Cats & Catnip – A Match Made in Heaven

cat smelling catnip

As most cat owners know: cats are crazy for catnip. Give kitties some catnip and most of them will be rolling about in a state of ecstasy within seconds. Why do they do that? Here are a few interesting facts about catnip and its effects on your feline friend.

• Catnip’s effect on cats was first written about over 200 years ago but it wasn’t until the first half of the 20th century that scientists began to study what was going on and why. During this time, researchers isolated the main constituents in Catnip that have such an amusing effect on cats.

• The Catnip plant produces chemicals to protect it from predators. Among these chemicals is nepetalactone, which defends the plant from marauding insects, this and related substances are also responsible for Catnip’s effects on cats. Please note that catnip is non-toxic to cats under normal circumstances; however, cats should be introduced gradually to the plant, in case they have an unusual reaction to it.

• The active substances in catnip have to be inhaled rather than eaten to produce a response. Cats can detect minute amounts of the chemicals they love, and soon after finding the source of the aroma, they show a common behavior pattern. They chew the plant or toy. Then they rub their cheeks, chins, and bodies against it, which helps to release more of the substances they crave from the microscopic bulbs on the surface of the leaves and stems.

• Catnip’s effects are short lived. After 5 to 10 minutes, cats lose interest, but give them an hour or two and they’ll begin to respond again. This is because cats’ noses and brains become temporarily “immune” to the pleasures of catnip and need time to recover.

• Not all cats love catnip. Kittens don’t start to show interest until they near sexual maturity. Some cats don’t react at all and it’s thought that catnip sensitivity is inherited.

• Domestic cats love to tumble in Nepeta cataria, and lions, leopards, bobcats, and ocelots love to, too.

Cats and catnip are an entertaining pairing. Invest in a catnip toy or grow your own plants, and sit back and enjoy the fun along with your pet.

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