Cats and Cat Nip – Does Your Cat React?
11 June, 2014

If you have ever owned a cat, you inevitably have tried to give him or her some catnip.  After all, it’s a little, short lived ‘high’ for our cat that doesn’t harm them and makes them a little crazy.  But, not all cats react from catnip.  It’s sort of a mystery to all of us why some cats really love it and go crazy for it while some cats roll their eyes and go back to sleep when you give it to them.

What is catnip, anyway?

Catnip is a member of the mint family. However, it is the oil in catnip, nepetalactone, which has a powerful effect on cats who are sensitive to it, turning even the most sedentary couch potato into a flipped-out ball of ecstasy and energy!

It’s the smell of catnip that gets our cats!

The most intense catnip experience is an olfactory one…your cat smells the herb and then will react to it and usually go nuts! Researchers aren’t sure what the neurological explanation is, but it’s thought that catnip mimics feline happiness pheromones and stimulates the receptors in the brain that respond to those pheromones. When eaten, however, catnip seems to have the opposite effect: the cat may become very mellow.   Have a hyper cat?  This can help mellow him or her out, only temporarily.

It’s hard for us to grasp the concept of catnip because we humans don’t react (physically) to smells. However, it is not an uncommon behavior in animals that rely heavily on their noses.  There are many scents that will trigger intense hunting behavior in dogs, and other scents will cause dogs to stop in their tracks and roll all over the scent.

The cats that do react to catnip go crazy!

Most cats react to catnip by rolling, flipping, rubbing, jumping and then eventually zoning out. They may meow or growl at the same time. Other cats become hyperactive, running around like their tails are on fire, and some get downright aggressive, especially if you approach them. They must protect their toys!  Have an overweight cat? Give him or her some catnip and get them moving (if they are the ones that react).

Usually these ‘hyper catnip’ sessions last about ten minutes, after which your cat loses interest. It may take as long as two hours for your cat to calm down and become susceptible to catnip again. Don’t try it before bedtime if you want to fall asleep!

Only about fifty percent of all cats react to catnip

Not all cats fall for catnip. It’s an inherited sensitivity and if your cat didn’t get that gene, he or she simply won’t care about catnip (my Sammy has no reaction at all). An estimated fifty percent of cats don’t respond. The trait doesn’t emerge until a cat is between three and six months old; until then, a kitten will not have a response.  And, it’s not a great idea to expose your kitten to it at such a young age.

Keep the catnip fresh

Catnip does lose its potency over time, so in order to keep yours fresh for your cat by storing it in the freezer in an airtight container or bag.  You can also grow catnip or the mint itself and have a great supply ready at your disposal.  Of course, if your cat does go crazy for it, try to keep it outside on a porch or out of your cat’s reach.  Want some catnip in our backyard? Click here to learn more!

Give your cat some catnip – and see how he or she reacts.  It’s fun or will put him to sleep!

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