What is Catnip and is it Safe for Kitties?

Quite a number of articles have been written on catnips and its effect on kitties, with photos of them in a state of 'high' that can be quite hilarious. And there is a wide range of products with catnip incorporated to reduce anxiety when sniffed at, or ingested.

But then, what is catnip and why the craze over it?

Nepeta cataria, or more commonly known as catnip, is a plant native to parts of Europe and Asia. It's a greyish-green plant with jagged heart shaped leaves and thick stems that are both covered in fuzzy hairs. The active ingredient is called nepetalactone, which many domestic cats respond to in a variety of different ways. In fact, big cats like jaguars, lions and tigers can go crazy over it as well.

Responses to catnip typically include sniffing, licking, biting, rubbing or rolling on the plant, head shaking, drooling, vocalising and even kicking with the hind feet. When nepetalactone enters a cat's nose, it binds to receptors on the sensory neurons lining the nasal cavity, which, in turn, activate different areas of the brain that control emotion and behaviour. The effects of catnip usually only last 10 to 15 minutes. In short, the more your cat eats or inhales it, the stronger the effect.

Do note however, that around 30% of adult cat population do not respond to catnip, and this is likely due to genes makeup. Kittens don't develop the ability to react to catnip until they are around three to six months of age.

Japan's Cat Island

At the Ehime prefecture in Japan lies a small island known as Aoshima, which is famously known as Cat Island. A few cats were introduced to the island few decades to curb the growing mice problem. The plan worked so well that the cat population increased so much that they outnumbered the residents by 6 to 1!

The small island of Aoshima which is located in the Ehime prefecture in Japan is the closest to cat haven one can find on earth. A few cats were brought to the remote island decades ago in order to curb mice problem which plagued the residents there.

Catnip plants were later introduced, and needless to say, the cat community occasionally get 'intoxicated' as shown below. 

Hundreds of cat-loving tourists visit the island every year just to be surrounded by these furry kitties. The handful of residents who stay on the island don’t particularly mind the cats but occasionally get fed up when they ruin a garden or two. 

Catnip Use At Home

Kitty lovers like to use catnip to encourage cats to explore, or even use it as a training aid. You can apply a small amount of catnip on a new kitty toy to encourage creative play, or on a new scratch mat/post to entice scratching.

Although catnip is non-toxic to cats, over-indulgence can cause vomiting or diarrhoea. Do control the amount and time-span of your kitty's exposure to catnip. You can purchase catnip toys and dried catnip in most pet stores (or from us here).

Do note that dried catnip does not contain as much nepetalactone oil as fresh catnip. One way will be to grow your own catnip plants. It's pretty easy to grow and they can be found in most nurseries in the herb section. They are best planted in early spring, preferably with sandy soil and under direct sunlight. You can freeze in an airtight container to keep it fresh and to.store them over a longer period of time.

Is it cruel to give a cat catnip?

Although catnip do give that pleasurable 'high' hallucinogenic effect for kitties, and some find it funny to watch the antic their kitties can display, we should always give catnip to our kitties somewhere quiet, and also avoid areas where they usually eat and sleep, then lt them decide if they feel like taking a hit, in their own time.

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