Dr. Joyce Ashamalla
Dr. Joyce Ashamalla is the managing partner at Hinsdale Animal Hospital with Kremer Veterinary Service, as well as a partner at CARE Animal Emergency Hospital. She received her BS in Animal Sciences from the University of Illinois- Champaign Urbana, where she also completed her Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine in 2007. She is AO certified, USDA-APHIS accredited, and is a member of the CVMA, ISVMA, AVMA.
We’ve all done it. There’s few things more entertaining than giving your kitty some catnip and waiting for the hilarity to ensue. The affect this mysterious substance has on most of our feline friends is indeed fascinating. In this blog, we will explore the world of catnip for cats to learn the facts and dispel some myths.
What Is Catnip For Cats Anyway?
Catnip is actually the nickname of the plant, Nepeta cataria which is a perennial herb that is a part of the mint family. The oil in the plant that has such a profound affect on some cats is called nepetalactone. Catnip can be consumed by cats in variety of ways including ground up, fresh (whole leaves) or inside of a toy or pouch.
What Is Catnip For Cats Like?
We humans look at the amazing affect catnip has on our pets and wonder what catnip is like for cats. Believe it or not, catnip doesn’t do its magic on all cats. In fact, it has no affect on about half of the cats that are exposed to it and reaction sensitivity is hereditary. But for those that do fall prey, the impact can be great. When catnip is sniffed by a cat, it tends to act as a stimulant and produces a "high". Many cats will resort to flipping around, rolling over and acting just plain goofy.
When cats actually eat the plant, they react quite the opposite way, tending to behave like they are sedated. Both these varied reactions (one way or the other) usually only last about 10-20 minutes before kitty returns to normal.
Is Catnip Good Or Bad For Cats?
Because of the crazy affect it has, people ask if catnip is good or bad for cats? There is no evidence that catnip for cats is bad, but with some kitties, being exposed to too much of it might bring on intestinal distress, such as diarrhea or vomiting. This happens rarely but it can occur. There are some benefits of catnip for cats that suffer from anxiety or behavioral issues. Catnip can actually be very calming. If your cat does have anxiety or other forms of behavior issues, your vet can suggest alternative remedies in addition to catnip. Vets and other professionals do say that exposing your cat to too much catnip can eventually cause the affect it has on them to diminish.
Other Catnip Fun Facts
The mint plant that catnip comes from doesn’t just have a sometimes sedating effect on cats. Humans for centuries have turned to catnip to grind up into tea as it has been used for its calming properties. Even though there are benefits of catnip for cats, it will lose its potency over time. So it’s best to keep a fresh supply on hand. In addition, after the 10-15 minutes of catnip induced goofiness is over, it can take some cats up to two hours to "reset" before catnip will work on them again. Sometimes people will ask if catnip is safe for nursing cats. Catnip will not harm the new kittens or the mother. Since the affect from catnip is hereditary, the reaction to the minty oil on kittens will be all based on their luck in the genetic lottery.
So is it safe for cats to eat catnip? Yes! Catnip is a safe and entertaining way to have fun with our feline friends and it’s much less expensive than a ticket to the movies.