Everyone knows that cats love catnip, but what’s really going on when your cat starts “rolling”?
Catnip is a member of the mint family. The stem and leaves contain nepetalactone, an oily substance that seems to emulate feline pheromones.
Nepetalactone acts as a stimulant when your cat sniffs it, and they may react by rolling around, drooling, meowing, purring, and running around. It’s been likened to the effects of marijuana or LSD on humans. Your cat may also chew on the dried or fresh plant. When eaten, it acts as a depressant, causing your cat to “mellow out.”
You can rub catnip on a new scratching post to train your cat to use it instead of scratching the furniture. You can also put it in your cat’s new bed to encourage them to start using it.
There’s many ways for your cat to enjoy catnip. It can be fresh or dried. Your cat can even sip on their very own cat wine, a beverage infused with catnip, adorably packaged in a miniature wine bottle and labeled “Pinot Meow.”
Many cat toys are embedded with dried catnip, though they will lose their potency after a while. You can rip open the seams, insert more catnip, and sew the toy back up to freshen it up.
Catnip may even have beneficial uses for humans. Some people brew and drink it to relieve headaches and insomnia and to elicit menstruation. It’s safe to drink, though the pharmaceutical benefits have not been widely studied. Humans cannot get “high” off of catnip, nor can dogs.
Is Catnip Safe?
There are no negative side effects that cats can get from catnip. After five to fifteen minutes, they typically lose interest, and may return to it after a few hours. Catnip toys tend to lose their aroma after a few weeks. You can purchase dried catnip in bulk, or grow it in small planter in your home.
It is also safe for your cat to eat catnip, and you can even use it to make homemade cat treats. The sedative nature of catnip when ingested makes it a great choice for preparing your cat for a potentially stressful event like a trip to the veterinarian.
Catnip is non-addictive and your cat cannot overdose on it. However, they could suffer from mild digestive upset if they eat too much. Their reaction is typically more pronounced if you only allow your cat to have it every few weeks.
Why Doesn’t Catnip Work on My Cat?
Catnip sensitivity is genetic. Only approximately 50 percent of cats inherit the gene that causes them to react to it. Big cats like lions and tigers sometimes carry the gene, and love to roll around in it – they are, after all, giant kitties.
Young kittens do not develop catnip sensitivity until about six months of age. So, if your cat is very young, you may simply need to try again in a few months.