Are you a human and wondering, “What is catnip?” and what makes us feline friends go purr crazy when encountering the magical herb? Cat owners worldwide have witnessed us crazy cats lose ourselves when we encounter the cat “crack” that is catnip. Just check out these videos on our TikTok.
We’re going to dive into the secrets behind the special ‘nip and show you exactly what catnip is, how it works, and how you can use it with your awesome buddy at playtime and beyond!
What is Catnip?
Catnip is scientifically known as Nepta Cataria; it's a lemony-scented herb that belongs to the mint family. Such a beautiful flower that's drought-resistant and hardy (like me when I was on the streets and back alleys!). It blooms in the late spring through autumn, my favorite time of year. Mmmm, warm weather and some fresh Cat Crack, nothing beats it.
You may think a plant from the mint family must not do much more than make ice cream taste delicious… (Is catnip ice cream my next venture!?). Catnip’s beauty lies in its active compound, nepetalactone, which affects cats' brains by binding to receptors and triggering emotional and behavioral responses.
You have probably seen this as tail-wagging, euphoric, and playful behavior from your cat once they take a hit of the nip. This has turned catnip into a must-have for many cat owners who are looking to give their feline friends some entertainment and happiness in their lives.
Nepatalacone is stored in the microscopic bulbs on the catnip plants' leaves, stems, and pods. This is why sometimes you see small stems in our Cat Crack. We can't throw away the good stuff! It all contains the compound that makes your cat loco. Once your kitty starts to play, crush. Or rub against the catnip, the nepetalactone is released, causing a feline frenzy.
From rolling, purring, playing, or even just chilling out - the active ingredient in catnip can incite a wide range of reactions from your furry friend. However, not all cats will react to catnip the same way.
Cats & Catnip - The Effects of Catnip
The relationship between cats and catnip is a very interesting one to say the least. Especially if you’ve seen some of my feline friends dip their faces into their tub of cat crack. The scent of catnip mimics female cats' pheromones that stimulate a strong reaction to the nip and their overall attraction to the plant itself. However, it does not make them addicted to the plant. This is called “Olfactory Attraction”
What is Olfactory Attraction or scent attraction?
The scent of catnip and its essential oils stimulates cats' olfactory receptors, leading to an irresistible attraction to the plant. The active ingredient we discussed earlier, nepetalactone, binds to the cat's receptors in its mouth and nose, activating their scent system, or olfactory receptors in the brain, that then trigger the release of endorphins (the feel-good hormones you humans get by taking your morning run) which are responsible for the changes in behavior you see with cat crack.
What kind of behaviors do cats have with Catnip?
When you give your cat some high-quality catnip, they can show a wide variety of behaviors, such as:
- Rolling and rubbing
- Tail wagging
- Extreme playfulness
- Jumping and leaping (Purrrkour!)
These behaviors come with the “high” of euphoria or relaxation for your feline friend. It does, however, depend on the individual cat and their genetics. These catnip-induced feline acrobatics sessions last 10-15 minutes, before they start to calm down and are followed by a chill period of relaxation. After about 2 hours, they hit the reset switch and can be given catnip again to get the same effect they had before. Giving catnip before this reset will just prolong the existing mellow effect.
Smelling vs Eating Catnip
Cats may have different reactions depending on if they have eaten the catnip or sniffed the catnip. Catnip that is ingested and digested actually makes your cat more relaxed versus euphoric which they get by sniffing.
Once your cat starts to get experienced with catnip they usually will have a preference whether they want to get happy or chilled.
Why doesn’t the catnip make my cat high?
Catnip has the best effect on cats who are out of their kitten stage, or olderthan 4 months. Some cats can also be “immune” from the effect of catnip and enjoy some other alternatives that can have a similar effect.
Catnip has less of an effect on older cats as their senses have dulled over time, similar to humans .
Genetic Factors of Catnip Effectiveness
Like humans, cats also have genetic predispositions, and therefore, sometimes catnip sensitivity can be determined by genetics. If your cat hasn't reacted to catnip, don't worry; it’s most likely not a bad batch of catnip but maybe a genetic predisposition. Approximately 70% of cats react to the plant.
If one cat parent is sensitive to the plant, the kitten also has a 60% chance of being sensitive. With two parents sensitive, they are most likely to be catnip sensitive, too!
Therefore, most cats go cray cray for catnip, while others may not.
Using Catnip To Train Your Cat
While catnip is known for its playful, relaxing effects on cats, it's a versatile herb with many benefits and uses. We will dive into how you can train your cat and reduce their anxiety with cat crack.
