Catnip is a plant that belongs to the mint family and it has properties that cats absolutely love. Most often, we buy the dried and ground up catnip from pet stores but the plant itself is very fragrant and can grow up to three feet in height. Along with its heart shaped leaves, the plant also sprouts colourful white, purple, pink and blue flowers. Catnip is native to Asia, Europe and Africa. They are now also grown in North America. Over 250 varieties of catnip exist today. Other names for it are catswort and catmint. Several people grow it easily at sunny spots in their own homes. Even a small space like a balcony or a broad windowsill will do.
Why is catnip for cats so tempting?
Cat toys are often accompanied by a small pack of catnip because cats seem to love it. This is because the stem and leaves of the plant have the nepetalactone oil. It is assumed that it imitates cat pheromones, stimulating those receptors to result in a high that can be described as ‘euphoria’.
Catnip behaves as a sedative when cats eat it. And when it is smelled, it gets them excited.
So, if you offer your cat some catnip, you may see some unusualbehaviour – your cat may rub it, roll on it and even lick or chew it. You may also see them growling, drooling, purring etc. This will probably go one for a few minutes, after which the effects wear off.
It has been noted that catnip stimulates the same reactions from much bigger members of the cat family including lions, leopards and tigers.
This is why catnip is often offered with cat toys, it is a way of drawing your pet’s attention to the toy and tempting him or her to play with it.
Not All Cats
Interestingly, not all housecats react the same way to catnip. It is said that kittens and older cats are not as likely to be enamoured by the plant. Some theories suggest that the susceptibility to the charms of catnip are hereditary and that the trait is passed down from parents to kittens. This is the explanation given to the fact that the plant does not affect many Australian cats.
Other Uses of Catnip
Nepetalactone oil has plenty of uses besides giving your kitty a buzz. It is also very useful in repelling common pests that plague our homes and gardens like termites, cockroaches, flies and even mosquitoes! However, when applied to the skin, it loses its repellent qualities. Thanks to it being a mild sedative, people have (historically) used catnip to ease nausea, toothaches and headaches.
Catnip is a great way of naturally enticing some interesting (and some crazy) reactions from felines. This is why pet parents often prefer catnip toys buy online. It tempts cats to play with them and ensures that the toy gets their attention. While most cats love catnip, there are those who are not affected by catnip toys for cats. For instance, kittens and older cats are not likely to be tempted by catnip. Once the nepetalactoneoil wears off, your cat will lose interest in it.
They enjoy it most in dried and ground form, which is why pet stores often supply it in this form. If you need to get your pet’s attention to that new cat scratching post that you got them, then this is the best way to do it. Other popular catnip toys for cats are catnip balls, catnip mice and catnip toys at the end of wands.