Anyone who’s given a cat some catnip can tell you about the weird effect it has on them. But how does your feline’s favourite herbal treat work, and is it safe for them to have it?
So what is catnip? Catnip, or nepeta cataria if you’re being fancy, is a herb from the mint family, and grows natively across Europe and Asia. It can have little white or purple flowers, and is used by many people for its medicinal properties.
While catnip is purported to have a mild relaxing effect on humans, the effects experienced by cats are very different. When cats chew or eat catnip, they can start drooling, rolling about on the floor, purring, growling, and exhibiting all sorts of other weird behaviours!
So what is it about catnip that makes it so irresistible to moggies? The oil in catnip’s leaves contains a chemical called nepetalactone, which is what makes cats go wild when they get a sniff of the plant. But not all cats are affected by catnip – sensitivity to nepetalactone in catnip is genetically inherited, and an estimated 20-40% of cats don’t feel any benefits from the herb. Also, kittens aged less than 8 weeks old won’t experience any of these effects, and can even show an aversion to catnip.
After all of this, you’re probably wondering whether catnip is safe to give to your feline friend. Well don’t worry! Catnip is perfectly safe for cats, and does not leave any long-lasting effects. In fact, after about 15 minutes of rolling around and acting crazy, your cat will return to her usual chilled-out self, as though nothing had happened!
So next time you want to give your moggy a treat, why not get a catnip plant for the garden, or buy a catnip toy, like the KONG Catnip Turtle, and your cat will be feline great!