Table of Contents
- What is Catnip?
- Why Do Cats Like Catnip So Much?
- What Reaction Do Cats Have to Catnip?
- Do All Cats Love Catnip?
- What Happens When You Give Your Cat Too Much Catnip?
- Can Cats Become Addicted to Catnip?
- How Can You Give Your Cat Catnip?
- Reasons to Give Your Cat Catnip
- The History of Catnip
- How to Make Your Own Catnip Toys?
- Fun Facts
If you’ve ever witnessed the dramatic reaction of a cat being introduced to catnip, you will know our feline friends absolutely go nuts over anything that even faintly smells of catnip.
Watching a cat play with catnip is so amusing and funny. But everything should be enjoyed in moderation including catnip. So you might worry if your cat seems to be totally obsessed with its cute catnip toys.
The short answer is no, cats can’t overdose on catnip. They can get sick if they have too much of it, but it’s rare.
What is Catnip?
The scientific name for catnip is “nepeta cataria” and other names for it include catswort and catmint.
Catnip is an herb from the mint family.
The plant is native to southern and eastern Europe, the Middle East, Central Asia and some areas of China. It is also established in northern Europe, New Zealand and North America.
The catnip plant makes a chemical called “nepetalactone” in small bulbs that grown on the leaves, stems and seed pods. They explode and the nepetalactone is dispersed into the air.
The appearance of the plant is green with pointy leaves and thick stems that are covered in fuzzy hairs. At certain times of the year plants will bloom with white or purple flowers. It can grow amazingly fast up to a meter high.
Why Do Cats Like Catnip So Much?
All it takes is one little sniff.
When cats smell the catnip, they have a reaction that can be described as a “high”.
It makes them feel happy, excited, frisky and sometimes aggressive.
The reaction comes from the chemical nepetalactone. The reason many cats chew enthusiastically on catnip is to release more the the nepetalactone chemical into the air so they can get more of a high.
Pet professionals say catnip is a powerful stimulant and compare it to a drug.
They really can’t help themselves when they get a smell of the intoxicating aroma. If you have seen the enthusiastic outbursts at the sight of a catnip toy you will understand how strongly cats are attracted to catnip.
What Reaction Do Cats Have to Catnip?
When you give your fancy feline a catnip treat there are many reactions you might witness. The dramatic reaction usually goes on for 5 – 15 minutes before they settle down again. Here are some of the ways your cat might express it is happiness and excitement about getting a whiff of catnip.
- Increased energy levels
- Sniffing and licking
- Chewing and biting
- Rolling around on the ground in a frenzy
- Shaking it’s head from side to side
- Being affectionate and smoochy
- Rubbing its body on things
- Drooling and producing excessive saliva
- Jumping around and acting hypoactive
- Aggression or moodiness
Often a cat will take a snooze after all this catnip action and physical activity. They may like to have another catnip session later in the day or might not be interested until another day.
If cats eat catnip it can act as a sedative.
Do All Cats Love Catnip?
Cats are totally crazy for catnip. But not all cats respond to catnip in the same way. For some they get no reaction from it. Also young kittens sometimes don’t show any sign of enjoying catnip, but that can all change when they approach adulthood. The attraction to catnip is hereditary.
Fun fact: Big cats like tigers and lions have been exposed to catnip and displayed similar reactions to our little pet fur balls. A giant lion on a catnip buzz would be very interesting to see!
What Happens When You Give Your Cat Too Much Catnip?
The more catnip your cat gets, the more extreme the reaction will be.
But a cat won’t overdose or die from having too much catnip. Most cats will know when they have had enough and instinctively move onto another activity.
It is possible for your cat to get sick with diarrhea or an upset stomach or emotionally irritated if it is overexposed to catnip. If that happens put all the catnip away so your cat can’t touch any more. Give your cat a break from catnip for a while. When you do reintroduce your cat to it’s beloved catnip make sure you only give a little to start with.
While most cats will walk away when they have had enough, not all cats know when to stop. You can relate it to overeating. Most know when they have had enough, but some will overeat and suffer the consequences.
Can Cats Become Addicted to Catnip?
No, cats can’t get addicted to catnip so you don’t need to restrict the use or worry you are giving your cat a problem.
If you search catnip memes online, you will find a world of hilarious references to cats being addicted to catnip and going to extreme (and impossible) lengths to get their paws on some. It’s so funny to see a cat go for catnip in real life so no wonder the meme creators have seen an opportunity to create some humorous kitty comedy about cats and catnip.
How Can You Give Your Cat Catnip?
The most common way to give your cat catnip is with a toy.
On the market you can find many catnip products including balls, springs, interactive toys, and stuffed toys. You can also buy blankets, scratching posts and pillows scented with the alluring smell of catnip. You will find these products online, at your supermarket, pet store or local veterinarian.
