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Effects of Catnip on Cats

Effects of Catnip on Cats

It is said that catnip has a hallucinogenic effect on cats. This explains the crazy behavior of felines, when they are exposed to the plant.
Sonia Nair
Catnip toys are very much in demand and are available in various types. You might have seen such toys, or have already bought one for your deary cat. It can be real fun to see the cat's antics, when they play with these toys. Have you ever wondered about the effect of catnip on your cat? Most of the people, including the ones who have bought catnip toys for their pets, may not know anything about catnip.

Catnip and Cats

Catnip (Nepeta cataria) is a herb that belongs to the mint family Lamiaceae. It is known for its effects on cats, and the very name 'catnip' is derived from this phenomenon. Even the Latin term 'cataria' refers to cats. The catnip plant is often found as a weed, and is now widely used as a recreational substance for the enjoyment of cats. You may come across cat toys filled with dried and ground catnip, catnip bags, and sprays. It has been found that two out of three adult cats are attracted to this herb. Once they come into contact with this plant, cats may exhibit some behavioral changes. They include rolling over the leaves, chewing, pawing, purring, growling, scratching, biting, and holding. The cat may also salivate heavily, if it chews the leaves of catnip.

While some cats respond to catnip in the above mentioned manner, some others may not have any effect at all. Normally, kittens and old cats are found to be disinterested in catnip, and show no effect. It has also been noted that fresh catnip is most effective as far as cats are concerned. However, adult felines including tigers and leopards are found to have this catnip effect. It has also been observed that some cats turn aggressive, as they come in touch with catnip or catnip toys.

The effects of catnip on cats last for a short time. The cat may remain quiet for some time, after which they may take a nap. Once they wake up, the cat may not be sensitive to another dose of catnip, for the next three hours. What is the reason for the amazing behavior of cats, when they are exposed to catnip?

Why do Cats Respond to Catnip?

Studies shows that the effects of catnip on cats is due to the presence of a terpenoid called nepetalactone in the herb. It is said that, cats sense this substance with the help of their olfactory epithelium, and this leads to hallucinogenic effects. Catnip herb is found to be safe for cats, but in rare cases, it may cause vomiting and diarrhea. Such side effects may develop in case of ingestion. It has also been said that sedation can be one of the effects of catnip on cats. Though it is not addictive, too much of catnip may not be good for your feline friend.

Genetics is also linked to catnip and cats. It has been observed that Australian cats do not react to catnip. In short, cats must inherit appropriate genes that make them susceptible to catnip. It is believed that cats belonging to those regions, that are not indigenous to catnip, do not show any such reaction.