Catnip. Catmint. Catwort. Field balm.
It doesn’t matter what it is called but this herb is certainly the favorite herb of cats.
“Lions, tigers, panthers, and your common domestic tabby just can't seem to get enough of this fragrant herb,” said Fetch by WebMD in “Truth About Catnip.”
“Originally from Europe and Asia, minty, lemony, potent catnip -- Nepeta cataria -- has long been associated with cats. Even its Latin-derived cataria means ‘of a cat.’ And research shows that cats big and small adore this weedy, invasive member of the mint family,” Fetch added.
Why do these animals love catnip very much? Is this herb safe for cats?
Catnip is calming to most cats, said Fetch.
The good news is most cats are okay with catnip.
But one to two cats may have inherited an allergy to this herb
“It's genetics that determines whether your feline friend falls for this cousin to basil and oregano. About one cat in two inherits a sensitivity to the herb. But you won't know if your kitten is one of them until sometime between ages 3 and 6 months,” Fetch said.
Catnip's allure is due to its volatile oil, specifically the chemical nepetalactone in that oil.
“Found in catnip's leaves, stems, and seeds, it only takes one or two sniffs of that wondrous oil before susceptible felines are licking, chewing, and rolling head-over-tail in kitty bliss,” said Fetch.
The effect is intense but the bliss usually lasts for only 10 minutes for most cats.
“For some, the euphoria translates into aggressive playfulness. At the same time, it makes others mellow and calm. But no matter what reaction your cat has, once the pleasure passes it'll be about two hours before kitty responds to catnip again,” Fetch said.
Catnip: Toys and Training
Catnip is a powerful training aid because cats do respond to catnip again and again.
“Want to keep kitty from clawing furniture? Rub a scratching post with catnip to make it more appealing. Bought a new cat bed? Sprinkle a little of the herb on kitty's cushion to make it more attractive to your feline friend,” Fetch said.
“You can also provide enrichment for an indoor kitty by creating catnip toys. Sprinkle a bit of the herb into an old sock, then knot the top. Or put a big pinch of catnip in a small paper bag and crush the bag into a tight ball,” it added.
But, Fetch explained that “The intensity of the kitty's response to toys and training will be affected by the type of catnip you use. While most cats enjoy the herb dried or fresh, they're usually less interested in catnip sprays, which generally don't contain enough nepetalactone to appeal to most feline.”
Great news for furparents: catnip is non-addictive.
Luckily also, furparents can easily grow catnip. Just put a pot on window sill or beside a window where the sun can shine on the plant in the morning.
“You can even go so far as to create your own kitty garden with one pot of catnip and one of wheat, oat, rye, or barley grass. Not only will kitty enjoy both, but having its own house plants may keep kitty out of yours. If you plant catnip directly in the garden, remember that, like most mints, it's a vigorous, sometimes invasive, grower,” Fetch said.
A warning from Fetch: “Catnip's potency doesn't last forever; the essential oils quickly dissipate. So if you buy dried catnip for your feline friend, store what you don't use in the freezer.”
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