Cats and Catnip: How does it work?

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From Tabby Cats to Bengal Tigers, cats can’t get enough of Catnip, but lots of us are not really sure why. In this blog you will learn everything you need to know about catnip.

What is Catnip?

‘Nepeta Cataria’, more commonly known as ‘Catnip’ is a herb that belongs to the mint family.  Cats are attracted to and stimulated by its active ingredient / chemical called ‘Nepetalactone’. This chemical is produced in the plant’s stem, leaves, and seedpods. You will most likely see cats bite, scratch, lick and rub against the plant to release more of this.

Why is your cat attracted to Catnip? 

Your Cat’s response to Catnip is produced through their olfactory (smell) system.

As the active chemical enters their nose, it binds to sensory receptors within the nasal cavity, which activates different areas of the brain that control mood, emotions, and behaviour.

However, it doesn’t just work through your cat’s nose; cats have an additional scent organ in the roof of their mouths, called the ‘vomeronasal gland’. This triggers a response when Catnip is ingested / eaten.

Is your cat sensitive to Catnip?

Did you know that your cat’s sensitivity to Catnip is Genetic? A cat inherits their sensitivity to Catnip from their parents; however, it has been found that 1 in 3 cats do not inherit this gene.

Their sensitivity to Catnip can grow over time with increased exposure. This is demonstrated in kittens as they only develop their ability to react to catnip develops after 3-6 months. This is true until a certain age and as cats get older, they become more immune.

What does catnip do to cats?

Catnip will affect your cat for around 10-15 minutes, after this period they become immune to catnip for 30 minutes to a few hours.

Most common reactions include:

  • Sniffing
  • Licking
  • Eating
  • Rolling
  • Rubbing cheeks
  • Jumping
  • Stretching
  • Drooling
  • Hyperactivity
  • Whereas some cats have the adverse effect as they become calm and sleepy

More catnip your cat ingests the bigger the reaction will be.

Is Catnip safe?

As catnip is non-toxic, it is impossible to overdose, although too much can cause an upset stomach, vomiting, diarrhoea, and dizziness. This is highly unlikely as cats naturally refuse catnip when they have had enough.

How to use Catnip

Introducing Catnip into your cat’s life is an easy and effective way to promote positive behaviour. It can be used in treats or around your home to reduce anxiety, encourage adventurous play and prevent destructive behaviour.

Veterinarians estimate that they treat 20-25% of their feline patients for symptoms of anxiety. Therefore, most vets recommend using catnip to relieve stress, especially in situations where they’re alone for extended periods of time. You could add Catnip into toys, use catnip treats or place small amounts around your home. This can also help when introducing your cat to a new environment!

By rubbing a scratching post with Catnip, it can create a positive association which can prevent your cat from destroying your lovely furniture.

We have recently launched our Premium American Catnip, helping to reduce stress and anxiety in your cat. Why not give it a try and let us know how your cat reacts!

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