Cats and Catnip

Catnip for Cats

If you are a cat lover, at one time or another you have probably given catnip to your feline. If your cat is like most, he or she probably began rolling around in ecstasy. Cats also enjoy rubbing their faces against it, and drooling everywhere. Some cats act hyperactive, running around like crazy. Others can become quite aggressive, if you approach their precious herb! After they react in this manner for about 10 minutes, you can expect a cat to chill out for a while. After this, the cat becomes immune to catnip for about 30 minutes.

What Exactly Is Catnip?

A member of the mint family, catnip contains volatile oils, sterols, acids and tannins. The element in catnip that cats are attracted to is called nepetalactone. When this oil enters the cat’s nasal tissue, it binds to protein receptors which stimulate sensory neurons in the cat’s brain. According to Scientific American, the cat’s hypothalamus is stimulated, which creates a sexual response. In short, the cat is essentially reacting to an artificial cat pheromone.

Smelling vs. Eating Catnip

For cats, the strongest reaction is felt just from smelling the catnip. Researchers suspect that catnip has the ability to create feelings of happiness in the cat’s brain. However, when catnip is ingested, a calming effect may be experienced.

Not for All Cats

Not every cat becomes interested in catnip. According to the Humane Society of the United States, about 50% of cats don’t respond to catnip. It is an inherited sensitivity. Interestingly enough, it is not just kitties that respond to catnip. Lions, tigers and panthers respond to it as well.

Catnip and Humans

Although humans do not experience a high from catnip like cats do, catnip is commonly used in herbal medicine. If you make tea out of it, you can use it as a calming sedative, similar to chamomile. Some herbalists use catnip to lessen migraine headaches, relieve cramps, gas, indigestion, insomnia, nervousness and anorexia.

Using Catnip for Training

Most cats will respond to catnip again and again. This makes catnip a useful item in training your cat. For example, if you want to make a scratching post more appealing, rub it with catnip. You can also sprinkle a little of it on your cat’s cozy bed to make it more appealing to your feline friend.

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