Keep the catnip toys and products safely concealed in a place your cat can’t get to. If you put the toys in a sealed bag the enchanting aroma won’t lure them.
If you have a green finger you can even grow your own catnip plants at home. The best place to grow the herb is inside where there is plenty of sun and natural light. You can put your catnip with other plants if you are already growing some herbs for your own cooking or other uses. If you grow more than you need it freezes well.
Just make sure you keep the catnip plants out of reach from your kitty cat because it would surely devour the plant if given the chance.
You can also give your cat fresh or dried catnip or buy oil or spray so you can add a few drops to bedding or other items kitty plays with.
Don’t put catnip in your pet’s food unless you want to sedate your cat.
Reasons to Give Your Cat Catnip
One of the most common reasons cat owners let their cats indulge in catnip is knowing they enjoy it and for the entertainment. It really is funny to watch a cat go crazy during a catnip session. So for pleasure you can say.
But it can be useful to train, encourage or sedate your precious cat.
If you want your cat to use a scratching post instead of sharpening it’s claws on your furniture you can put catnip on the scratching post. That will speed up the learning process.
You can also add some catnip to your cat’s bedding to train them to know it is the right place to sleep.
If you are taking the dreaded trip to the vet you cat might be unwilling to get in the cat carrier. Cats are smart and will quickly associate the cat box with an unpleasant or painful experience. Some cats will make a mad dash just at the sight of a cat carrier. Adding a sprinkle of catnip inside the cat carrier might help tempt your cat to enter without a struggle.
If you are taking a flight, especially a long-haul flight if you are moving across country or overseas, some catnip in the cat food might be a safe and natural way to sedate your cat. Talk to your veterinarian who will be able to advise if catnip, medicine or no sedation at all will be best for your cat.
Travel can cause your cat to be stressed out and tense. Also with comfort, love and reassurance some catnip might also help. If you do use catnip to sedate your cat for traveling make sure you do a test run at home to see how much catnip your kitty needs to drift off into a dreamy, sleep state. This will help your cat reduce its stress and anxiety levels when you travel. It can also lessen the chance of your cat getting motion sickness in the vehicle or airplane.
Traveling with pets can also cause stress for the pet owner. Take it easy and remember cats have strong survival instincts and experience things much more difficult and stressful out in the wild. They won’t love traveling but they will be just fine.
Here are some more natural remedies for settling down cats during travel in case catnip doesn’t work well on your fur ball friend.
- Flower essences that don’t contain alcohol
- Hops in dried flower form
- Valerian (a herb that has been compared to catnip for the affect it has on cats
Some veterinarian clinics, animal shelters and animal care givers use catnip as a soothing, non-toxic aid to calm cats down and put them into a happy state when they might be scared, stressed or frightened.
The History of Catnip
It is believed that the Ancient Egyptians, who kept domestic cats, were the first to discover the uses of catnip. Then the Romans are thought to have used catnip for medicinal reasons before it was recorded as being used in the Middle Ages then introduced to the USA around the 18th century.
So catnip was discovered a long time ago and used consistently for its mood enhancing and medicinal properties. Since it’s easy to grow and abundant in many parts of the world we are sure it will be used for many centuries to come.
How to Make Your Own Catnip Toys?
Get your DIY juices flowing and make your own catnip toys.
Just take some fresh or dried catnip and put it inside an old sock and knot the sock. Add the second sock over the top and tie it at the top. Attach some string or stretch fabric and drag your homemade toy in front of your cats nose. It won’t take long to get an excited reaction.
If you cat loves your creation it probably won’t last long. Pet toys never seem to have a long life even if they are quality products. The reason is pets use their toys so much and with much energy.
You can make more fancy catnip toys if you enjoyed making the sock catnip toy. But some colorful felt and cut out shapes (fish and stars are easy to start with). Use a marker pet to draw on features and don’t forget to put the magic ingredient inside – the catnip! These also make thoughtful gifts for friends who own cats.
For humans catnip doesn’t cause the same frenzied reaction as it does for cats. But many claim catnip tea is rather delicious.
So, if you really wanted a (tea) party with your pet you could indulge in some catnip together. The term crazy cat lady springs to mind at the thought of someone sipping catnip tea while their pet cat rolls around deliriously at their feet.
If you are inspired here is the recipe for the woodsy-tasting brew.
- Mix two teaspoons of dried catnip leaves or flowers with a single cup of boiling water
- Add a dash of lemon juice and honey to sweeten the tea
- Stir the tea and let cool down for several minutes
So now you know all about what catnip is, why cats like it and even how to grow your own supply of catnip so your cat never runs out of its favorite indulgence.
I hope you enjoyed this catnip article as much as your cat enjoys it’s catnip sessions!