Catnip is a subject of great interest among cat lovers and it’s the subject the majority of questions we receive about cats and cat toys. There are many opinions, prejudices and myths about catnip and we hope to give you enough basic information to make an informed decision about catnip.
Catnip is safe, it’s enjoyable to many cats, it’s readily available in many different forms and you should not hesitate to try it out for your favorite kitty.
To shop for catnip CLICK HERE.
What is Catnip?
Catnip is the common name for nepeta cataria, an aromatic herb in the mint family. Catnip contains a chemical compound called nepetalactone, which is very attractive to cats and other felines, including tigers and lions.
It grows wild in many regions of the United States and Canada and can easily be grown in almost any garden, even in a pot on a window sill. Cats may eat the fresh leaves, but it is most commonly used in the dried form.
Humans have used catnip as an herbal tea for many centuries. It is said to be beneficial for an upset stomach and has been used to treat colic in infants.
But, the most common usage is as a treat or toy for cats. It can be used loose or sewn into cat toys.
What Does Catnip Do?
When cats inhale the aroma of catnip, they absorb nepetalactone through the tissues inside their noses. The effect is completely harmless and reactions can vary. Most cats will find the sensation very enjoyable. Here are some things you might see:
1. Rubbing cheeks against the catnip, sometimes licking and drooling.
2. Increased vocalization, similar to singing.
3. Rolling around on the floor.
4. Running and intense play.
5. Increased prey responses, such as biting, scratching, tossing and kicking the toy.
6. Posing in unusual positions.
7. Going into a dreamy, semi-sleepy state.
Sometimes giving catnip to a lazy cat will get them up and moving. We’ve had customers tell us that their very hyper cats can calm down on catnip. We’ve even had customers tell us that catnip has helped their cat recover mobility after injury or surgery.
You should not hesitate to give catnip to any cat and see what reaction you get. It is harmless, non-addictive and potentially very enjoyable, both for the cat and for the human who watches.
How Do You Use Catnip?
Catnip toys need no instruction. Many cats will snatch them out of the shopping bag as soon as you set it down. Cats know what to do. But here are a few suggestions:
1. If the toy gets too wet from an overly drooly cat, simply put it up to dry.
2. Good quality catnip toys will last several years if you pinch or twist them once in a while to release more catnip oil.
3. Remove torn toys and repair or replace them.
4. Rejunenate an older toy by placing it in a plastic bag with loose catnip.
5. Store replacement catnip toys in a plastic bag in the freezer. Cats won’t find them there and it extends the potency of the catnip.
There are many ways to use loose catnip.
1. Take a pinch of catnip between your fingers and crush the leaves. Place on the floor or in kitty’s favorite spot for an instant treat.
2. If your cat is not eating well, you may crush a small amount of catnip over the food. The aroma will help bring the cat back to the bowl and catnip can help with an upset tummy.
3. Innoculate new scratching posts, cat beds and other cat furniture with catnip by rubbing loose catnip into the object you want the cat to use.
4. Place small cat toys in a plastic bag with several tablespoons of catnip and let them marinate for a few days.
5. Make your own cat toys by placing catnip in an old sock or hankie and tying a knot.
6. Purchase refillable catnip toys that have a Velcro closure.
Fresh catnip can be offered in place of cat grass. You may leave a pot out for your cat to munch at will, or bring in a few leaves from the garden. Slightly bruise or tear the leaves to bring your cat’s interest.
Do All Cats Like Catnip?
No, about 15 to 20 percent of cats do not enjoy catnip. It is an inherited trait. Many of the cats who do not enjoy catnip originated in Asia where catnip was not a native herb.
Kittens generally do not enjoy catnip until they are several months old. There is no harm in giving catnip to kittens, but there will be no real catnip effect.
Some cats who do not enjoy catnip may enjoy other plants and herbs know to have a similar effect. Valerian and honeysuckle are the most readily available alternatives.
What’s the Best Catnip?
The best catnip is grown organically in a cool, semi-arid climate, picked at the peak of its potency, stored away from strong light and delivered the same year as it was harvested. The buds are the most potent part of the plant, but are limited in supply and higher in price. A good quality leaf will give much the same effect.
There are many differents catnips available and there are a few things to look for:
1. Take a whiff. You should notice a strong herbal aroma. Some people compare it to chamomille tea. Some catnips have a slight minty aroma as well. But, if you can’t smell it, it’s not a good quality or it is too old.
2. The label should state where the catnip is grown. If there is no indication, the product could be inferior in quality. Look for quality catnip grown in the USA or Canada. To insure safety, we prefer catnip that is grown organically. We avoid all catnip grown outside of North America.
3. When you buy toys, look for products that are filled 100% with catnip. Cheaper toys will have a pinch of catnip with sawdust, polyester batting, cotton or other fillers. Quality catnip toys might last for several years if you pinch or twist them once in a while to release more of the catnip oil contained in the leaves.
MYTH: Catnip is like marajuana.
FACT: Catnip is completely safe for your cat. It is not addictive and causes no lasting effects.
MYTH: Catnip makes cats mean.
FACT: When cats are playing with toys, they are practising hunting behavior. Play is part of how a mother cat teaches her kittens to hunt. When playing with a catnip toy, a cat’s reactions may be intensified. You may see biting, scratching and kicking that would be used in hunting and killing prey in the wild. If you try to take a catnip toy during this intense play, you might be scratched. But, this is not “mean” behavior. It’s simply hunting reflex. So, if your cats have this reaction, just step back and let them be cats.
MYTH: Catnip is bad for cats.
FACT: On the contrary, there are many beneficial uses for catnip. It can help stimulate appetitie in cats who are avoiding food. Fresh catnip can be used like cat grass to aid in digestion. It can help cats recovering from an injury to regain some mobility. It can be used in training situations, like scratching post training. Catnip can help in getting sedentary cats up and moving. And, there are no long term effects or permanent mood changes. Catnip is completely safe for your cat.
To shop for catnip CLICK HERE.