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What does catnip do to cats?

Are you searching for a way to add some fun to your cat's life? Why not consider introducing them to catnip? This herb can transform even the most low-key feline into a playful and energetic one. Today, our vets in Baton Rouge will discuss the effects of catnip on cats and guide how to use it safely and effectively.

What is catnip?

Catnip also referred to as Catmint belongs to the mint family. This robust and fragrant herb is native to Europe and Asia but is now widely cultivated in North America. Its heart-shaped leaves, small lavender or white flowers, and capacity to endure low-water conditions make it a popular choice for gardeners.

What does catnip do to cats?

When cats come into contact with catnip, they often exhibit an interesting reaction. You may notice your feline friend sniffing, licking, rubbing, purring, rolling, or playing joyfully. Many pet owners are surprised to see their usually indifferent cat become fascinated by catnip.

The effects of catnip can vary from cat to cat. Some cats become more playful, while others become relaxed and dreamy. Some cats might also display an increased interest in scratching and chewing.

It's important to note that the effects of catnip are temporary and usually last for about 15-30 minutes. After experiencing a reaction to catnip, your cat may sit quietly and relax as the effects wear off. During this time, your cat becomes temporarily immune to the herb's effects.

How does catnip work?

Catnip contains an important ingredient called nepetalactone, which is a type of terpene present in the plant's stem and leaves. When cats smell nepetalactone, it activates certain brain chemicals that are associated with mood and happiness.

However, it's important to note that human brains don't react to catnip like cats do due to physiological differences.

Researchers believe that nepetalactone produces captivating effects by mimicking pheromones, which are important chemicals for feline communication, particularly during mating rituals.

Do all cats respond to catnip?

While some cats react to catnip, others appear to be immune to the spell of nepetalactone. Researchers estimate that about 30% of our feline friends do not respond to catnip, possibly due to a genetically inherited trait passed down from parents. 

The researchers also noted that kittens and senior cats are less likely to be affected by catnip than adult cats. This means that the response to catnip, which often includes behaviors like rolling, rubbing, and increased playfulness, may be less pronounced or even absent in kittens and senior cats. 

Should you Boost your Cat's Diet with Catnip?

Catnip is less likely to influence a cat's eating behavior but should not be an appetite stimulant or depressant. Its mellowing effect can potentially reduce appetite in some cases. If you want to modify your cat's appetite, consult your veterinarian.

Can catnip be dangerous for cats?

Catnip is a herb that is safe and non-addictive for cats to enjoy. Most cats will walk away when they have had enough, so there is no recommended safe herb dose.

In rare cases, some cats may overindulge in catnip, which can cause mild stomach upset. However, this is the only known adverse effect. If your cat frequently enjoys catnip, they may build a tolerance to the herb, which can gradually diminish their response to it.

While catnip is safe for cats, it's best to use it in moderation and under supervision, just like any other treat or enrichment item. Veterinarians recommend using it about once every few weeks.

Should I introduce catnip to my cat?

Cats can safely enjoy the effects of catnip since the plant is non-toxic. It might be worth trying if you are curious about how your cat will react to catnip. However, if you are unsure whether catnip is suitable for your feline family member, it is best to consult with your vet. They can provide guidance on the use of catnip.

Do people respond to catnip?

Although catnip can produce amusing effects on cats, it does not impact human emotions or well-being.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding people or pets. If you are concerned about your pet's health, contact your veterinarian immediately for diagnosis and treatment.

If you have any questions or concerns about the effects of catnip on your cat, please do not hesitate to contact our veterinarians in Baton Rouge.

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