical signals cats use to communicate. The effects can vary depending on the cat.

Cats & Catnip: The Catnip Craze

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The most common reaction to catnip is a burst of playful energy, also known as the zoomies. Cats may also roll around, swat at the air, meow excessively, or become fixated on a catnip-laced toy. Some cats become more cuddly and rub against the source of the scent. The reaction to catnip usually lasts for about 10 to 15 minutes, after which the cat loses interest.

Cats & Catnip: Varied Catnip Reactions

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Interestingly, not all cats react to catnip. The sensitivity is said to be genetic. It’s estimated that around 30% of felines are unaffected by catnip’s magic. In addition, kittens under six months typically don’t respond because their olfactory systems aren’t fully developed.

The way your cat takes in catnip may also influence his or her reaction. Catnip comes in many ways including sprays, fresh herbs, dry herbs, and stuffed in toys. Play around with your catnip products and observe your cat’s reaction to identify their favorite method.

Cats & Catnip: How Much Nip is Too Much?

Catnip is generally safe for cats. However, too much of a good thing can lead to an upset stomach, vomiting, or diarrhea. A good rule of thumb is to start with a small amount and see how your cat reacts.

If you notice any negative side effects, give your cat a break by vacuuming up the catnip or removing catnip toys. Let your cat recover. Your cat will be sensitive to it again in a couple of hours but avoid it completely if your cat doesn’t seem to enjoy their reaction.

Cats & Catnip: How to use Catnip

Catnip can be a great enrichment tool for cats. Here are some ways to use it safely and effectively:

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  • Revive Old Toys: Sprinkle some dried catnip on a lackluster toy to pique your kitty’s interest again
  • Create a Catnip Oasis: Sprinkle a scratching post or stuff a cat bed with catnip to create a relaxing hangout
  • Reduce Stress: During stressful times, like fireworks or moving, a little catnip can help your feline friend unwind
  • Choose Catnip Toys: Check out The Two Crazy Cat Ladies’ shop for awesome cat-safe and much-loved cat toys

Cats & Catnip: safety

When purchasing catnip, always opt for the highest quality you can find. Choose quality, pet-safe organic catnip from retailers like Meowijuana. Read their FAQs for more details on their growing and manufacturing processes and how to get the biggest euphoric frenzy out of your cat when using catnip here.

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Catnip is a safe and fun way to interact with your cat. Just remember, moderation is key. By following these tips, you can ensure your cat enjoys the benefits of catnip without any downsides.

If your cat loves catnip, let us know! We like to use catnip when our feline clients enjoy it and will avoid it if they have adverse reactions. By informing us of your cat’s preferences, we can ensure the cat sitting we provide is the best it can be!

New Shoreline Happy Paws clients can create an account. We will be in touch to further discuss your needs and set you, your family, and your pet(s) up for success. Existing clients may book dog walking, dog hiking, or pet sitting services by logging in to your client profile.

Shoreline Happy Paws serves the following areas of the Connecticut Shoreline:

  • Old Saybrook
  • Essex, Ivoryton & Centerbrook
  • Deep River
  • Chester
  • Westbrook
  • Clinton
  • Old Lyme
  • East Lyme
  • Niantic

Certain Parts and Certain Service Hours in:

  • Lyme and Madison
  • Waterford, New London, Groton
  • Uncasville, Gales Ferry, Mystic, Noank

By Adriana Valle

Adriana is the owner and Chief Pet-Loving Officer at Shoreline Happy Paws. She has been a Professional Pet Sitter for over 10 years.

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