Using Catnip as a Training Aid
Catnip is a great way to train your cat. You can incorporate Cat Crack into your training exercises, such as promoting active play, teaching them to scratch pads instead of furniture, encouraging exercise as well as introducing them into new environments.
Using catnip for new environments.
For new environments, sprinkle a little catnip around the new environment where you’d like your cat to go explore in. They’re going to be attracted to the scent and go try it.
Training to use new toys
For new toys, scratch posts, etc., sprinkle the catnip all over the scratch posts. You’ll see your cat start to play and engage due to the catnip.
Using catnip as a boredom buster
Boredom and cats can go together and cause some troublesome behaviors. **Looks at a lamp at the corner of the table.** By providing your feline friend with a catnip-infused toy or letting them roll around in the nip, you can stimulate their senses and amuse them so they don't get into some trouble that can hurt your wallet.
Calming Effects & Anxiety Reduction.
Catnips' calming effects can play a role in reducing anxiety in cats, making it perfect for stressful situations such as going in the car, traveling, or going to the vet. The soothing effects of catnip will promote zen and tranquility that even you would be jealous of. By incorporating it into their daily routine, you can alleviate any stressors at home, for example, another pet or when visitors come over. This can help them with exposure and eventually alleviate the stressor over time.
Catnip sounds great, right? Can Humans Use Catnip?
As a cat owner, the effect of catnip may make you jealous. I mean, who doesn't want relaxation and euphoria? So, can humans use catnip?
Surprisingly, catnip has been used medically on humans. It has provided relief for insomnia, migraines, and even arthritis when used properly. It's also an excellent mosquito repellant!
What forms of Catnip are available?
There are a few forms of catnip available.
Dried catnip can be used to stuff cat toys, brew catnip tea (for your cat), or make catnip spray.
Fresh catnip -
Fresh Catnip is directly from the catnip plant and resembles mint. it can be given to cats to play with or eat.
Organic Catnip is 100% organic, non-GMO, or sprayed with any chemicals or pesticides. It's the creme de la creme of catnip.
Each form of catnip offers different benefits and experiences for your lil kitty. You can experiment with catnip in so many ways to find something that works for them.
Catnip Safety and Moderation
To guarantee a positive experience with catnip, it's essential to use the herb safely and in moderation. We’re going to look into some frequently asked concerns from our catnip customers.
Can cats overdose on catnip?
No! Cats cannot overdose on catnip, but like with humans moderation is key. You wouldn’t eat a ton of chocolate all the time just because you could. If you eat too much chocolate you may get a stomach ache, feel drowsy and sick. Cats have the same with catnip, if you are constantly giving your kitty large quantities of catnip, they can have vomiting or diarrhea.
We call this a catnip hangover. Just like humans, cats can experience a "catnip hangover" if they indulge too much. Signs of a hangover may include lethargy, excessive grooming, temporary loss of interest in catnip, or, in some cases, mild digestive discomfort like vomiting.
If your cat experiences a "catnip hangover," don't worry; it's entirely normal. Remove the catnip, and allow your cat to rest. They'll bounce back in no time.
Start with a small amount and monitor their reaction, you can give a few times per day but having it available for them 24/7 is not advised.
Keeping your catnip fresh
Catnip can lose its potency if it's not in climate controlled environments. We see this in some brands of catnip that are sent from abroad into the US. They do not regulate temperature on the journey and the catnip loses potency.
Cat Crack uses temperature-controlled environments to keep the potency of the herb. As it is sourced locally in North America, it has less distance to travel, and our climate technology for the journey helps keep its potency high. Cat Crack comes in an airtight container to stop it from going stale and gives you the highest quality catnip around with up to 78% nepetalactone content, some of the highest on the market! TLDR: it’s a good-quality crack for your cat.
When at home we would advise storing it in a cool, dark place such as your freezer or fridge to keep it as fresh as possible. It is a herb, after all! This stops the essential oils in the plant that hold the active ingredient from breaking down or evaporating.
Catnip Frequently Asked Questions
What does catnip do to cats?
Catnip stimulates cats by triggering a reaction in their brain similar to how some substances affect humans, causing them to experience feelings of euphoria and relaxation.
Why do people give cats catnip?
Giving cats catnip is a great way for humans to treat their cats, train them by encouraging positive behaviors, and get them to relax. It also eases cat depression and anxiety.
Is catnip like a high for cats?
Yes, catnip is like a high for cats. Its active compound, nepalatone, activates the brain's opioid reward system, producing a sense of euphoria. This high effect from catnip lasts approximately 10-15 minutes before wearing off.
Can cats become addicted to catnip?
No cats cannot become addicted to catnip. Research from multiple studies indicates effects are temporary, and there is no evidence to support it being addictive or harmful to a cat's development.