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Why Some Cats React So Strangely To Catnip And Others Don't

If you share your home with a cat you may have seen how they react whenever you give them a toy that contains catnip or if you've tried planting some of the herb in your garden. It's worth noting you can buy catnip in different strengths and that some cats are driven wild by it whereas others are not that interested at all. So why does catnip drive some cats so crazy?

Catnip's official name is Nepeta Cataria and the herb produces a compound that's known as Nepetalactone which is found on the leaves, stems and flowers of the plant. It's this oil that drives cats so wild that they start behaving weirdly. Some cats like to chew the herb and when they ingest any of it, they become extremely laid-back almost to the point of appearing to be sedated. With this said, some cats don't even have the slightest reaction to catnip and will walk right past the plant or totally ignore any toys that contain the herb.

The Positive Side of Catnip

The good news is that cats do not become addicted to catnip and if they enjoy rubbing themselves on the plant or toys filled with the herb, it is not only great fun to watch them as they get up to their "catnip antics", but it can change the mood they are in too. However, as previously mentioned not all cats respond to catnip and it's estimated one third of our feline friends are not particularly enamoured by it.

Strangely enough, most young kittens are not affected by catnip either and they don't start acting foolishly when they are anywhere near it. However, when they are anything from 3 to 6 months old, this is when you'll soon see if your cat loves the herb or not whether it's in a toy or when they come into contact with the plant. As a general rule, older cats in their senior years don't seem to be that bothered by catnip either.

The Various Strengths of Catnip

There are different qualities of catnip with some being a lot more potent than others. Just a little of the very strong variety can send a cat into an ecstatic state which sees them behaving in a highly amusing way. With this said, the herb soon loses its potency and after a while you may notice your feline friend loses interest in it or a toy that's filled with it.

A Cat's Reaction to Catnip Plants

When cats come across a catnip plant in a garden border or in a pot on a patio and they like what they've found, they will rub and roll on the plant and this releases all the nepetalactone that drives them wild often sending them into a euphoric state. They literally cover their heads, faces and cheeks with catnip oil and sometimes they will start chewing on the herb too. Some people think that this behaviour starts up because it reminds cats of females when they are in season, but this is yet to be proved.

Cats Are Calmer When They Eat Catnip

However, when a cat eats the herb, instead of it sending them wild, it has quite the opposite effect which is to relax and calm them down so much they appear sedated. But the effects don't last that long and typically wear off after 10 minutes or so. Cats that come into contact regularly seem to lose interest in the herb and it no longer has any effect on them. However, if they only come into contact with catnip on the rare occasion, this is when they go into such euphoric states that are so very amusing to watch.

So, what are the benefits of catnip?

If a cat loves the herb, it can be great fun watching them as they roll on it, rub their faces and bodies on it and basically act like clowns. However, there are other benefits to cats coming into contact with the herb and this includes the following:

  • It can enrich a cat's life keeping them amused and preventing boredom from setting in
  • Catnip can be great for getting an otherwise lazy cat to move around a bit more than they usually do which helps them burn off more calories
  • Rubbing an old, forgotten toy in a bit of catnip can spark a cat's interest in it again, but you need to soak the toy in the herb for a day or so for it to really work
  • It can help enhance your cat's mood helping them get through a stressful time or situation
  • It can have a very relaxing effect on a cat particularly if they chew and ingest it
  • Occasionally, a nervous cat will get that much braver when they have been playing with catnip which can help them settle in to their new home and around people they don't know
  • A bit of catnip strategically placed or rubbed on certain items like scratching posts can help prevent a cat from scratching their claws on your expensive furniture and furnishings

The downside to catnip

As with most things in life, there is a bit of a downside to cats coming into contact with catnip which is that some cats get a little too affected by the herb. It can make an otherwise affectionate and loving character into a more aggressive cat especially if they share their home with other cats and pets. The good news is that this negative affect does not last that long and your feline friend soon reverts back to the normal, loving selves.

The Benefits Far Outweigh the Downside of Giving Cats Catnip

The benefits of letting your cat play with catnip far outweigh the downside of them being a little aggressive albeit for a short time when they come into contact with it. Cats that love the herb act like real clowns and it's great fun to watch them. A nervous cat might suddenly find the courage to come and say hello to people after they've been in contact with the herb and it can relax a stressed out cat which is especially useful if you've just moved house!


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