Catnip (also called catmint, catswort, and catwort) is a perennial herb from the mint family that sends some cats crazy with excitement. Very few felines are capable of resisting its minty appeal. So, knowing how to use catnip for cats is extremely useful for any pet owner to know.
If your pet scratches furniture, spraying catnip on a scratching post could help to modify this habit. If your cat is reluctant to play with his toys, catnip could heighten his interest and result in more physical activity. Not all cats respond the same way, and overexposure could result in indifference to its effects. The over-ingestion of catnip can lead to gastrointestinal problems.
Catnip should always be used in moderation and with due care. Not every feline reacts positively to the impact of catmint. We will look closely at the various uses of catnip. If your feline is a catnip enthusiast, you can use it to modify your cat’s day-to-day behavior considerably.
Table of Contents:
- 1 What Is Catnip?
- 2 How Much Catnip is Too Much?
- 3 Is Catnip Safe for All Cats?
- 4 How Long Does it Take for Catnip to Work?
- 5 How Long Do the Effects of Catnip Last?
- 6 Is Catnip Good for Cats?
- 7 How to Use Catnip for Cats
- 8 Can You Use Catnip for Litter Training?
- 9 Is Catnip Mixed with Cat Food Safe to Eat?
- 10 How Long Does Catnip Last in a Toy?
- 11 Can I Grow Catnip for My Cat?
- 12 What are the Alternatives to Catnip for Cats?
What Is Catnip?
Catnip is an herb, known as Nepeta Cataria in the original Latin. It’s part of the mint family, and grows in wild locations. You’ll likely find catnip in any number of botanical locations.
Catnip has been found in the United States since the earliest days of the settlers. The impact of the herb on felines was quickly discovered, but remained a mystery for some time. In 1941, a study by the American Chemical Society discovered new facts about catnip.
Scientists learned that it’s nepetalactone, a chemical found inside the herb, that sends cats crazy. Without this compound, catnip would be just another herb. The presence of nepetalactone drastically elevates the appeal of catnip to cats.
Why Do Cats Like Catnip?
The scent of catnip triggers a reaction in the brain of a feline. The herb imitates pheromones and causes similar reactions. This is why a cat that experiences catnip acts similar to a female in heat.
This creates a natural high that your cat will otherwise struggle to recreate. If your cat has been spayed or neutered, he/she will no longer seek procreation. The use of catnip means that your pet can still experience those natural highs.
Catnip places felines into a state of ecstasy, but not all cats experience a high from catnip. If your pet does react, he will likely start to feel the effects almost immediately.
To gain the benefits of catnip, your cat needs to inhale it. Usually, one or two sniffs will do the trick. Some cats chew and bite on the leaves of a catnip plant.
They are not attempting to eat the herb. Doing so will make them sleepy. The more they bruise the stems of the growth, the more scent will be released.
Is Catnip a Drug for Cats?
Catnip is often discussed in similar terms to drugs. Some claim that the impact of the herb on felines is similar to a hallucinogen in humans. Others describe the effect as being akin to your cat becoming stoned. Either way, catnip is often referred to as a feline ‘high.’
This does not mean that catnip is a drug. For a start, catnip doesn’t affect all cats. Sensitivity to catnip is hereditary.
Opinions vary on what percentage of the feline population experience a reaction to the herb. Some say that it’s as low as 50%, while others say it could be high as 80%. Young kittens and senior cats are unlikely to show any reaction to catnip.
Either way, this hit-and-miss ratio means that catnip could never be described as a drug. Catnip is a herb that has an effect on some cats.
How Much Catnip is Too Much?
As catnip is a herb, technically there is no such thing as ‘too much.’ It isn’t possible for a cat to overdose on catnip in the conventional sense.
A cat will understand when he has had too much catnip. Most cats will grow weary of the effect, or understand that the effects have peaked. Your cat will walk away and leave the catnip behind.
In some rare instances, your cat may indulge in catnip to excess. If this happens, the worst effect is usually vomiting and diarrhea.
If your cat swallows too much catnip, then he’ll likely fall asleep. The herb is also a sedative, after all. If your pet is breathing normally, this is nothing to worry about.
If you’re going to use catnip in the house, do so sparingly. Three times a week is the maximum recommended exposure for a feline. This isn’t because the catnip will do him any harm.
He will become indifferent to the herb if he experiences it too often. Keeping catnip as a treat is the most effective way to retain its mystique and appeal.
Is Catnip Safe for All Cats?
Catnip will not have an effect on every cat. It’s all in the genes, and if your cat lacks the appropriate DNA, nothing will happen. This isn’t breed-specific either. Catnip can drive a mountain lion crazy, while a munchkin cat shows no interest. It’s all down to the sensitivity of the individual.
