, February 27, 2024

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The Catnip Craziness

  •   3 min reads
The Catnip Craziness
by Mariana Burgos

Everyone knows that catnip makes cats go berserk. Some of you may even have catnip items for your kitties at home. In fact, experts have observed that wild, large cats exhibit this behavior as well. So, what is the key to catnip’s power over our four-legged friends? We thought it would be a good idea to provide you a bit more information on what catnip is and how it affects cats.

What is catnip?

According to the article “Catnip, Nepeta cataria” of the Wisconsin Horticulture website, catnip is a hardy, herbaceous perennial native to Eurasia in the mint family (Lamiaceae) that grows aggressive and weedy. Nepeta cataria is one of numerous species known as catmints and is widely naturalized in temperate parts of the world.

A catnip plant. (Photo from Dreamstine royalty-free images.)

Wisconsin Horticulture says that catnip has rangy leaves with green to gray-green foliage on upright, branching stalks. It features the typical square stems of mint plants and opposing leaves with 1-inch petioles, as do other members of the mint family. Fine hairs cover the stems and petioles of this light green plant. The leaves are triangular to oval, up to 3 inches long, with coarse teeth along the edges (crenate margins) and cordate at the base. Fine hairs cover the upper and bottom surfaces, and a reticulated network of veins is apparent on the upper side. Catnip plants may reach a height of two to three feet. It can produce blue, white, pink, or purple blooms at the terminals of the stalks.

How does it work on cats?

Joe Dunne,veterinarian, in his article “Why Do Cats Like Catnip?,” says that the plant generates an organic substance called nepetalactone, which enters a cat’s system through the nasal passages. Nepetalactone is located in minute bulbs in the catnip plant’s leaves, stem, and pods, and the substance is released when the plant is crushed or bitten. A cat stroking against fresh or dry plant parts might also emit nepetalactone.

This cat goes crazy with catnip. (Photo from Dreamstine royalty-free images.)

When your cat inhales nepetalactone, the molecules bond to olfactory cells in her nose, sending a signal to her brain and causing her to go crazy.

How exactly do cats react to catnip?

When many owners give their cat catnip, they observe that cats begin performing in ways that assist release of nepetalactone. You may see your cat rolling in a patch of catnip or attempting to consume it in order to get more into her system.

Your cat may get hyperactive when the catnip enters her system, rushing around the room and leaping on furniture or a favorite cat tree. While rolling around on the floor, some cats begin stretching and drooling. Other cats react more sedately, becoming quiet and comfortable after smelling catnip’s powerful fragrance. Essentially, the effects differ for each cat, so you won’t know how your cat will react unless you give her a chance to try it.

A cat rubs itself on the catnip plant. ( via Flickr)

Most cats resume normal behavior within a half hour, and many only feel the effects for 5 to 10 minutes. After calming down, cats become temporarily immune to the effects, thus giving your cat more does not result in the same unusual cat behavior.

Dunne says there is no danger of a cat having an overdose on catnip, and cats do not grow addicted to it. They may become accustomed to it, and the reaction may diminish if administered too regularly.

Can catnip affect humans?

Humans do not react to catnip in the same manner as cats do, although the plant is frequently used as an alternative treatment for headaches, sleeplessness, and arthritis. Catnip may also be used as a natural insect repellent, albeit it isn’t as long-lasting or efficient as standard mosquito repellents.

This article also appears in the Manila Standard

About the Author: Mariana Burgos is a freelance artist. She has been a solo parent for 16 years now because she is wife to a desaparecido. She and her daughter are animal lovers and are active in advocating not only human rights but the rights of animals as well.

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