Photo: Andrew Marttila
How does it affect cats?
For felines, catnip can either be inhaled for a stimulating effect or ingested for a sedative effect. If your cat is reactive to the chemical compound in the plant—called nepetalactone—at all, he’ll likely respond by rubbing against and chewing on the catnip to release the aroma. Give your cat a catnip toy and watch him roll around on it, salivate and meow. Catnip makes some cats go crazy. Just one whiff of the herb and your cat gets happy before eventually crashing like humans do after a sugar high.
The catnip “high” typically lasts about 10 minutes. To keep your cat from becoming desensitized to the herb, hold off offering it again for another two hours to allow him to “reset.”
Is catnip safe?
While catnip is safe for cats to eat, too much of a good thing can cause vomiting and diarrhea. If that happens to your cat, keep the lovely stash put away for a while until your kitty feels better. The herb is not addictive and produces no ill side-effects unless your cat eats too much of it and responds negatively. Plus, catnip is relatively inexpensive, making it a special treat you can dispense guilt-free once a week if you so choose.
Clever ways to use catnip:
There’s a chance your cat will be completely unaffected by catnip since about 50 percent of felines are insensitive to the herb. And if you have a kitten, you won’t even know whether she’s catnip-friendly until she’s about 6-months-old when the capability to detect the scent finally emerges. If you know your kitten’s parents are catnip fanatics, however, there’s a good likelihood your feline youngster will be too since it is an inherited trait.
So the next time your cat needs a pick-me-up or a chill-me-out, try catnip. She’ll either do a happy dance for you, and you’ll know you’ve struck gold, or she’ll be non-reactive, and then you can brew a cup of calming catnip tea for yourself and curl up for a cat nap.