As most summer gardens are now in full bloom, so too is catnip, that all-too tempting plant cats just can’t get enough of. If you’ve ever had a pet cat, you’ve probably given them catnip, at one point or another, and watched them roll around and play in it in pure bliss.
Cats absolutely love catnip! They go crazy for it, rubbing their faces against it and drooling. The funny thing is, all cats react differently. Some get really hyper and run around in circles while others get really calm, quiet and, maybe, even aggressive if you try to take their precious herb away. However your pet reacts, you can expect them to have a quick burst in energy, for anywhere from 5 – 15 minutes, then mellow out for a good while.
So, what exactly is catnip? Well, catnip is a plant in the mint family. It contains volatile oils, acids, tannins and sterols, but the key element that cats love is nepetalactone. Once a cat has its scent, the oils enter their nasal tissue binding to protein receptors. These receptors are what stimulate your pet’s sensory neurons in the brain that make them react in the same way that they would to the scent of feline pheromones. Thus, your cat goes wild!
Here’s what you might not have known about this alluring plant:
- Not all cats will respond to catnip. Only about 50% of cats will actually respond to catnip. Their attraction to the plant is an acquired taste that some simply won’t develop. Interestingly enough, house cats aren’t the only animals in the feline family that respond to catnip. Big cats like lions, tigers and panthers are also attracted to the plant.
- Cats have different reactions when the smell catnip vs. when they eat it. The strongest reactions come from just smelling the plant. The smell alone creates euphoric feelings and hyperactivity. However, when cats ingest catnip, it often has the opposite effect, creating a more calming experience.
- Catnip can be used to train cats. Most cats have an intense response to the plant. You can use this to your advantage when training your cat. For example, you might spray or sprinkle some on your pet’s bed or scratching post to make them more appealing rather than your furniture.
- Humans can ingest catnip, too. Though we don’t experience the same high as our pets do, you might be surprised to know that catnip is actually used in a lot of herbal medicines. It’s used to make calming teas, like chamomile, and as a means to relieve cramps, indigestion, insomnia, anxiety and even migraines.