What Does Catnip Do To Cats?

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Who would have known that catnip can do some wonderful things. It is helpful for both cats and humans. There are many different applications and all are super effective.
Cat sitting next to a catnip plant

Catnip is a really fun thing to give to your cat because they have an almost psychedelic reaction to it. Many people like to joke around and say that it is a drug for cats. Believe it or not there is actually some science happening when your furry friend decides to take a trip on the wild side. So you may be thinking to yourself what does catnip do to cats? Depending on how they ingest the catnip, it will have different effects on their body, but I will go more into that later on.

So What Actually Is Catnip?

Catnip plant

I was shocked to find out that catnip is actually from the mint family of plants. There are over 250 different types of catnip plants in the world. I don’t imagine there being a shortage anytime soon. Your cat can continue to get high for years and years to come.

Common catnip is called Nepeta Cataria and the other variety of catnip called catmint is Nepeta Mussinii. I’ll just call it catnip so I don’t confuse you. The name “catnip” is believed to have received its name from what cats do when they see the plant outdoors. They pretty much nip at the stem and leaves to release the oils that give them the “high” feeling.

The active oil that they are trying to release is called nepetalactone. This is pretty much going to be the main ingredient in any type of catnip plant. This compound is what’s making your cat hyper or sometimes chilled out.

Catnip can have so many different benefits associated with it. Some owners use catnip for training purposes while other owners use it as pain relief for their furry friend. This non-toxic plant can do some amazing things for your cat. The things you can do with catnip are endless.

Nepetalactone & How It Works

Cat laying in a catnip plant

According to Wikipedia, “Nepetalactone is an organic compound, first isolated from the plant catnip (Nepeta cataria), which acts as a cat attractant.”

This compound is the secret ingredient that will get your cat higher than a kite. I promise, your cat is going to enjoy playing with catnip very much. Nepetalactone isn’t harmful and it has a large list of positive effects.

I don’t want to get too scientific, but nepetalactone works almost the same way feline pheromones do. These are the sexual attractant molecules so it should only affect cats who have reached sexual maturity. Kittens normally don’t have a reaction to catnip because they are not fully developed yet. It will take some time.

Nepetalactone isn’t addictive to cats in any way. A surprising thing to note is that nepetalactone can also have some soothing effects towards humans. At the end of this article I will give you a recipe for a catnip tea which is guaranteed to calm your nerves and ease your pain.

Hilarious Catnip Video!

Some Facts About Catnip

There is a surprising number of facts that are associated with catnip. The next time your cat is playing with this crazy plant you will be able to rattle off some facts to your house guests. Some of these facts you may know while other ones you may not.

Catnip Contains The Chemical Nepetalactone

I actually mentioned this earlier in the section above. Nepetalactone is the active ingredient that triggers a sense of euphoria in your cats brain. This is where the “high” is originating from. Newer cat owners may think that the high comes from the leaves or stems. In reality it is the compound nepetalactone that is doing all the brain alterations.

Now when I say alterations it isn’t being used as a bad term. The nepetalactone is binding itself to the “happy” receptors in your cat’s brain and it is making your them feel calm and relaxed. Think of it as a healthy and organic Tylenol.

Not All Cats React To Catnip

Scientists and vets have discovered that not all cats react to catnip. Having a sensitivity to nepetalactone means your cat doesn’t get the “high” that other cats would normally get when they ingest catnip.

This sensitivity is actually more common than you would expect. Research shows that actually 50 to 75% of cats react to catnip when exposed to it. The other 50% don’t have any reaction at all.

Experts believe that this sensitivity is inherited from their parents. The numbers can vary widely from cat to cat. It is pretty much a 50-50 shot, whether your cat will react to catnip or not. Also you won’t know if your cat is sensitive or not until they are several months old. All young kittens are immune to catnip because their brains have not fully developed yet.

Catnip Is Native To Europe, Africa, & Asia

Believe it or not, catnip is not native to North America. The places where catnip flourishes the most is in Europe, Africa, and Asia. So what does catnip do to cats over in those places? Pretty much the same thing it does to cats here in North America haha.

Catnip was actually an imported good from these continents. The prices were a little bit high and cat owners just weren’t buying a lot of it. Finally, people decided to try and grow it here so we wouldn’t have to import it anymore. They were successful and catnip is now a common plant found in North America. It is also worth noting that because of this, the price of catnip fell dramatically because there wasn’t a large shipping cost needed to get it overseas.

A Cat’s Reaction To Catnip Differs Between Sniffing And Eating It

Catnip can be introduced to a cat’s body in two different ways. They could either sniff the catnip or ingest it through their mouth. So some people think that both ways will produce the same reaction. Actually, you will be shocked to know that sniffing the catnip and eating it will produce two totally different reactions. Here are the two things I want you to remember.

  • Smelling = Triggers “Happy” Receptors
  • Eating = Triggers “Mellow” Receptors

The next time you give your cat some catnip, sit back and watch how they react. If they start sprinting around the house then that means they smelled it. When they mellow out and just chill then that means they ate some of it. Sniffing produces a stimulant effect. Ingesting it produces a sedative effect.

