As the one leisure drug for cats, catnip (nepeta cataria) is a uniquely stimulating plant that’s nearly as puzzling as cats themselves.

Between 67% and 80% of the grownup feline inhabitants is delicate to catnip.

Sensitive cats react to catnip by going a bit loopy—rolling round on the ground, licking up as a lot ‘nip as they will, rubbing their heads within the catnip, and frisking across the room. Some cats begin drooling. Others get agitated and violent.

Both small and massive cats react to catnip. Lions, tigers, leopards, and different large cats exhibit all the identical reactions to the herb. But whereas the expertise is widespread amongst all kinds of cats, they’re the one animals that get this a lot buzz out of catnip.

For the remainder of us, it’s something between a repellent and a gentle sedative. Brewed right into a tea, smoked, or combined into treats, catnip and catmint are soothing to people, canines, and different animals. And should you’re not excited by stimulated cats or chilled-out people, you may like understanding that the energetic compound in catnip is a mosquito repellent extra highly effective than DEET.

Whether you’re watching a cat in the course of a catnip excessive or learning the secrets and techniques hidden inside the ‘nip itself, the dynamic between the plant and the feline is a continuing supply of fascination.

In this text, we’ll dig deeper into the mysterious methods of catnip, discovering what it’s, the way it impacts cats, and how one can get began with catnip your self.

How Does Catnip Work?

To perceive how catnip impacts your cat, we have now to take a better take a look at two issues—what catnip consists of and what makes your cat tick.

When you take a look at a catnip plant, your first impression is of a weedy inexperienced perennial herb, typically topped with a bundle of white or lavender blossoms. Branching off the stalk are serrated leaves that seem like softer, dustier sprigs of lemon balm.

The plant is a member of the mint household (Lamiaceae) and is well mistaken for lemon balm, catmint, and peppermint.

The catnip plant resembles different members of the mint household, bearing pointed, serrated leaves and white or lavender blossoms.

What makes it completely different from these crops is one thing you possibly can’t see—a chemical compound known as nepetalactone.

Secreted in fragile microscopic bulbs coating the plant’s leaves, stems, and seed pods, nepetalactone constitutes between 70% and 99% of the important oil in catnip.

When these tiny bulbs rupture, nepetalactone molecules float off of the catnip plant and get inside your cat’s nostril. From there, they bind to protein receptors, which stimulate sensory neurons that attain out to different neurons situated within the olfactory bulb. The olfactory bulb is a nervous construction in your cat’s mind that acts as a processing heart for smells.

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The olfactory bulb initiatives this odor data to a number of areas of the mind, together with the 2 neuronal clusters known as the amygdala. This gland controls behavioral responses to stimuli. In different phrases, the amygdala will get the message that it’s time to rev up the emotional response and get the physique shifting.

Meanwhile, the olfactory gland additionally initiatives to the hypothalamus or “master gland” of the mind, which controls nearly every thing within the physique. It seems that the hypothalamus interprets the nepetalactone of catnip as one thing similar to feline sexual pheromones, regulating the response by means of the pituitary gland and triggering a behavioral response.

What Does Catnip Do To Cats?

Regardless of intercourse, affected cats begin performing loads like females in warmth—with a twist.

You’ll discover estrus-esque behaviors like rolling round on the ground, frenzied cheek rubbing, purring, and vocalizing. In addition to those behaviors, cats change into usually excitable, chasing invisible mice, and frisking round the home.

The impact lasts for 5-Quarter-hour after which it fades away, leaving your cat catnipped-out for as much as two hours. During that point, cats lose their sensitivity to catnip and want a while for the immunity to put on off.

So, since it seems that catnip causes one thing of an emotional response just like these created by feline pheromones, is it some form of plant-derived pseudo-pheromone?

Not Quite.

Unlike pheromones, the unstable oils in catnip solely have an effect on cats by means of the nostril. Cats don’t decide up nepetalactone with their Jacobson’s organ—also referred to as the vomeronasal organ—situated on the roof of their mouth. It’s a nose-driven expertise.

Though cats usually eat catnip after they’re in the course of excessive, ingested catnip doesn’t have the identical impact. When cats eat catnip, they expertise it roughly the identical method we do after we eat it or brew it right into a tea—they might really feel a gentle sedative impact.

We can’t say precisely what cats are experiencing after they scent catnip. In the scientific group, there’s no consensus on precisely why catnip impacts cats.

Is Catnip Safe?

