Catnip Effects on Cats
Catnip is something that we’ve all heard of but know very little about. Catnip is actually the name for an herb of the mint family. This herb was not a local one and was imported from Europe where it grew traditionally. Catnip oil isolated through steam distillation has been found to work as an effective insect repellent.
Catnip can produce pretty strange reactions in most cats, and pet owners are often baffled by the seemingly inexplicable changes in behavior. Catnip effects on cats may vary wildly however, with some displaying almost no reaction, while others can act completely berserk. In cats that do react to catnip it can be quite a sight. The cat will rub against it almost affectionately, loll about with it, kick at it, and all in all go quit nuts. This reaction lasts for several minutes, after which the cat loses interest. The cat then wanders off and in all probability may return and react in the same manner after a couple of hours.
So why do cats like catnip? We don’t really know what goes on in that cat brain, but what is known is that a chemical present in catnip called nepetalactone is what triggers the response. In most cats that are sensitive to the chemical it seems to set in motion a somewhat stereotypical pattern. This reaction and sensitivity is hereditary, and some cats may simply not respond to it. This behavior may even be observed in big cats like tigers. This reaction does not last for more than a few minutes but it would be at least an hour before the cat returns to normalcy. Of course the cycle can then begin all over again. Catnip does not seem to produce much reaction in older cats and very young kittens however.
Although catnip produces a strangely euphoric reaction in cats almost akin to what we would experience from certain recreational drugs, catnip is not a drug. This similarity is what worries many cat owners but you really don’t need to be concerned. It is completely safe to give to your cat provided you don’t over feed it. The only reaction known from over eating catnip would be diarrhea, or cat vomiting, both of which are quite rare. The best solution would be to simply give your cat the occasional catnip puffs as treats from time to time. Catnip is completely nontoxic to cats, and if you wish to you can even grow it at home.