Catnip – Uses & Benefits for Cats
Cat owners might already be familiar with catnip and the funny amazing reaction their cat has when exposed to it. There are numerous amusing videos on YouTube of cats playing and acting crazy after they sniffed or ate it. But what is Catnip and how does it work? What are its benefits and is it safe?
What is catnip?
Catnip (Scientific name: Nepeta Cataria) is a perennial herb from the mint family. It has heart shaped leaves and can grow up to 3ft high! This herb originated in Northern Africa and the Mediterranean but now commonly grows wild in Europe and North America. It is very common to find in the cat’s section in pet shops in the form of as an essential oil in a spray bottle, or as a dried herb. It is also commonly found incorporated in numerous cat toys.
How does catnip work?
The active compound in catnip is nepetalactone. When a cat eats this herb it acts as a sedative, but when a cat smells it it acts as a stimulant. Some cats get very playful while some cats mellow out. Only around 50-75% of cats inherit this sensitivity gene to this herb. So do not be sad if your cat does not respond to it. It is not its fault! Also keep in mind that kittens do not respond to catnip until they are several months old and have reached sexual maturity.
Is it safe?
Catnip is safe for cats and is non-addictive. The effect on cats lasts for 5-15 minutes after which they will become insensitive to it for about a couple of hours. If they eat a lot, they might vomit or have mild diarrhoea, but will return to normal given some time. Some say that exposing cats to catnip frequently might make them insensitive to it. In any case, moderation is always best and safest.
What are the benefits?
Using catnip to entice your cat to play is a great way to bond with your pet, especially if you happen to have a very shy or inactive cat. It is also a great form of amusement for both yourself and your cat. However it has other beneficial uses beyond just entertaining your kitty. It can be used as a training tool to encourage your pet to use a new scratch post or an expensive cosy bed that your cat cannot seem to get used to. It can also help to entice a lazy house-cat to get some much needed exercise!
Research suggests that catnip in essential oil form is effective as an insect repellent against mosquitoes, flies, cockroaches and termites. It is said to be 10 times more powerful then Deet, although it is not as effective as a repellent when applied on the skin. Catnip also has known benefits for us humans (although not advised for pregnant women). It can often be found as a calming tea to help nausea and headaches.
Considering the above benefits, you should definitely try to discover whether your cat can also benefit from this herb. And if you are a garden enthusiast you can easily grow it in our Mediterranean climate! Cats love fresh catnip and the plant will decorate your house or garden with pretty white, blue, pink or lavender flowers when in bloom!
Let us know if your cat loves it and feel free to send us any funny pictures of your cat playing with catnip! We would be glad to hear whether you also have any other anecdotes or special uses for this herb.