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Is Catnip Good for Cats?

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Jessica is an experienced pet mom with dogs, cats, rats, fish, axolotls, a gecko, chickens, and ducks.

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If you ever have given a cat catnip, you have seen the frenzy that ensues. They rub themselves all over it, act silly, and some of them will even eat it. The reactions can vary from a cat running all over the house, to them just relaxing and rubbing themselves all over the catnip. They love it, and it is hard to keep them away from it. With reactions like this, you may be thinking, "Is this even safe?"

Thankfully the answer is yes! Catnip is generally considered safe and non-addictive, and it can even have benefits for your cat. Keep reading to learn more about catnip.

What Is Catnip?

Catnip is a plant that cats are known to have euphoric reactions to. It is an herb also known as Nepeta cataria, and it is a member of the mint family. It is native to Europe but it is very easy to grow in North America. It is also easy to grow indoors in a pot, as long as you can keep your cats away from it. Catnip is used for some natural remedies for humans, such as cough suppressants, tea, and bug spray, but it is definitely most famous for its effect on cats.

Catnip is commonly sold in pet stores because is known to cause positive reactions in cats. Cat owners may notice anything from a sedative effect to increased energy and affection after giving their cat catnip. Pet stores usually contain a wide range of options, from dried loose catnip, toys with catnip inside, and even catnip spray.

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How Does It Work?

Catnip contains an oil called nepetalactone, when cats smell catnip they inhale this oil, and that is what causes the behavioral changes. After they smell the catnip it binds to the olfactory cells in their nose and sends a signal to the brain. This causes them to exhibit behaviors similar to a female in heat (yes, even the males.) They roll around, meow, rub themselves all over the catnip, and they may even have a boost of energy. Catnip is a natural mood enhancer, if you have ever seen a cat reacting to catnip you can tell that they really enjoy it.

The effects of catnip wear off pretty fast. The cat will feel the effects for only about ten or fifteen minutes, and then they will be immune to its effects for thirty minutes. It is common for them to be calm and sit still after their "high."

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Are All Cats Affected by Catnip?

As strange as it sounds, not all cats feel the effects of catnip. It is hard to find an accurate number, but scientists estimate that only 50-70% of cats react to catnip. It is suspected that whether or not cats react to catnip is genetic; some cats may just not have the gene to feel its effects. If you try to give your cat catnip and they don't seem interested at all they may just not have the "catnip gene."

Kittens under three months are also unable to feel the effects of catnip, but you can usually tell if they like it by six months. Some cats may only like fresh catnip, and some may like it in any form. Every cat has their own preferences and reactions.

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Can Catnip be Harmful?

Catnip is widely considered safe for cats. The worst thing that can happen is an upset stomach, vomiting, and diarrhea if they eat too much. Cats would usually have to eat a lot of catnip to have this reaction, and as an owner, you can prevent this by giving it to them in moderation. It is safe, natural, and non-habit-forming.

Some veterinarians even suggest using catnip to help with separation anxiety. They suggest giving it to your cat about 15 minutes before you leave, so they will be nice and calm before you go. Of course, your vet will have the best advice for your individual cat.

Is It Safe to Give Every Day?

Catnip is safe to give every day, the worst thing that could happen is it may lose some of its appeal over time. Outdoor cats will often eat catnip while they are out exploring, and it has no negative effect on them.

There are even instances where using catnip every day could be helpful. You can use catnip spray on things like scratching posts every day to help train them to scratch the post instead of your couch, for instance. Just make sure they aren't ingesting so much dry catnip that they get an upset stomach, and it is perfectly safe.

References

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2022 Jess H

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