Nepeta cataria, otherwise known as catnip, is a perennial feline favorite. While not all kitties enjoy a sniff of the good stuff, most absolutely do. This fan-favorite intoxicant has a few different effects. It mellows some cats out and stimulates others to get downright wild.
It even reduces pain and anxiety in some cats. But catnip is actually slightly toxic to cats! And if consumed in sufficient quantities, this common plant can cause diarrhea and nausea in cats. Read on for more information about catnip and how it can affect kitties.
What Is Catnip?
Catnip is technically an herb that’s part of the mint family. The plant grows easily throughout the cooler climes of North America, although it’s native to Europe and Asia. It requires well-drained soil, lots of sunshine, and plenty of moisture to thrive.
While catnip is now most often thought of as a feline stimulant, the plant has been used for centuries to manage human ailments such as coughs, asthma, and nervousness. It contains antioxidants such as rosmarinic, coumaric, and caffeic acids, which protect against environmental toxins.
Catnip is a herbaceous perennial, meaning the plants don’t have woody stems, die off, and bloom every year without replanting. Many states, such as West Virginia, consider the plants nonnative invasive species. The plants can grow to an astonishing height of 3 feet and feature square stems, deep green leaves, and vibrant purple flowers.
Catnip contains Nepetalactone, the substance responsible for getting your cat high. It reaches the feline brain through the vomeronasal gland, an organ located in the roof of your cat’s mouth responsible for transmitting scents and smells to your cat’s brain.
While your cat may enjoy nibbling on fresh catnip or licking dried catnip flakes from nicely filled plush toys, kitties need to smell catnip to get wild. On the other hand, eating the plant most often leads to mellowness.
How Long Does a Catnip High Usually Last?
A good catnip high lasts for about 10 minutes. But some cats will hold catnip-filled plush toys firmly between their paws and inhale the scent when the effects start to subside. It can take up to 2 hours for the drug’s effects to wear off. Left to their own devices, most cats will naturally consume catnip before things get out of hand. But beware of allowing your cat to overindulge, particularly if they tend to lick or nibble their catnip. Sniffing too much won’t harm your cat; it’ll just reduce the drug’s efficacy the next time your cat indulges.
Is Fresh Catnip Better than Dried?
It depends on your cat. Some cats love fresh catnip, and others prefer the dried version of the herb. Consider giving your cat a bit of each and observing them to see if they have a preference. Fresh catnip is easy to grow, even in container gardens.
Growing your own ensures your companion is getting a product untainted by pesticides and other chemicals. Fresh catnip tends to be stronger than dried products, so you might want to pay a bit more attention to your cat’s reactions to fresh catnip to ensure they don’t get too much.
Dried catnip is readily available at grocery and pet stores. Drying homegrown fresh catnip is incredibly easy and a great way to ensure your cat never runs out of its favorite drug.
Keep in mind that dried catnip loses potency over time, so keep your cat’s supply in an airtight container and be prepared to throw out anything moldy or otherwise compromised. Catnip that’s been properly stored will usually be fine for around 6 months.
Do All Cats Enjoy Catnip?
No. Approximately 30% of cats don’t respond to the active ingredient in catnip. These kitties can sniff catnip all day and still walk straight. Some cats’ brains don’t have the receptors needed to get high from the plant. Kittens don’t seem interested in catnip until they’re about 6 months old.
Lions, tigers, lynxes, and jaguars enjoy a bit of the green stuff and react just like your cat. Some cats enjoy catnip but tend to experience tummy difficulties after indulging. If this applies to your cat, consider purchasing a catnip spray and using it on your buddy’s favorite plush toy.
What Are the Signs of Catnip Poisoning?
Cats that ingest too much catnip can end up with upset stomachs. Many vomit or have loose bowels. Others may have trouble walking or appear off balance. While the results of too much catnip can be unpleasant for cats, overindulgence is unlikely to be fatal.
If your cat gets too much of its favorite herb, keep your buddy in a safe place away from chairs, stairs, and high perches until they’ve recovered and are steady on their feet.
Are There Alternatives for Cats Who Don’t Enjoy Catnip?
Absolutely! Valerian is a safe and popular alternative that delivers many of the same “benefits” as catnip. Cats exposed to dried valerian often become euphoric and energetic but quickly calm down and settle in for a good nap.
Camomile appears to have a similar effect on humans and cats, stimulating relaxation and facilitating sleep. Many owners swear that hops, yes, the ones used to brew beer, can work wonders when it comes to calming an anxious kitty.
Stick with the dried versions of these home remedies. Kitty sachets allow cats to sniff these relaxing substances while preventing your cat from ingesting stems, seeds, and flowers.
Catnip is a potent herb that about 70% of cats love. There’s honestly nothing more adorable than a cat enjoying a good catnip high complete with rolling around on the floor, running after imaginary creatures, and zooming around like they’ve been possessed.
Too much catnip can upset your companion’s tummy, but most cats are pretty good at self-regulating their use and will naturally back off and take a nap before things go too far. Heavy use doesn’t result in much more than a reduction in the drug’s efficacy. Limit your cat’s use to a maximum of 2 times per week to ensure they continue to get the most out of the experience.
Featured Image Credit: snd_nrdc, Pixabay