If catnip does not affect your cat, it will not harm him. He’ll be indifferent. A cat with no relationship with catnip may sniff it in curiosity and then walk away.
If the color beige had an aroma, it would match that of catnip for these felines. As a result, they’ll rarely attempt to eat the herb and experience the corresponding stomach upset.
Most cats will become blissed out when exposed to catnip. They’ll roll around, vocalize, and possibly become playful and affectionate. Some cats can become aggressive when exposed to catnip. This could result in growling and hissing, or even fighting with other felines.
If you have multiple cats in a house, tread a little carefully with catnip. Offer it to your pets independently and check how they react. If one pet becomes antagonistic or territorial, keep him separate while he experiences his nepetalactone high.
How Long Does it Take for Catnip to Work?
The effect of catnip on a feline is almost immediate. Once your cat takes a sniff of the herb, he will have an immediate reaction. Unless, of course, your pet is indifferent to catnip. In such an instance, he’ll likely wander off.
How your cat immediately reacts will depend on his personality. As discussed, some cats will become hyper, others aggressive, and others just sleepy.
If your cat doesn’t react to catnip, don’t keep offering it to him. He’ll either respond quickly, or not at all. While catnip is not toxic, it can cause stomach upsets if your pet overindulges.
How Long Do the Effects of Catnip Last?
If your pet is susceptible to catnip, the effects will last for around 10 minutes. After that, he will steadily return to normal. Even if access to the catnip remains, he will lose interest.
This is because a cat’s body needs to ‘reset’ itself after exposure to catnip. This could take as long as two hours. In theory, this means your pet is unlikely to make himself sick.
If your cat doesn’t understand the inner workings of catnip, he may grow impatient. This could lead to biting and eating the plant when chasing that high. Vomiting and diarrhea will then follow.
Is Catnip Good for Cats?
It would be a push to refer to catnip as a medicinal product. It’s entirely recreational, and a way to keep your pet content. This doesn’t mean that your cat will not enjoy some advantages, though.
The benefits of catnip for cats depend on how it affects your pet. If your cat is prone to stress and anxiety, catnip may calm him down. If you have a timid cat, it may bring him out of his shell.
If your cat is sedentary, catnip may excite him and boost his interest in playtime. Geriatric cats may not experience the effects of catnip, for good or bad.
There are many reasons to recommend the use of catnip. It’s perfectly safe, and many pets love it. As long as catnip is used in moderation, the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.
How to Use Catnip for Cats
Catnip typically comes in a solid form or spray. Solid catnip is stronger than the spray, thus it is more likely to get a reaction from your cat.
The primary purpose of catnip is as an attractant. Sprinkling a little catnip will have a significant effect on numerous household items. Examples include:
- Toys. If your cat shows little interest in toys, sprinkle them with catnip. Your cat will be begging to play again in no time. This is useful if a lazy cat is refusing to play, for example.
- Cushions and Pillows. Cats tend to pick wholly inconvenient spots for a nap. If they have their own pillow, apply a little catnip so that your cat moves towards it.
- Scratching Posts. A common lament is that their cat scratches the furniture. Applying catnip to a scratching post means that he’ll direct his attention there instead.
Additionally, catnip can also just be used as a treat or reward. If your cat enjoys the herb, offer it periodically to keep him happy. You can also hold it in reserve as a powerful training treat.
How to Use Solid Catnip
Just crumble solid catnip in your fingers, and apply it where you need it. Be aware that a little goes a long way. Your cat won’t need much to get a reaction. Just a pinch will provide what you need.
Solid catnip comes in a bag/tub, plant, or ball. Balls of catnip can be fun, but may provide a little too much in one hit. A bag or tub is a more realistic amount. Plants can be purchased or grown.
The effect of solid catnip depends on how fresh it is. Once catnip has gone stale, it will hold less fascination for your cat. This means that you should get it from a busy store.
How to Use Catnip Spray
Catnip spray is an aerosol that provides appealing scents for your cat.
A spray is a little weaker, and less fresh, than solid catnip. This means that it may not work for all pets. It can be effective on a scratching post, for example.
How to Apply Catnip to a Scratching Post
Catnip spray is the perfect way to get an appropriate scent on scratching posts. This can encourage your cat to stop scratching furniture and carpets.
All you’ll need to do is liberally spray the post. Your cat will soon come and investigate. As soon as he realizes what fun the scratching post provides, he’ll do what comes naturally.
Of course, you could also rub solid catnip over the post. Some even contain catnip pockets to slip the ground herb within. Catnip spray will, however, always be far easier to apply.
