- Pets and Animals
EVERYTHING YOU ALWAYS WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT CATNIP (AND THEN SOME)!
CATNIP IS A BLAST ( WHEN YOU'RE A CAT, THAT IS!)
All of my cats love catnip - but they each love it in their own way.
Coco-Puff will roll around in it and act all giddy.
Cherry will become oddly aggressive; hissing and protecting her little catnip mouse like it's stuffed with tiny nuggets of gold.
Princess will lick, lick, lick the catnip off the toy until she's created a very soggy mess - after which, she will promptly fall asleep.
So what's the deal with this stuff?
Why does it have such a weird, varying (and funny to watch!) effect on my cats?
Can my cat get addicted to it?
Is too much of it a bad thing?
I'm here to answer all your catnip related questions....and more! I will tell you things about catnip you never even thought to ask.
Ready to hop aboard the catnip express? Let's go!
1). Is fresh catnip REALLY better than the catnip that comes from the store?
You betcha! It's always more potent, and is preferred by 5 out of 5 cats. You can grow your own..it's easy! Even if you have a "non-green thumb"! In fact, catnip has to be one of the easiest plants on earth to grow!
Here is a little primer on growing your own catnip - sort of like an article within an article:
Some facts about the plant itself: Catnip is a perennial herb, in the mint family. Common catnip has white flowers and grows up to 3 feet high.
Plant catnip in a garden (unless you have a lot of stray cats hanging around your yard - we had no problem with stray cats) in rows (approx.) 18 inches apart.
Plant in moderate to strong sun, and mulch with hay or dried lawn clippings.
We started out with a small plant we purchased at Walmart for next to nothing. You can also start with seeds if you like. Ours took off like wildfire, that's all I can tell you!
You can also plant in a flower box on your deck (if you have no yard) or even a pot in a sunny portion of your home (away from your cat, of course)!
Be sure to plant AFTER any danger of frost, if you are planting outside.
In a few months,your plant should be 18 inches high. It should have thumb-sized leaves (your basic thumb - not a giant's thumb or a baby's thumb).
Strip the leaves, or cut the entire stalk, tie together, and hang upside down in a shady place for a few days. Or spread leaves out on newspaper in shade (away from kitty!).
As soon as the leaves are dry, crumble them up into a handy Tupperware - or better yet, a container that allows no light to enter.
And there you go - year round pleasure for your cat!
Now back to the question portion of the program.
2). Why does catnip make my cat act all weird?
Catnip has a hallucinogenic effect. Your cat is reacting to similar "feel good" pheromes that are released during sexual courtship/activity. The plant's natural chemical...nepetalactone (whew!) which is in the smell of the plant..not the taste is what drives cats wild, and triggers the pleasure center in your cat's brain. This chemical is similar in smell to the essence excreted by female cats, which is why most males love it....
So why do my FEMALE cats love it, you may ask?
No one knows for sure....but they do! For some reason, this particular chemical has an exciting effect on the "ladies," as well.
However, non sexual behaviour such as playing, chasing, and hunting will occurr with many cats. The effect varies from cat to cat.
For instance, if your cat mostly ingests the plant, he will probably become sleepy. That's because catnip has a sedative effect when eaten. (think: if you have a few drinks).
If your cat mostly inhales the plant, he will become more active and hyper and rolly-rolling around. (Think if you have some strong coffee. Or a few Red Bulls). That's because catnip has a stimulate effect when sniffed.
3). Why isn't my kitten affected by catnip at all?
A cat has to be over 3 months in age, in order for catnip to have any effect. That's because kittens are not yet sexually mature. That's okay, though. Your kitten can find plenty else to drive him crazy - like your shoe laces or your pony-tail holder - or just about anything he can get his little paws on!
Of course, it could be that your grown cat is not "turned on" by catnip, either. There are indeed some cats that are totally blasé about the stuff. If your cat seems to be in this category, try offering some FRESH catnip first, before you write him off as a non catnip lover. Not all cats will respond - about a third of cats will not. It is thought that the love of catnip is an inherited quality.
4). How long does the "high" from catnip last?
This answer is short and quick (just like the "high"): From 5 to 10 minutes. Your cat can get "turned on" again - but he will have to give it about a 2 hour grace period.
5). Can my cat get addicted to the stuff?
No. Your cat will always stop when he's had enough. (You see, in some ways cats ARE smarter than people)! And your cat will never suffer a hangover, either.
6). Is catnip safe for my cat to eat?
Usually - unless you notice your cat having tummy troubles afterwards. If so, always offer him catnip inside a little sock toy you can sew yourself - even if you "don't sew", this is an easy enough task for anyone to manage - just a few stitches. You can also get one of those "refillable" catnip toys, if you like.
7). Can my cat ever become "immune" to the effects of catnip....like people with drugs?
Yes, and yes. So try no to offer catnip more than once a week. Save it for a fun and exciting treat! Otherwise, your cat might become ho-hum about it....the same way you would grow tired of chocolate cake if you ate it every day....
8). How do YOU offer catnip to YOUR cats?
I take a pinch of catnip out of my Tupperware container. Then I rub it together really well between my fingers to release the exciting feel-good oil...then I rub, rub, rub the crumpled catnip into an old toy - (it's more exciting to my cats when I vary the toy) and then, simply toss.
If I toss the toy into a box, or half hide it under a blanket (or here's a good one - stuff the toy inside of an empty toilet paper roll) it's even more fun!
Speaking of tossing - here's a funny tidbit I'll toss in. If I'm giving catnip to one of my cats, and the other cats are nowhere in sight because they're sound asleep, about four rooms away - suddenly, they will appear, wide awake with expectant faces. These cats are like little kids, posessing special radar for when something fun is going on, and they don't want to miss out!
9). Can people eat catnip, and will it make them high?
Yes and no. Actually, people don't really eat catnip, but it can be used for tea. However, you will experience no hallucinagenic effects. And chances are, you will not start rolling around on the floor or chasing imaginary mice after you drink it!
10). What other weird and interesting things can you tell me about catnip?
Glad you asked! Catnip (in the form of tea) can be used for settling an upset stomach -- or quelling menstrual cramps! It aslo has natural healing qualities for cuts (just crush fresh leaves, dampen, and apply), and it can serve as a mosquito repellant.
Rub some into your skin and stand outside on a hot, muggy summer evening. You may be attacked by your neighbor's cat, but you won't be attacked by mosquitos!