I was shocked to find this out. I was under the impression that catnip just did one thing whether it was eaten or sniffed. Now I can show my house guests the difference depending on how my cat reacts.

The “Buzz” Produced By Catnip Only Lasts 10-15 Minutes

Cat sniffing some catnip

There are some articles out there that say catnip has the same effects as marijuana or LSD. I am not entirely sure how the authors came to this finding but it was interesting to see the comparison. A marijuana high can last roughly 1-2 hours depending on the person. A catnip high only lasts 10-15 minutes.

Also, your cat is going to have to wait a couple hours before they can get their high again. Their brains need to “reset” before they can experience the euphoria again. So if it looks like your cat is freaking out, just wait 10 minutes and it should wear off completely. No need to get scared and rush them to the vet. By the time you get to the office they should be back to normal.

Humans Can Also Use Catnip

You may think that catnip can only be used for a cat’s benefit. I was very surprised to find out that catnip can be used on humans as well. It may not have the same psychedelic effects that it does on cats, but it can calm a person down and ease their pain.

Later on in the article I will give you an awesome catnip tea recipe, so you can make it for yourself. Catnip can have many healing qualities in humans. The tea should help to ease nausea and headaches. If you are always worried about taking pills, this tea should be your first option. You may be surprised at how well it makes you feel.

Catnip isn’t toxic to humans or cats so nothing to worry about there. Some people compare it to chamomile when turned into a tea.

On a side note, catnip is really good at repelling mosquitos if you ever run out of spray.

Different Forms Of Catnip

Catnip can come in many different forms and designs. I would suggest using what your cat is the most comfortable around. All of the forms I will describe below, all have the same effects regular catnip would have. Here are some common forms of canip you would see in stores and online.

Dried Catnip

Dried catnip is probably the most common form of catnip on the market. It has almost the same consistency and feel as dried oregano. The good thing about this kind of catnip is that it can be put on anything you want. If there is a scratching post in your house that isn’t being used. Sprinkle some catnip on it and your cat will go crazy. They may even start using it without catnip. If you’re just starting out and introducing catnip to your furry friend, I would suggest this catnip form.

Catnip Spray

Catnip spray actually has some wonderful benefits if used correctly. This spray comes in a little bottle and looks almost like a mouth freshener you would buy in the checkout aisle. Catnip spray is recommended for old toys that have lost their excitement. Simply give the toy a couple sprays of the catnip scent and your cat will go crazy for it.

Catnip spray doesn’t have the same strength as dried catnip but it does a good enough job. One plus, is that it isn’t as messy as dried catnip. I know when Watson, our cat, figures out a way to open up a catnip toy, the mess goes all over the place. It takes forever to clean up. If you have the spray, it will keep everything clean and in one spot.

Catnip Stuffed Toys

If you don’t want to deal with the mess dried catnip can make, then your next best choice is a toy stuffed with catnip. These are going to be the most popular thing you see in a pet store or online. It is usually some kind of soft toy, packed with catnip to encourage your cat to play with it.

If you are struggling to get your cat to play with you at night. I would suggest some kind of catnip toy. This will encourage them to play and it may also strengthen the bond between you two. You also want to make sure the toy you’re buying is packed with fresh catnip. Sometimes toys sit on the shelf for a while and the catnip can go bad. Then it is useless. You want to make sure the toy hasn’t been sitting around for a while so your cat can get the full effect.

Live Catnip Plant

If you are looking for the freshest catnip possible, you should invest in an actual plant. These will give you the freshest and strongest effects possible for your furry friend. Growing your own catnip from scratch has never been easier. If you don’t have the patience to wait for the plant to grow, you could also buy a fully grown catnip plant and keep it alive.

Your cat will go crazy for this fresh plant. They will be able to nibble on the leaves and stems to get the same “high” dried catnip would give them. If you are looking for the strongest version of catnip then look no further. You need to start growing fresh catnip at your house. It is affordable and also the most organic.

Catnip Bubbles

You didn’t read that wrong. There are actually bubbles out there that contain catnip. Catnip bubbles are essentially the same exact thing you used to play with when you were little. The only difference is that the liquid also contains catnip.

Now it can take your cat some time to get used to this new kind of toy. They will be curious to know what this giant floating sphere is in the sky. Some cats may run and hide while other ones will be curious and try to attack the bubble. The only way for you to know is to get some and try it out.

When your cat figures out that the bubbles are harmless they will love them. Plus the added catnip liquid will have them feeling good.

Catnip Balls

There are a lot of options on the market for catnip. You can buy toys stuffed with it or just the dried out form. If none of those work for you, there is an option out there to buy a solid ball of catnip. The catnip balls actually reminded me of a jawbreaker. The balls don’t bounce and they are a little bit on the larger side. It may be hard for your cat to put it in their mouth and carry it around. I wouldn’t really recommend this form of catnip because your cat may lose interest in it quickly. There are so many more different options out there.

