Catnip and cats

Many cat owners will have noticed that a lot of the toys aimed at the feline market contain "catnip". The reaction varies in each cat, and can appear to get them "high". Catnip can be bought in pet stores inside a toy, or dried in little bags. I have found it in a spray form which you can put onto their favourite toy or on the floor. If you do buy the dried variety, ensure that you keep it in an airtight container to avoid it drying out further and losing its scent.

What is catnip?

"Catnip" is an aromatic plant derived from a herb of the mint family. There are over 250 species of the plant, which is found mainly in Europe, and is imported to many countries throughout the world. In Northern America it grows wild. It also goes by the name of "catmint". A chemical found in the catnip called nepetalactone produces a reaction in approximately 50% of cats. This is due to the fact that only around half of all cats are sensitive to it.

The effect of catnip on cats

Some cats are totally unaffected when they come into contact with catnip, while in others, it will cause a reaction. They will smell the herb and rub their faces on it, (often with their mouths open) roll on it, and eat it. It stimulates them and the behaviour can continue for over an hour. Catnip toys can provide endless fun for your kitty. It is not harmful in any way, and there is no risk of overdose since it is herbal. In some cases, after being exposed to catnip, they can feel a bit sleepy as it also acts as a mild sedative.

My cat Foxy does not show any reaction to catnip whatsoever, although my previous cat Cookie went mad for it. He would purr loudly, rub his face all over it, drool at the mouth, roll in it and run around the room. Cookie would be hyperactive for around half an hour or so, until he'd had enough and slept it off.

Other uses for catnip

Catnip has been used in the past to treat human ailments such as:

headaches, upset stomachs, colds, insomnia, coughs, to onset menstruation, colic and many more conditions. It was added to hot water and drank as a tea. As far back as 1735, it was mentioned in the Irish Herbal by John K'Eogh that catnip was used in a homeopathic capacity to treat sores. He also reported that it provoked urination which could help treat people with complaints of this nature.

It has been used as a herbal remedy dating as far back as the 15th century. In the 1960's it was smoked because of the hallucinogenic effect, although it was documented that a high percentage of women reported severe and heavy menstrual bleeding afterwards. At one time the leaves were used in the preparation of sauces. Before the importation of tea from China, the English ladies and gents drank it as a tea.

During the time of executions, the executioners chewed on the roots of the plant. In its raw form it was said to make people very bad tempered and aggressive. This made it easier for the hangman to carry out his duties.

Catnip oil today is used as a natural insect repellant.

Some stores and speciality tea shops sell catnip tea to this day.

** Please note that catnip should not be taken by humans unless under the guidance of their doctors. Pregnant women should avoid catnip.**

Have you ever given your cat catnip?

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Comments 13 comments

Peanutritious profile image

Peanutritious 4 years ago from Cheshire, UK

My Cat's 'Muppet' and 'Buffy' go mad for catnip. It's delightful to watch them rolling about purring their heads off! I had no idea it had hallucinogenic effects! I'm off to try some now.... (only joking!)Voted up, useful and interesting.


Peanutritious profile image

Peanutritious 4 years ago from Cheshire, UK

My Cat's Muppet and Buffy go mad for catnip! It's a real delight to watch them rolling about and purring their heads off. I had no idea that it had hallucinogenic effects! I'm off to try some now... (only joking!) Great hub!


jacqui2011 profile image

jacqui2011 4 years ago from Leicester, United Kingdom Author

@ Peanutritious - Muppet and Buffy are great names. Thanks for your comment and for the vote up. Need to go, I think I'm seeing things. Lol. (only joking)!!


Esmeowl12 profile image

Esmeowl12 4 years ago from Sevierville, TN

All the cats we've ever had have gone nuts over catnip. It's quite cheap entertainment for us all.


jacqui2011 profile image

jacqui2011 4 years ago from Leicester, United Kingdom Author

@ Esmeowl12 - It is relatively cheap to buy and watching their antics is so much fun to see. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.


Peanutritious profile image

Peanutritious 4 years ago from Cheshire, UK

Sorry I posted twice! I lost my signal as I posted!


jacqui2011 profile image

jacqui2011 4 years ago from Leicester, United Kingdom Author

@ Peanutritious - Don't worry about it, I thought something like that must have happened. Catnip has that effect on some people. Lol. Jacqui.x


icountthetimes 4 years ago

I actually bought my cat catnip as a Christmas present. She's usually very antisocial but this really brought her out of her shell and made her go a little loopy. She's certainly part of the 50% it's effective on :).


jacqui2011 profile image

jacqui2011 4 years ago from Leicester, United Kingdom Author

@ icountthetimes - I love your profile picture. I'm glad your cat enjoyed her catnip. It's great to watch them get so much pleasure out of it. Their antics are so funny to see. My friends cat actually dribbles at the mouth when she gets near the catnip and goes nuts for 20 minutes. Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment.


Curious 4 years ago

What happens if one smokes it?


jacqui2011 profile image

jacqui2011 4 years ago from Leicester, United Kingdom Author

@ Curious - I'm not sure what would happen. It's not something that I would do or even recommend.


ericaj profile image

ericaj 4 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

Great Hub! My cats Misty and Lucie go crazy over catnip. There was one time that I had left a container of tea leaves on my kitchen counter- I left the kitchen for a quick second to get something from my bedroom and when I came back the container was knocked onto the floor and both of my cats were rolling in the leaves. I quickly found out that there was catnip in the tea mixture! It was quite a sight to see (and a mess to clean up!) :)


jacqui2011 profile image

jacqui2011 4 years ago from Leicester, United Kingdom Author

@ ericaj - Hi Erica, thanks for reading and commenting. Your cats sound so much fun and very mischievous. It is so entertaining to watch cats react to catnip. My brother's cat makes me laugh, he actually licks the carpet and rubs himself all over the leaves. His eyes go wide and he looks mad!

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