For all of its euphoric results, it’s about as wholesome as a drug might be. Catnip is protected, inconceivable to overdose, and non-addictive. Cats of all ages can attempt it, however solely grownup cats have the wiring to expertise a excessive. Most cats develop their curiosity in catnip across the time they attain sexual maturity (6 to eight months previous).

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Alternatives To Catnip For Cats

What in case your cat is without doubt one of the roughly 1/3 of the feline inhabitants who doesn’t react to catnip? You have just a few options. While silvervine is probably the most promising catnip different, you too can attempt valerian root, Tartarian honeysuckle, and different types of catmint.


Though catnip will get extra press, silvervine—also referred to as matatabi—is a potent different. This native of China and Japan is a species of kiwifruit from the Actinidiaceae household.

Instead of nepetalactone, silvervine accommodates excessive concentrations of a chemical known as actinidine. Actinidine triggers a response just like nepetalactone, however it seems to have an effect on a bigger share of cats. According to a research printed in BMC Veterinary Research, nearly 80% of cats in a 100-cat group reacted to silvervine, together with 75% of the cats who didn’t get something out of catnip.

Silvervine additionally causes an extended excessive. While catnip wears off after 5-Quarter-hour, a silvervine frenzy can final for as much as half-hour.

Like catnip, silvervine is protected for cats and the enjoyable comes side-effect-free. If your cat is a part of the inhabitants that doesn’t get something out of a dose of catnip, take into consideration making an attempt silvervine as an alternative.

Valerian Root

Valerian root is a flowering perennial maybe finest identified for its soothing properties. It’s additionally reasonably stimulating for cats, triggering a response in about 47% of cats. And simply as valerian might help to alleviate insomnia and nervousness in individuals, this plant might help kitties to loosen up as soon as the excessive involves an finish.

Tatarian Honeysuckle 

Tatarian honeysuckle is a flowering shrub that, like catnip, accommodates the monoterpenoid nepetalactone. Its wooden triggers catnip-like reactions in about 50% of cats. While even catnip-sensitive cats don’t begin reacting to the plant till they’re about 6 months previous, it seems that cats of all ages can get a buzz out of this honeysuckle species.

Other Types of Catmint

Of the Nepeta species, nepeta cataria has the best focus of nepetalactone and probably the most highly effective results, however catmint varieties like Blue Wonder, Persian, and Faassen’s catmint can even set off a response.

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How To Give Your Cat Catnip

Catnip is out there in quite a lot of codecs, together with dried catnip, catnip-stuffed toys, and catnip sprays.

Giving your cat catnip is easy. If you’re utilizing catnip leaves or a toy, pinch and therapeutic massage it earlier than giving it to your cat. This helps to heat issues up, burst the floor bulbs, and launch the catnip’s unstable oils. If you’re utilizing a twig, no preparation is important. Just spritz it in your chosen space.

Catnip lasts longest if saved in an air-tight container in a darkish, cool space. If you might have freezer house and wish to maximize the longevity of your catnip, place your sealed containers of catnip within the freezer and thaw them out while you’re prepared for some enjoyable.

Here Are A Few Of The Types Of Catnip You Can Give Your Cat.

Catnip is all the time the identical herb, however it is available in just a few codecs. Here are just a few of the choices out there.

Dried Catnip

You can even purchase dried catnip nearly anyplace you should buy cat meals. Potency varies from product to product, with lower-quality catnip merchandise containing an excessive amount of stem and never sufficient bud.

Catnip Toys

Catnip toys are additionally out there, giving your cat one thing to kick, drool on, and bat round whereas he’s buzzing.

Click Here For A List Of The Best Cat Toys On The Market

Catnip Spray

You can even use catnip sprays, that are a much less messy different to catnip leaves scattered on the ground. Catnip spray is beneficial for refreshing catnip toys and might help to get your cat fascinated by new furnishings like scratching posts, beds, and timber.

Growing Catnip At Home

If you want the thought of a recent plant, take into consideration rising catnip in your house backyard. It’s a perennial plant that’s hardy and straightforward to develop in a spread of climates. Pick and dry the catnip as wanted. Though cats react to each recent and dry catnip, dehydrated catnip is stronger and simpler to retailer for the long-term.

Ultimately, Catnip Remains A Mystery.

While we will go into extra depth on how the compounds in catnip work together together with your cat’s mind, we will’t reply precisely why one species—catnip—has such an intense impact on so many members of one other species.  It’s a thriller as intriguing and enchanting as our cats themselves.


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