You have never seen a truly blissful cat unless you have witnessed one rolling around in some catnip. With just a sprinkle of this minty green herb (referred to as nepeta cataria in the scientific community), your cat may react with a variety of unusual behaviors—including licking, chewing, rolling around, cheek rubbing and vocalization—all from the euphoric and relaxed state induced by the ‘nip.
Not all cats react to catnip the same—and about 30% of the cat population is totally unaffected by it (sensitivity to catnip is an inherited, gene-dependent trait). Usually, a cat won’t respond to catnip until they reach sexual maturity (about 3-6 months), and older cats are typically less enticed than their younger counterparts. For those kitties that do feel the effects of catnip—once they smell it, they go into a non-addictive and pleasure-induced state that lasts about 10 minutes. Once olfactory fatigue sets in, your cat will walk away like nothing happened. A few hours later, you can guarantee they’ll be back and ready for round two.
How It Works
The chemical in nepeta cataria that is responsible for triggering the euphoric state in cats is nepetalactone. When a cat smells catnip, the chemical enters the cat’s nasal tissue and binds to protein receptors that stimulate the neurons, thus signaling their brain to react. Your cat will then behave in a similar way to how a cat typically responds to pheromones: excited and happy. Samantha Bell, cat behavior and enrichment lead at Best Friends Pet Adoption & Spay/Neuter Center in L.A., says that your cat can experience different effects depending on how they use the catnip. “If cats eat the catnip, it usually has a calming effect. But if they smell the catnip, it usually has an energizing effect.”
Boosting Their Spirits
Besides sudden changes in mood, cats can benefit from the catnip plant in various ways. “One wonderful benefit of catnip is that it can be used to encourage a scared, shy or depressed kitty to play, which will help them gain confidence and brighten their spirits,” says Samantha. “You want to enrich all five of your cat’s senses, and catnip is wonderful olfactory enrichment for cats. Scent is a huge part of your cat’s life.”
Finding the Best Catnip
When it comes to the type of catnip you should get your furball, know that not all catnip products are created equal. There are many different forms catnip is sold in (like sprays, oils and compressed pellets), as well as different leaf grades. On top of that, catnip can come in organic or non-organic varieties. When it comes to all-natural and organic catnip, you can’t go wrong with Sojos Catnip. The leaves are hand harvested from the Cascade Mountains of Washington and are kept in a tin to preserve freshness and potency. If you are growing your own catnip plant, Samantha recommends crushing the leaves of the catnip plant between your fingers before giving it to your cat to increase the effectiveness of the herb. “This releases the nepetalactone oil, which is what gives cats the euphoric feelings,” she says.
KONG Naturals Premium Catnip is another high-quality catnip with a potent formula. This catnip is harvested at peak freshness and made from all-natural ingredients and oils. All the KONG Naturals products are ecologically responsible and made from renewable resources, so you can feel good about treating your cat.
Beyond the catnip plant as a dried-out herb, you can also purchase catnip as an oil packaged in a convenient spray bottle. KONG Naturals Catnip Spray is made from steam-distilled oil, making it the most potent catnip oil on the market. Without the flakes of dried catnip, there is no mess to clean up afterwards, and you can spray it on just about anything—cat trees and towers, toys, and scratchers. This is especially helpful for training your cat to scratch and claw places other than your furniture or rugs.
Besides rolling in greens, cats also like to eat them, too. Sometimes, cats will have a craving for grass and won’t hesitate to indulge on your own front lawn or landscaping plants. This can be potentially harmful to your kitty, as most outdoor plants and grasses are often treated with pesticides and other hazardous chemicals. To ensure your cat is satisfied without putting him in harm’s way, consider growing your own organic pet grass indoors. Bellrock Growers Pet Greens Self Grow Garden Pet Grass is perfect for growing all-natural greens that are loaded with nutrients like chlorophyll, carotene, antioxidants, and vitamins and minerals, plus fiber that helps support digestion. All you do is add water to the bag, and in about a week your cat will be thanking you for their all-natural, chemical-free treat.