Kittens and Catnip …
18 August, 2012
While most of us love to give our cats catnip on occasion, some of my petpav members were wondering if it is OK to give kittens catnip. As most kittens are hyper in their own right, they will probably not react as strongly to catnip as mature adult cats do, but after 3 months of age, it is completely safe to give your kitten(s) catnip.
Catnip is an herb, Nepeta cateria, a member of the mint family. It is not addictive and is safe for kittens and cats. Your cat will probably love an occasional catnip treat.
The catnip reaction
The catnip response affects all of the cat’s senses – touch, smell, sight, sound, and taste. Usually powerful, the intensity varies widely among cats. Responses may include initial investigation, oral contact, grasping and kicking, and abandonment, and a number of other behaviors, including…
- Sneezing, sniffing, licking and chewing
- Head shaking
- Chin and cheek rubbing
- Head-over roll and body rubbing
- Eating the catnip
- Mewing and purring excessively
The reaction to catnip normally lasts only a few minutes, and then the behavior quickly subsides. It can then take an hour or two away from the catnip for the cat to go back to normal. Then, the same reaction can occur again. Don’t let your cat get into the box of catnip like Ernesto!
The chemistry of catnip
Although no one knows exactly what happens in the cat’s brain, it is known that the chemical nepetalactone in catnip triggers the response, kicking off a stereotypical pattern in cats that are sensitive to the chemical. Not all cats react to catnip. My Sammy has never been affected by it.
Types of catnip
Catnip can be found in the wild, grown in herb gardens, or purchased in many dried forms. Most cat owners find using dried catnip is the easiest form to use and it can be found at your local pet store.
Below are the most convenient ways to find catnip without having to grow it at home!
- Toys – Catnip is incorporated into thousands of popular cat toys and is a good way to keep your cat distracted and occupied.
- Flakes and Pellets – Always look for fresh, 100% pure catnip. Most pellets are 50% stronger than flakes. Both flakes and pellets can be inserted in toys, offered in bowls, or sprinkled about the cat’s favorite play zone.
- Spray – Using a convenient spray mist, catnip may be applied to cat furniture and play areas to enhance or modify behavior. For example, spraying catnip to a scratching post can make it more enticing than your curtains or sofa!
During the summer months, catnip is fairly easy to grow (if you have good sun and a green thumb). You can give your cat access to the garden, or harvest leaves and bring them into the house. Catnip can also be grown in indoor gardens and possibly distract your kittens or cats from chewing your house plants.