Catnip is a plant that has a strange, harmless effect on cats, and is often used by owners in toys to keep their feline friends entertained. Although widely used, many people do not know much about this plant or understand the way in alters the behaviour and mood of their kitty. So, here is a bit more information.
What is Catnip & What is the Catnip plant?
The catnip plant or to give it the correct Latin name, Nepeta cataria is a plant the forms part of the mint family. Although it can now be grown commercially in many locations, it is North America that it calls home. It is relatively easy to grow this plant, and the leaves are pale green and shaped like feathers while the flowers are a lavender-blue colour. It’s not just cats that can benefit from this plant, the leaves have also been used in tea, while the flowers can be utilised as cough medicine. The plant also can repel bugs so is often used in nonchemical insect repellents. Strangely, the plant doesn’t seem to have any effect on most other animals, just cats. This is because cats have a scent gland which is located in their mouth at the top and is called the vomeronasal gland. Anything they encounter in terms of smells is trapped here and gets transmitted to their brain via neural pathways. So, when a cat sniffs the catnip plant, the oil within the leaves is intense enough to trigger this gland and encourages the cat to keep sniffing the plant. It is, therefore, the nepetalactone oil That creates this response. If you have ever watched a cat with catnip, you will see that it behaves unusually, rolling on the floor, seemingly really happy, and quite playful. Check out our cat corner for more useful information on cats.
What is Catnip Made Of & What is in Catnip?
So, quite simply the answer to the question of what is in catnip is the dried leaves of the catnip plant. What is catnip made of? It seems to be that the scent has a similar reaction too sexual hormones of a cat. It doesn’t matter whether the cat is male or female; they will generally all be affected and behave similarly to female cats when they are in season. So, catnip is a useful thing to have around if you own a cat. It is possible for your cat to overdose on catnip, and this can cause some quite nasty health issues. For that reason, it is crucial that you only allow your cat a small amount of catnip at any one time. If you have been using catnip with your cat and encounter issues that have no other explanation with symptoms such as diarrhoea, unusual problems with walking, and vomiting your cat may have overdosed on the catnip. The dried catnip used in most toys is relatively safe; it is the fresh version that can cause the issues. Again, in small quantities, there is no danger if your cat happens to eat the catnip. A smaller dose is quite beneficial for their digestion. This effect has also been seen in humans, and the plant has been used medicinally to treat severe diarrhoea in people. Of course, ingesting too much will cause your cat to become ill as mentioned before. It is pretty safe for cats of all ages to be exposed to catnip, but Interestingly the effects are generally not seen in kittens under a year old. Some cats will not react in any way to catnip, so it is certainly worth testing your cat with but don’t be disappointed if they aren’t interested.
What is Catnip Used For?
A quick visit to your local pet shop will introduce you to the range of catnip toys on sale. So what is Catnip used for? Generally, you will find small furry toys shaped like mice, and sewn inside along with the stuffing will be dried catnip. This is perhaps the easiest way to see how your cat reacts to the plant. You can grow your own, as it is relatively simple to grow. And you can also find that there are catnip sprays available as it can be used for cats who are fairly stressed or agitated. Catnip is not long-lasting. So, if you don’t like the way your cat reacts, you can take it away, and the effect should wear off within about 10 minutes to half an hour. You will also find that cats continually exposed to catnip begin to have a lessened reaction. Over time the plant itself does lose potency, so if you have toys around for many months, they will become less effective.