Is Catnip Safe for Cats?
What if we tell you that there is something that can make your cats go gaga just instantly! Yes, It exists! If cats have garnered a mysterious position in life, how can their ways of life be any different! Now, without any further ado, let’s talk about an equally mysterious source of entertainment for cats, Catnip. What’s that hidden conductor which regulates a unique response in cats?
What Is Catnip?
Catnip is nothing but a perennial, herbaceous plant. It grows in North America and blooms all through late spring and autumn. Significantly short-lived herbs that grow from 50-100 centimeters in size, belonging from the mint family, cousin to our 'knowns' basil and oregano, Catnips share a strange position in a cat's life, as it rekindles emotions that are unusual to a cat. It is so interlinked to our kitties that it draws its scientific name from them too. The Latin word Nepeta Cataria finds its etymology in cats, in which Cataria stands for 'of a cat.'
Catnip is a plant, sure! But how does it woo a Cat?
Catnip leaves, stems, and seeds have an unusual chemical in the form of an oil(Nepetalactone Oil), that when smelt by a kitty, can make them purr, lick, love, shake their head; do everything that their “angry-man” imagery disapproves of. Organisms apart from cats or even human beings are incapable of witnessing the magic of this oil, for they lack the extra organ(Vomeronasal gland) only cats have. The gland is present in the upper lining or roof of the mouth that takes this scent from their nose to brain.
"the chemical binds to receptors inside a cat's nose, which stimulate sensory neurons leading into the brain. This appears to alter activity in several areas of the brain, including the olfactory bulb, the amygdala, and the hypothalamus."
In layman’s language, the hypothalamus is a regulator for the emotions in animals. And the olfactory bulb (sensory tract) helps the cat to perceive catnips as sex pheromones. So the feeling or that high for 10 minutes mimics a female cat in heat or the queen in season. Overt signs of affection, relaxation, and happiness in the cat are resultant of that rush.
YES! We know what you might be thinking about! The high, that rush, happy hormones find a place in the human dictionary in the form of psychoactive drugs. While many theorists do give Catnips the same name, how true is their theory?
Catnips are suggested to have worked for many issues in cats, such as,
- Helps reduce stress
- Relieves from pain
- Helps deal Separation Anxiety
So it is more of a medication or recreational activity for them! And why not so? There is no addiction found to Catnips in kitties. When we say cats are one of the smartest animals we know, we mean it! Cats eventually grow out of that rush. Dr. Dunkle, the founder of Exclusively Cats Veterinary Hospital in Medford, New Jersey, remarks, "as opposed to addiction, cats habituate to it. "The Law of Diminishing Marginal Utility works, and it is just a matter of time that your newly born dream of controlling your cats breaks.
The law works so much that till the time a cat becomes a senior, it has already lost interest in catnip.
Hence it is better to use catnips strategically. DO NOT use it just because you are having fun seeing them rolling, purring or licking. Use it when you need it, like when you want to leave them alone or if you want to incorporate something healthy in their diets. If they have gradually become sad, boost their spirits with it and let them experience euphoria.
If you think that this funny thing has suddenly popped out of nowhere and blown away the world of cats, then you have been too naive to have known the magic. Our domesticated kitties are no different from their ancestors. This love affair with Catnips began right from the beginning, with lions, tigers, and panthers. You have to leave the scent, and the community of cats will be head over heels for it.
What? Are you wondering if, after all these years, you have finally found a way to get hold of your kitties? Better luck next time! The effect of catnip only lasts for 10-15 minutes, then gradually it wears off. It is only after 30 minutes, also called the olfactory period, that it could show its effects on them again, which too would differentiate from cat to cat. So getting them to sniff catnip is no sure shot way to take away their independence from them, for it will wear down, and they would come back to their true selves.
Not only this, one in every two cats responds to this amazing thing called catnips. Again, it has to do with their ancestors. You do not have to trace back as lions and tigers, but genetic inclinations come into play.
For example, cats in Australia are non-responsive to catnips. After a lot of speculations and analysis, it was found that the genetic pool of the continent was non-responsive.
How and Where to buy Catnips?
Well, you can find Catnips in your backyard too: given you take proper care of the plant and it's a shady place. Although it is tough to derive the oil from a freshly cut plant, it works best in dried form. The best alternative is to explore and look for it in stores online.
Draw the comparison with your kitchen herbs; don't they smell the best when dried? Similarly, this herb attracts the cat through its scent first, so it is primary to have the smell intact. However, this does not mean the fresh version would not do the job; it is just that you would have to rub and dry the leaves and seeds to activate. There are chances that fresh catnips are extremely potent for your cats. Thus, it is best to order it from a pet store online for better efficacy.
However, when we say dry, we do not mean dead, scentless leaves. If the leaves, seeds have none of these things, it has lost its potency, making it useless for your kitty to smell. Although the kitty might still eat it, keep a check on when the kitty eats it.
While there is no harm in eating it, the quantity matters, excessive may cause upset stomach, vomiting, diarrhoea and dizziness. Trust your kitty to know when they have had enough. Never lose your check on them because every kitty is different, and you never know how it might react to yours. Initially, it is only natural that cats will be curious to have it more, but keep the storage place mysterious and beyond their reach.