Catnip is simply a herb from the mint family that some cats are crazy about. When given a sniff or a chew, they’ll play, lick, jump, run, or sometimes just totally chill out.
Here’s what you need to know about this herb and the fascinating effects it has on your cat...
What is catnip?
Catnip – or nepeta cataria – is a plant that produces a chemical called nepetalactone. It’s this chemical that reacts with some cats, both wild and domestic. The chemical is released from tiny bulbs that grow all over the plant and this explains why cats love to chew it, as breaking the bulbs releases more of the good stuff!
Why does catnip have such an effect on cats?
Nepatalactone reacts with receptors in the cat’s brain, causing a change in emotions and behaviour. Some cats won’t react at all; the same applies to kittens who are likely to only respond when they are over three months old.
Is catnip safe for humans and dogs?
Yes, catnip is safe. It does not affect humans in any way. In dogs, it doesn’t seem to have the same stimulating powers, instead it is sometimes used to calm anxious or hyperactive dogs. It’s also worth noting that catnip is not addictive. The effects will usually last about ten minutes, depending on how much catnip your cat has been exposed to, and it doesn’t lose its efficacy, which means it’s safe for your cat to play with every day.
How will catnip affect my cats behaviour?
Every cat reacts differently. Some will spring into action, find lots of energy and want to play and jump. Others will chew, lick it and rub their faces in it and then enjoy rolling around on the floor. Some will get a sense of calm and start to relax while some will show no effects whatsoever.
Why use catnip?
You will quickly know whether your cat loves catnip or not! Here are some reasons to use it:
- It’s fun and stimulates play | For cats who are reluctant to play (and err on the side of being a little ‘lazy’), catnip is a great tool to get them up and engaging in a happy playtime. Cats can lose interest quickly in play and catnip may just extend their playtime a little more.
- It can help with weight loss | You can use catnip to encourage regular play or, in order words, exercise, so as to help with weight loss.
- It can help encourage certain behaviours | If your cat scratches furniture and you would rather he or she used the scratch post, sprinkle or spray a little catnip onto the post to attract them to it; and persuade your pet that the scratch post is a great place to be!
- It can help relax some cats | If your cat reacts in a calm way to catnip, it can be used to ease anxiety.
Does catnip have any health benefits?
The herb itself might not have health benefits but, the behaviour it causes can definitely have health benefits, e.g. in the case of training, stimulating play or helping with weight loss.
Recommended catnip products:
There are many different ways that your cat can enjoy catnip. Here are our top picks:
- Olly & Max Catnip | 100% nepeta catnip which is naturally air-dried, 100% herbicide and pesticide free. It is grown and manufactured locally. Sprinkle a little on a surface (not into food).
- Olly & Max Catnip Spray | A great product to spray onto cat toys, scratching posts, bedding and any other object your cat loves or you want him or her to love more.
- Joyser Catnip Ball & Feather | A compressed catnip ball, giving your cat a burst of playful energy while offering the benefits of loose catnip, without the mess.
- GiGwi Refillable Toy | Another great toy to stimulate play. Refill it with catnip whenever you need to.
- GiGwi Catnip Stick with Feather | Most cats love feathers and approximately 70% love catnip too. So this could be a win-win toy.
Get in touch
With huge thanks to Dr Cooper for assisting with this article.
And remember, we are also here to help so visit your local Absolute Pets store or get in touch with us online, or on Facebook.
Happy & Healthy