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Catnip and Cats - Is Catnip Dangerous for Your Cat?

Updated on December 7, 2010

Catnip For Cats?

Catnip and cats...Your cat, your affectionate and sweet family pet isn't typically what you'd refer to a bundle of vim any more. As a matter of fact their spending a good deal of the day napping. When they decide to move that do so at their own pace and in their own time.

But should your give your kitty have a sniff of catnip . . . Well, the parties on baby. All of a sudden your cat is frolicking and roaming around, playful, aroused and running about as if time had been returned to when they were a kitten once again. Then just as fast, up to 15 minutes later your cat is back to her lazy, typical self, the catnip effect completely worn off.

What causes the effect between catnip and cats? And why do cats react to it in that way?

Firstly, not all cats respond to catnip. It's approximated that about a 3rd to half of the house cat population is untouched by the herbaceous plant. The response to catnip is genetic. Kittens that have only one parent that responds have a 50% chance of responding themselves, and kittens that have parents that both respond have a 75% chance. Kittens below 3 to 4 months old don't respond to catnip and with elderly cats the effect is substantially decreased.

As well, whenever a cat that would typically have a response to it is in a jeopardizing spot, or is outdoors away from its usual environment, it might not react to the catnip. In any case, as to what causes the effect between catnip and cats, the experts do recognize that nepetalactone, an oil found in catnip stimulates cats that are sensitive to it to react to it. What they don't acknowledge is how come certain cats respond that way.

It's not only the house cat that can undergo the catnip result. Big cats as well can respond to it; lions, leopards, cheetahs and cougars can receive a catnip high but strangely not tigers.

Once a cat discovers catnip it will commonly whiff at it, scratch up against it, lick it and chew at it. It's the whiffing at it that brings the response, it's believed that cats nibble and scratch against the catnip to damage it and cause more of the nepetalactone oil to be discharged. Oddly though, if a cat really eats the catnip it will in all probability act as a tranquillizing effect as opposed to giving the kitty a high.

So, is the relationship between catnip and cats dangerous for your kitty? After all, the reaction that some felines get to catnip isn't dissimilar the reaction that some humans have to stuff that they should not be smoking.

While it said the relation between catnip and cats is bio-chemically associated cats will come to no harm by being given it, and will not become addicted. The catnip effect very rarely endures more than 15 minutes at most until the cat recedes interest. Afterwards the cat will not respond once again for a while.

Not every cats responds to the herbaceous plant in precisely the same way though. The normal reaction is an unreserved friskiness and silliness, but some cats, commonly males, become hostile rather than playful.

Catnip has long been believed secure for humans. It's been recommended by herbalists to address restiveness, abdomen problems, gas, and even smallpox! Its leaves have been chewed to remedy toothache and it has been drunk in as a tea and as a coughing cure.

Catnip isn't harmful for cats instead it's a really good kitty delicacy for some cats, those that are susceptible to it, to savor.


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    • Paulart profile image

      Paulart 6 years ago from 2510 Warren Avenue Cheyenne,Wyoming 82001

      Nice information on this hub.

    • profile image

      Red 7 years ago

      Our cat has been on phenobarbital(over a year)& zonisamide (2 weeks). She still has seizures, but not as severe or as often as before. Giving her the pill (phenobarbital) is a struggle for everyone. Do you make your own cat "pot butter"? If I could find a way to eliminate (or at least greatly decrease) these "fits", I would be sooooooo grateful.

    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 7 years ago from Oakley, CA

      Interesting hub. We have 4 cats, and the only one that does not react is our senior kitty, but she's got epilepsy, and was on strong meds for so long that she forgot how to play. (We've weaned her off most of them, and she is now on 'butter' made from that stuff you refer to that 'people should not be smoking.')

      It's actually a potent, safe, and non-addictive medicine, good for everything from chronic pain to alleviating the nausea from chemotherapy. It also controls seizures, which is why we're using it for kitty. It has a calming effect, though, not the kind of effect you see with catnip--which, incidentally, is a distant cousin of cannabis.

      I'll be writing an entire hub about that, one of these days in the not-too-distant future.

      I enjoyed your hub..and found it especially interesting that big cats also like the stuff--except tigers. Strange.