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Catnip is well-known, but not everyone is aware of the science behind how it influences a cat’s attitude and behavior. This article will explain what does catnip do to cats and whether there is such a thing as too much catnip for a cat among many other questions.

What Exactly Is Catnip?

Catnip, also known as Nepeta cataria, is a common plant that belongs to the mint family.

It’s a shrub with feathery, light-green leaves and lavender blooms that’s easy to cultivate in North America.

Catnip blossoms are claimed to alleviate coughs and the leaves have been used to create tea. It’s also a key component in certain natural insect repellents.

What Does Catnip Do to Cats?

Cats get high on catnip via breathing nepetalactone, which may be found in a live plant, dried plant material, or oil extract. The substance binds to receptors in a cat’s nose, stimulating sensory neurons that lead to the brain.

This appears to affect activity in amygdala, the olfactory bulb, and the hypothalamus, among other parts of the brain. This final section is crucial in controlling the animal’s emotions, among other things.

Experiments have ruled out the possibility that the chemical also induced a reaction in the vomeronasal organ, an additional olfactory organ found deep in the nose of many animals that is involved in detecting pheromones.

However, it’s possible that when nepetalactone binds to nasal receptors, it takes on the structure of pheromones.

In most cats, nepetalactone causes a strong, inebriated response, regardless of the underlying cause.

If you put catnip on a scratching board, a cat will come over and sniff it, then rub their face, slobber, and roll in it.

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They appear to be in a state of exhilaration while accomplishing all of this, followed by tranquility. When they’ve stopped reacting and are just sitting there, it’s as if they’ve been buzzing for a while.  They sit there in a daze for approximately 30 minutes later, presumably impervious to further catnip effects.

Nepetalactone isn’t the only substance that causes cats to react in this way. Actinidine and iridomyrmecin, both naturally occurring in plants, have similar effects on cats.

While this reaction appears to be like the frenetic, uncontrolled high a human could experience after taking a powerful drug, it’s not quite the same. 

Catnip provides a consistent, distinct reaction. When a cat scents anything, it will almost always perform the same thing.  

Another distinction between catnip and the medicines used by people is that not all cats are affected by it.

Around 60 percent of felines are thought to be affected, and the condition is handed down genetically. Many wild cats, such as lions and tigers, are also vulnerable to catnip.

How Long Does Catnip Last?

Catnip’s effects on your cat will only last 5 to 30 minutes. This is all dependent on your individual cat since studies suggest that the herb affects just two-thirds of adult felines.

It’s an inherited sensitivity that doesn’t show up right away.  Instead, because newborn kittens are not impacted, it will take a few months. 

What Are the Advantages of Catnip?

If you have an indoor-only cat, you’re undoubtedly concerned about under-stimulating them. After all, you can’t always be there to play with them when they’re awake.

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According to studies, cats, like other animals, require mental and physical stimulation to be happy, and an enjoyable experience such as smelling or eating catnip might be part of that stimulation.

If your cat isn’t getting enough stimulation, he or she may become aggressive, unhappy, or worried. 

Just be careful not to overdose your cat on catnip, as it can cause dizziness or vomiting. Once a week, a little at a time, is fine.

Fresh catnip is more strong than dried, and catnip sprays can be sprayed on a favorite toy or scratching post if your cat has an upset stomach after eating it.

Is Catnip Safe for Kittens?

Catnip may not be recognized by kittens and young cats until they reach adulthood, according to a study.  Catnip may be undesirable to some kittens until they reach maturity.

There’s no need to give catnip at such a young age because kittens are already quite active and can readily busy themselves.

Is Catnip Harmful to Cats?

Cats, as far as we know, cannot overdose on catnip, but they can become ill if they consume too much of it.  Even though many cats appear to like catnip, many cat owners have discovered that it causes serious problems such as vomiting and diarrhea.

Catnip can create such a surge in the excitement in some cats that they become violent against their owners or other cats in the house.

Is Catnip Effective for All Cats?

The active ingredient in catnip does not affect all cats. According to veterinary research, roughly 60% of cats will exhibit a behavioral reaction to catnip. If your cat isn’t interested in catnip, try silver vine.

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There’s also evidence that a cat’s sensitivity to catnip is a genetically determined dominant feature.

Is Catnip Safe for Cats to Eat? Is it secure?

Catnip may be consumed by cats, and it may even be beneficial to their digestive system.

The antidiarrheal effects of the catnip herb have been employed in humans. With that stated, it’s crucial to keep your cat from swallowing excessive quantities of catnip, since this might create stomach problems.

Catnip: How to Use It

Catnip comes in a variety of forms:

  • The catnip that has been freshly harvested (growing your own catnip plant)
  • The catnip that has been dried
  • Catnip bubbles or catnip spray
  • Toys with dried catnip

For cats that suffer an upset stomach from consuming catnip, sprays are a wonderful solution.

You can spray on a cat tree, cat toys, or on a scratching pad. You may also wrap a toy in dried catnip or sprinkle it on a cat tree, etc.

Sources: 1, 2

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