Why Cats Love Catnip: name the word Nepeta Cataria and your cat will go literally crazy. Better known as catnip, this mint family perennial herb has been known for many years for its ability to give our felines a sort of "high". After all, it may not be that surprising to learn that Nepeta Cataria is actually a distant relative of the Marijuana family.
But no need for concern. Catnip is very safe, its effects will likely last just the time it takes for you to read this article. Cats also know when enough is enough and will not overdose catnip. Let's take now a closer look to what goes on when a cat sniffs catnip.
Once you put the catnip down or offer a catnip toy the cat will very likely smell it and then shortly thereafter roll over it and sometimes even eat it. The cat is really responding to the hallucinogenic effects produced by Nepetalactone, the catnip's active ingredient. This occurs by simply sniffing the herb. It has been believed that catnip has as well an aphrodisiac effect on cats but this still seems an iffy possibility since even neutered males and spayed females respond to it. Nepetalactone has been shown to mimic pheromones instead, the "good feeling hormones" thus may cause a psycho-sexual response in most cats.
However, surprisingly not all cats respond the same way to catnip. Most cats may get a temporary "high", others may become very hyper, some may respond aggressively and then there are those that could care less. Kittens under 3 months old in particular seem immune to its effects.
If you offer catnip shortly after the first exposure, very likely the cat will not respond. Its effects seem to last just the span of 5 to 15 minutes. If your cat seems to enjoy eating it after having sniffed it, strangely enough this will cause some sedation. However, it is best not to allow cats to eat substantial amounts of catnip. As with any overindulgence, it may cause vomiting and diarrhea.
It has been found that catnip can be a great tool for those cats that are prone to stress. It helps relieve tension and takes away uneasiness. Bring a packet along when your cat is traveling with you or give a packet to the boarding staff if your pet is boarding. Give it to a cat you have just adopted and is still shy. Turn you lazy inactive cat into a playful one by offering a catnip toy. Or just simply, offer it to your kitty just to show how much you love him and have fun watching him purr and roll. Have a great catnip day!