I think that every current or future cat handler knows a plant-like catnip. It is considered an aphrodisiac for cats. Catnip, otherwise known as catnip proper (Nepeta Qatar), is a plant species from the Lyme family. It was already known in antiquity, where people used it for its healing properties. Currently, it is primarily used as a herbal tea to aid digestion and by beekeepers as a honey plant. The scent of catnip also acts as a repellent against mosquitoes, flies, and aphids.
What is catnip?
Catnip is a relatively easy plant to grow and can be sown in a garden and a pot. This plant can grow up to a meter in height, and its characteristic features, in addition to its specific smell, are green leaves with a grayish sheen and purple flowers.
Catnip and cats – how does it work?
The main culprit in many cats’ reactions to catnip is a substance found in catnip, the exciting name of nepetalactone. Interestingly, it is not the specific smell that we humans sense, but the pheromone is odorless. Cats sense the pheromone with the help of the Jacobson organ, or the little organ, which is located in the cat’s palate.
Cats behave distinctively using the Jacobson organ, gently opening their mouths and lifting the upper lip upwards.
Common reactions of cats to catnip include rubbing against a plant, scratching and licking the plant, salivation, intense purring, positive vocalization, and kicking a toy soaked with catnip with its hind legs, characteristic of cats.
Cats, sensing the catnip pheromones, are often more willing to play, have an increased appetite, and activate the hunting instinct.
Does catnip work for all cats?
Catnip can affect domestic cats and wild animals such as tigers, lynxes, and lions. However, it has been proven that catnip does not affect all cats, and its response is often genetically inherited. Many cats are indifferent to the substances found in the plant. It is assumed that about 1/3 of the cat population shows no reaction to catnip. There is also no reaction in young kittens before puberty and in older animals.
Is catnip safe for cats?
Generally speaking, catnip is not addictive and, therefore, a safe plant. A healthy cat’s body also works out a mechanism that prevents overstimulation by catnip. However, as I always mentioned here, each case is different, and each cat should be approached individually. There are cats with behavioral problems or with impaired appetite. If a cat consumes too much catnip, it can develop gastric issues. Some cats can react aggressively when they smell substances in catnip nearby. It is better to take the plant and toys soaked in it in such a situation.
So, to sum up, catnip is safe for cats but requires observation by the handler and, if necessary, appropriate steps.
How long does catnip work on a cat?
Catnip works on cats for up to 10 minutes, and after that time, cats become insensitive to it for some time. This is because neurons take a certain amount of time to rebuild their ability to re-transmit the nerve signal. This is related to the anti-addiction mechanism mentioned earlier.
Catnip for cats – where to use?
This plant can have many uses for our cats. We can often use it as an incentive to become interested in a new scratching post, toy, or lair. Producers of, for example, scratchers also very often add a bag with dried catnip.
Catnip can also be used as an anxiety-relieving agent, e.g., driving a car. However, stress is a very complex factor, so catnip may not be enough sometimes.
The plant can also be used as a soothing agent for the cat’s nerves after a stressful situation, e.g., visiting a veterinarian. Often, catnip can also work by the way the socialization of cats together.