Why Do Cats Go Crazy For Catnip?

Why Do Cats Go Crazy For Catnip?

Most cats get playful from time to time, but a cat on catnip shows a different level of intense energy. If you've ever found your tabby rolling on its back, drooling or pawing at invisible objects—that’s the catnip effect in full force.

Let’s learn more about what catnip is and some of its practical benefits for you and your feline friend.


Understanding Catnip

Catnip, also called Nepeta cataria, is a species of herb belonging to the mint family. Between 50% and 70% of cats can be affected by the herb, either by smelling or eating it. When a cat smells catnip, your furry friend will be unusually energetic and giddy for about 10 to 20 minutes. This can be a fun and safe way to let your cat get out some extra energy while providing some entertainment for you and your family. 

While smelling catnip gives cats energy, eating the plant has a different effect. When your cat licks or eats catnip, instead of a burst of energy, it generally causes them to become calm and lazy-like. 

Researchers aren't sure exactly how to explain the reaction cats have to the plant, but they believe the herb triggers receptors in the brain that cause euphoria or a mellow mood, depending on how the plant is ingested.

The Science Behind the Reaction

Although the side effects are unusual, catnip is not thought to be harmful. When your cat inhales the scent of the catnip plant, a compound called nepetalactone stimulates the pleasure center of their brain. This causes a euphoric feeling in your cat, which has been compared to the effects of hallucinogens on humans. However, catnip has been shown to be perfectly safe for cats, and there is no danger of your cat overdosing. 

Benefits of Catnip 

While catnip is usually thought of as a fun treat for your cat, it does have a few practical benefits. 

The first and most obvious benefit is how energized it can make your cat. If your cat is on the lazier side, a little dose of catnip can have them running, flipping, and rolling around for 10-20 minutes. This can be a great way to coax them into an exercise routine if other types of cat toys aren’t that interesting to them. 

Catnip is more than just a natural way to give your kitty a treat that makes them go a little crazy. Another practical reason to provide catnip is as a natural insect-repellent. The same compound responsible for energizing your cat, nepetalactone, acts as a powerful deterrent for mosquitoes, flies, and other insects. Keeping these bugs away can help keep your cat safe from any insect borne diseases as well as free of annoying bug bites. 

There is another practical benefit that may be more appealing to cat owners than cats themselves: catnip has proven useful when training cats to use scratching posts. If you want to prevent your cat from clawing your sofa or table, simply tie a catnip toy to your scratching post to attract the cat and get her scratching in the appropriate location. 

Catnip Alternative: Silver Vine

If your cat doesn’t respond to catnip but you still want to give them an energizing treat, consider trying silver vine. Also known as Actinidia polygama, silver vine is a climbing vine that produces small, silver-hued fruits that emit a captivating aroma. 

Similar to catnip, silver vine contains a compound called actinidine, which triggers a delightful response in many cats. When exposed to silver vine, your fuzzy friend may exhibit a range of reactions, from increased playfulness and excitement to a state of serene relaxation. 

Let Your Cat Go Crazy with Catnip 

Catnip is a fun way to give your cat a little boost of energy as well as a practical way to keep them—and your furniture—safe. Rubbing catnip on your cat’s scratching post is one of the easiest ways to administer catnip. 

Treat your cat scratching post covers with organic liquid catnip to encourage scratching and use. When it’s time to replace the cover on your cat’s scratching post, consider a sisal carpet remnant


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