If you’ve ever watched as a cat “flipped” over fresh catnip perhaps you’ve been struck with the question; “what causes Catnip to affect cats that way?” Catnip is indeed an unusual phenomenon among cats, it has the ability to alter your cat’s behavior like nothing else can. So what exactly is the reason for what scientists have coined as “the Catnip effect”?
Unfortunately for such inquisitive minds the exact reason of why Catnip affects cats in such a manner remains mostly a mystery. There is however much that we do know about Catnip and cats even if we don’t have the ultimate answer of exactly “why?” yet answered.
The Science Stuff
Catnip is scientifically classified as Nepeta cataria and is a perennial herb from the mint family and is in fact also referred to as “Catmint”. It is a plant indigenous to maine coon cats for sale Europe but has been exported and is now found all over including the United States and Canada.
The active ingredient in Catnip is an oil; Nepetalactone, which is found in the leaves of the plant. This is the reason you are able to find Catnip in a bottle or spray form in some pet stores.
Other Uses For Catnip
Catnip is not only good to stimulate activity in cats, it can also be used by humans as an herb for a medicinal tea which may soothe toothaches, help against coughs, and may also perform as a sleep aid. Furthermore, Catnip can be used as an herb on salads or other foods as has been the case for centuries in France. Lately Catnip has also been garnering favor as a natural insect repellant rivaling the effectiveness of many store bought varieties of repellant.
Catnip and Kitty
Catnip affects approximately half of all cats. What determines whether or not a cat will react to Catnip is a genome that is inherited (or not inherited as the case may be) at birth. Kittens, regardless of whether or not they carry this genome, do not react to Catnip until reaching about 3 or 4 months of age and becoming sexually mature. Older cats are also more likely to have a diminished or non-existing reaction to Catnip, which leads scientists to believe that the Catnip effect is based at least partially on sexuality and that the reaction may be something like an aphrodisiac. Further adding to this belief is the similarity of a sexual pheromone found in the urine of the male cat to nepetalactone (the active product in Catnip).
Cats that can be traced to regions where Catnip is not indigenous appear to be unaffected by Catnip. The domesticated housecat is not the only cat that may be affected by Catnip. Larger cats can also be affected by the Catnip effect, felines such as the bobcat, lynx, tiger and even lion are known to react much the same way the common housecat would. It is interesting to note that while Catnip can act as a stimulant when a cat sniffs it, it can conversely act as a relaxant if ingested. Therefore, you may see a different, nearly opposite result depending on whether your cat chooses to eat the Catnip you provide for him/her or merely sniffs it (the latter being the more typical behavior).
How to Use Catnip With Your Cat
Catnip can prove to be a very useful tool for a few common problems with your cat. If you are lucky enough to have a cat that does react favorably to Catnip then here are a couple of ideas for you and your furry little friend.
Catnip and Lazy Cats:
Catnip can be used to get a lazy cat off his or her butt. Some cats are notoriously lazy, choosing to sleep much of their day away in a nice golden patch of sunlight on the living room carpet, only waking up to eat and gather some necessary attention from their indulgent owners. If this sounds like your cat, you may soon see (if you haven’t already) that your cat is becoming more and more round. This is generally not a good thing. Catnip may be able to help. Presenting catnip to your cat encourages activity (of course provided the cat sniffs rather than eats the herb).
Many adult cats will respond to Catnip in a manner that resembles their childlike kitten hyperactivity, jumping, playing and running around as if it was given an injection of kitty adrenaline, which in essence, is the case. The effect of Catnip on a cat can last somewhere between two and fifteen minutes. If the latter is the case, then this is a decent amount of exercise and will help keep your cat a little more svelte than without a Catnip treatment. Furthermore, if you leave the Catnip out for a few hours then your cat may return to the herb later (an hour or two after the effect has worn off) and again react in an energetic fashion. So in this sense you may consider Catnip sort of like a kitty energy drink.
Catnip and Cats That Scratch Furniture:
If you have a cat that seems bent on the destruction of your furniture then Catnip may again be able to come to the rescue. Cats can be frustratingly picky about just about anything under the sun including where they want to sharpen their furniture destroying claws. It is not uncommon for a cat to damage or destroy a piece of furniture just because the owners finally gave up on trying to redirect their cat to the unused cat scratching post that set them back anywhere up to a hundred dollars and more. A good way to attempt to change this frustrating and expensive behavior is to rub some Catnip or Catnip oil on a scratching post that you are attempting to get the cat to use. Introduce your cat to the newly “Catnipped” scratching post and see how he/she reacts. If all goes well, your cat will sniff and inspect the post and then begin clawing at it. After a few times (you may have to re-Catnip the post) hopefully kitty will be trained to use the post rather than the sofa.