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.**