Training Your Cat With Catnip

You may have noticed already that catnip can come in many different forms and consistencies. One huge benefit of catnip is that it can be used as a training aid.

If you have a cat that is always acting up you can get them back in line with the help of catnip. Here is a scenario where catnip would be beneficial.

Let’s say your cat is constantly scratching that brand new couch you bought. They are starting to really tear it up and you can’t stop them. Every time you try to reprimand them they fight back with anger. It is starting to look like that couch was a waste of money! Here is where the catnip comes into play.

You go to your local pet store and get a scratching post and a bottle of dry catnip. You set up the scratching post a good distance away from the new couch. The key is to sprinkle the catnip all over the scratching post. Then bring your cat to the post and let them sniff it. The nepetalactone will work its magic and now your cat is hooked! They will forget about the new couch because this catnip scratching post is very appealing.

There are so many scenarios where this would work. I just figured I would point out the most obvious one.

How To Grow Fresh Catnip At Your House

Beautiful purple flowers

Growing catnip at your house is the best way to give your furry friend an organic experience. Now since you can answer the question, what does catnip do to cats, you must be jumping at the opportunity to get some!

I think the best way to give your cat some catnip is to let them play with the actual plant. Planting and maintaining a catnip garden is easier than you would think. There isn’t really a lot of work that needs to go into it.

Catnip is classified as Nepeta Cataria. If you live in the UK or another country you may refer to catnip as catmint. They are both the same plant so don’t let that confuse you.

I was reading a couple articles that pointed out that catnip can act like weeds, and spread pretty quickly. If you are planting in a garden, you want to make sure the catnip is in a separate pot because it could take over your whole plot. If catnip is the only plant you want to grow then that shouldn’t be an issue.

The aggressiveness of the plant can cause issues for other plants in your garden. You either want to isolate the catnip or keep a very close eye on it. You may wake up one morning and see that your whole garden is one big catnip plant. The cats will love it, but you will hate it!

The Actual Plant

The catnip plant is actually pretty boxy. It can grow 3 feet tall and also 3 feet wide. Once you see a couple of them in person, you will start to notice them more often. The catnip plant has small white or lilac colored flowers on the top. The plants also grow in clusters so it is easier to notice.

Catnip leaves look very similar to mint. They are a little bit furry and have points on them. The points aren’t sharp but they are very distinct. Your cat won’t hurt themselves on the leaves so don’t worry about that. Everything on the plant is non-toxic and safe.

Best Environment For The Plant

Catnip is unlike many plants. The catnip plant loves to grow in dry conditions with little water. Catnip thrives with a lot of sun and very dry dirt. The dirt should be almost desert like. Dry areas where many plants would die, is the perfect place for catnip to grow.

According to The Spruce, “They do best in full sun to partial shade. Like so many herbs, this perennial thrives in poor soil that is well-drained. Catnip plants prefer a slightly alkaline soil but are not very fussy about the ground in which they grow, as long as their roots are not constantly sitting in water.”

If you want to keep stray cats away from the goods, I would suggest putting up some kind of fence or barrier. This will prevent unwanted guests from getting high 24 hours a day! Any hardware store should have a little fence you can put around the perimeter of your catnip garden. Insects and rodents won’t need to be exterminated because the scent of the catnip will keep them far away. That is why catnip makes a perfect mosquito repellent!

How Should I Store Catnip?

Catnip can lose its potency over time. The longer you leave it out the less potent it will be when it gets to your cat. The best thing to do is get yourself an airtight container. This could be Tupperware or something similar. Anything that is going to prevent the air from getting in.

The best place to store this airtight container is in the freezer. Freezing the catnip is going to stop the plant from losing its potency and last much longer. Just make sure you hide it when guests come over! They will think you’re crazy when they open up your freezer and see all the catnip sitting there.

How To Make Catnip Tea...Yes It’s Safe

Lifehacker has an awesome article on how to make catnip tea. I will save you all the confusion and quote them directly. Catnip is used as a calming property in humans. It has a lot of benefits and should be used more often in medicine.

“Catnip tea contains vitamins A, B, and C, calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, and sodium. According to tea enthusiast site The Right Tea, catnip's calming properties can help relieve stress, anxiety, and help treat insomnia and migraines. It is a natural antacid and can help with colic, diarrhea, stomach cramps, and flatulence. To make a cup of catnip tea, place 1-2 tsp of dried catnip flowers and leaves in a teacup and pour a cup of hot, not boiling water, and cover. Wait 10-15 minutes and sweeten with honey and lemon to mitigate the slightly-woodsy taste. If you use fresh catnip leaves, double the amount used. You can also also mix catnip leaves with chamomile or mint.”

Overall Conclusion About Catnip

Catnip has so many different benefits for adults as well as cats. After reading this article you should have a much better understanding on how catnip affects cats. Catnip can be used as a training aid or a method to calm down your cat. It all depends on how they get it into their body.

Do you have any experience at all with catnip? What does catnip do to your cat? I would love to hear about it in the comments below!

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