Can You Use Catnip for Litter Training?
In theory, catnip is a good option for litter box training. You’re trying to tempt your cat into his tray, and catnip will attract him. What could go wrong?
Well, you have to think about the effect of catnip. Does your cat roll around on his back when he sniffs catnip? Do you want your cat doing that in the contents of his litter tray?
Your cat may go a little hyper when he experiences catnip. This will wreak havoc on your pet’s concentration. That can be a fast track to leaving the litter tray and potential accidents.
Consider the fact that your cat may come to consider his litter box as a source of pleasure. Do you want your cat lounging, napping, and eating in it? That’s a fast track to several health concerns.
It’s safer for all concerned to keep catnip and litter trays separate. There are many scented attractants available.
Is Catnip Mixed with Cat Food Safe to Eat?
Eating catnip in sizeable quantities can lead to an upset stomach. As a result, it’s inadvisable to sprinkle catnip on a cat’s meal. It may even deter your pet from eating. Cats have such a strong sense of smell that mingling two distinct aromas often offends his senses.
If you’re looking to tempt your cat into eating from his bowl, use other methods. Tuna juice or chicken broth, for example, will attract a cat’s attention. Catnip should be avoided as a treat.
How Long Does Catnip Last in a Toy?
Many manufacturers stuff cat toys with catnip to make them more appealing to your pet. It can certainly be an effective strategy. Some cats will go crazy for a catnip-scented toy.
Just make sure that you watch and manage his reaction. If your cat becomes aggressive when expected to relinquish the toy, he could become dangerous.
How long this catnip lasts depends on the quality of the product. If you pick up a toy from the dollar store, it may lose its luster within hours. A costlier, more elaborate toy could last for several days.
What should be noted is that catnip in toys can be replenished. There is no need to rush out and purchase new toys every time. Instructables offers the following advice:
- Empty a glass jar large enough to house cat toys
- Purchase around 1 lb of catnip
- Fill the jar with catnip, and then the toys
- Shake the jar and leave the contents to settle for 24 hours
- Remove the toys and watch your cats go crazy for them all over again
You can repeat this trick as many times as necessary. There is no way to know if your cat will always return to old toys. Felines can be picky, and they may take against a former favorite toy on a whim.
Felines are creatures of habit. As inquisitive and curious as they are about new additions, they’ll likely cherish the tried-and-tested toys.
Can I Grow Catnip for My Cat?
You can grow a supply of catnip. The herb can be grown in a garden, or even indoors in a window box. Just be careful. Growing catnip will attract attention from neighborhood cats, so brace yourself for visitors. This could lead to territorial battles between cats.
The first step will be to purchase some catnip seeds. You’ll find these in a garden center, or even some pet stores. Gardening Knowhow recommends stratifying these seeds before planting. This involves freezing the seeds overnight and then placing them in water for 24 hours.
You’ll need to apply your seeds to soil. If you are doing this outdoors, wait until spring. If you’re using an indoor window box, this can be done during spring or fall.
The most important thing is to pick a location that will get plenty of sunshine. Catnip seeds will need at least six hours of direct sunlight each day to grow.
Once it reaches maturity, catnip can grow up to three inches in height. As a result, you’ll need to ensure that you provide enough space.
You should also prune the plant regularly, removing any dead leaves. Once your plant is grown, you can pluck the leaves. Leave these to dry and use them to keep your cats happy.
What are the Alternatives to Catnip for Cats?
There are plants similar to catnip. If you want a catnip substitute for your cats, try the following:
- Silvervine. This herb is native to Japan, where it remains popular. Many cat toys are filled with silvervine due to its attractive qualities.
- Lavender. This distinctive-smelling herb has a natural calming effect on felines.
- Chamomile. Like lavender, chamomile is very calming for a cat. Your pet will also be intrigued by the aroma of this herb.
- Tartarian Honeysuckle. There are a vast number of honeysuckle plants, many of which are toxic to cats. Tartarian honeysuckle, however, replicates the experience of catnip.
- Valerian Root. Many humans use this herb as a sedative, but it has the opposite effect on cats.
It’s essential that you’re careful when introducing cats to new plants. Ensure that your pet is not allergic or sensitive to the flora. If you’re confident that this is not the case, enjoy the effect of these herbs. You may find that a feline who remains indifferent to catnip delights in the above alternatives.
Catnip is something of a modern marvel. It has many uses for your cat, and almost all of them are positive. Whether it’s used for training or treating, many cats adore the scent of the herb.
If your pet shows any interest in catnip, learn to use this to your advantage. Just the slightest sniff can gain your cat’s attention. If he’s indifferent, you’ll need to find an alternative.