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  • Writer's pictureShannon McKinzie

Why Do Cat's Respond To Cat Nip?

Other than the entertainment we get from watching your beloved felines frolic with excitement, one wonders why do cats respond to catnip? First let us look at what it is exactly, then how and why it affects your cat.

What is Catnip?

The scientific name for catnip is, nepeta cataria, it is a perennial herb - part of the mint family. Indigenous to Europe and Asia, the Europeans transplanted it to North America during their settlement who used is for medicinal properties.

Why Do Cats Respond To Catnip?

Genetics determine whether your feline falls for this cousin to basil and oregano. Approximately one cat in two inherits sensitivity to the herb. However, until the age of 3-6 months, you will not know if your cat is one of them.

Catnip's allure is in its volatile oil, nepetalactone, which is the specific chemical in the oil that produces the effect. Found in catnip's leaves, stems, and seeds, it only takes one or two sniffs of that wondrous oil before susceptible felines are licking, chewing, and rolling head-over-tail in kitty bliss. It may cause aggression in some cats. If you own multiple cats, it would be wise to start individually until you know how each of your cats reacts to the herb.

In addition, if they ingest the catnip, it often causes fatigue and almost works as a sedative. Cats that sniff and rub against the herb get more of the stimulating effects.

How long do the effects last?

Though intense, that bliss is usually short-lived. The effect typically lasts approximately 10 - 30 minutes for most cats. For some, the euphoria translates into aggressive playfulness. Once the pleasure passes, it will be two hours before your cat responds to catnip again.

Is Catnip Harmful?

The quick answer is no. It is not addictive to any cat breed. You should watch for too much ingestion as it may be upsetting to their stomach.

Can Catnip Be Used For Training?

Owners use catnip to train their cats considering that most respond to it so brilliantly, which makes it a powerful training aid. Try rubbing some on a scratching post to keep your cat from scratching furniture. Or sprinkle it on an unused kitty bed to help train them to lay there rather than the sofa!

Most cats respond better to dried or fresh catnip rather than the sprays. It is easy to grow. If you purchase the dried product, keep in mind that the potency doesn't last forever, the essential oils dissipate. However, it will last longer if you keep the container in the freezer until ready to use again.

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