If you give your cat a bit of catnip or even a catnip filled toy, then their response may be little comical and dramatic. The reactions range from rolling over on their back, zooming all over the place, licking the catnip or even rubbing it all over their face and body, or just simply lying down and purring.
What is catnip ?
Catnip (latin Nepeta cataria) is a perennial herb from the mint family labiatae. It’s native to Central Asia, Europe, some parts of China and the Middle East. It most likely got its name from the response cats have towards it.
What does catnip do to cats ?
Catnip’s aroma drives cats to lick and chew its flowers and leaves, sniff the plant, rub their bodies against the plant, roll around and drool. They sometimes even meow and growl at the same time after tasting and smelling the plant.
The cat’s reaction can end up being somewhat goofy, much like the elated and uncoordinated behavior of someone that has a bit too much to drink or is under the influence of some recreational drugs.
Can cats actually get high from catnip ?
The answer to that question is yes, simply because catnip is a psychoactive drug, more so for cats rather than humans, even though the mere possession and catnip itself isn’t illegal.
What exactly does catnip contain ?
Being a psychoactive drug, cats get high off of the chemical component called nepetalactone, which is found in the plant’s tiny bulbs. Scientific American states that these bulbs, and by extension the chemical, coat the leaves, stems and even seedpods of the catnip and when touch it prompts the bulbs to rupture and release the chemical.
Cats then inhale the essential oil nepetalactone which then binds to the receptors inside of the cat’s nose. Those receptors work together with sensory neurons in the cat’s brain. This process appears to alter the activity in several areas of the brain, including the olfactory bulb, the amygdala and even the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus in particular is involved in regulating the cat’s emotions. Other areas along with the hypothalamus when affected by the chemical nepetalactone produce somewhat of an intoxicated response in the cat.
When you first present catnip to your cat they may sniff it, rub their face in it, drool a little even, and roll in the plant. There are a few phases which the cat goes through, the first one being described as the craziest one where the cat may appear to be in a euphoric state. The cat may even look like it is in heat, according to Scientific American. “This response lasts for about 10 minutes, after which the cat becomes temporarily immune to catnip’s effects for roughly 30 minutes.”
All in all, catnip makes most if not all cats go crazy because they are in fact experiencing euphoria.
Can catnip cause hallucinations ?
As we established before, catnip makes cats go into a sort of euphoric state, however, cats cannot hallucinate while under the effect of catnip.
Cats are acutely aware of their surroundings; they just appear and in fact are a bit more upbeat about everything around them. It isn’t something that you should go out of your way to avoid with your feline friend due to stigma. Because, fortunately, cats cannot develop a drug problem, go figure.
How much catnip is too much ?
You may be asking yourself, can too much catnip harm and/or ultimately kill a cat? Well, catnip being a natural essential oil, it does not contain anything that may harm to a cat.
But, with all that said, there is such a thing as too much, even when it comes to catnip. While it won’t do some serious harm to your cat, it may result in a stomachache if ingested in copious amounts.
Is catnip safe for kittens ?
While catnip affects most cats, it will not have any effect on kittens, since catnip is only effective to cats who have started or already reached their maturity. This is due to the fact that catnip in a way mimics the cat’s own pheromones, so it causes a similar response to a female cat in heat because of this particular ability.
Even though it mimics this response in females, male cats will ultimately enjoy catnip and its uses too. Because of this, most cats don’t experience the effects of catnip all up until they are around 6 months of age at the least.
Does catnip have effect on dogs ?
While it isn’t dangerous to give to dogs, it does induce the opposite effect in dogs as opposed to cats. For example, catnip is considered a stimulant for cats, inducing a euphoric state that can last for about 10 minutes before it calms them down, for dogs however, it is more of a sedative than anything.
So, because of this ability to calm dogs down, catnip is usually used for dogs that have anxiety, trip anxiety, or even dogs that struggle with certain loud sounds such as thunderstorms or fireworks. A fool proof way of giving your dog catnip is by adding the leaves of the plant to their water, and if you prefer to use dried catnip you can add anywhere from an eighth to a half a teaspoon per pound of dog food.
It does have some other uses for dogs too! Catnip can also be used as a diuretic, as catnip oil, specifically in dogs, causes them to urinate more. It can also be used to soothe intestinal issues, effectively relieve gas, soothe stomachaches, reduce cramps, reduce spasms and curb diarrhea.
But, as always, before introducing something new to your dog, consult with your veterinarian first and foremost. As was previously established, animals can’t overdose on catnip, but too much of it can cause intestinal issues.