Does Your Cat React to Catnip?
8 September, 2015

Catnip is one of those little secret weapons to get our cats stimulated and excited.  There is nothing more fun than watching a cat on a catnip ‘high’.  After all, it’s a little, short lived ‘high’ for our cats that doesn’t harm them, makes them a little crazy and it’s done!  But, not all cats react from catnip, including mine.  It’s sort of a mystery as to 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.

Did you know that catnip is a mint?

Catnip is a member of the mint family.  It is the oil in catnip (or nepetalactone) that has the 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 for reactive cats.

The smell of catnip is what really gets cats’ going.

The most intense catnip experience is an olfactory one…your cat smells the nip 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 and sleepy.

Cats are unique in that they are sensory sensitive, particularly with smells, and we humans don’t get a physical reaction from smells. However, it is not uncommon that most animals 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.

Most cats ‘on’ catnip will go crazy and become instant acrobats!

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 or if you are trying to get your cat to eat a meal!

Catnip is an inherited sensitivity and not all cats react

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 to catnip. 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 so please refrain on testing on kitties.  Some older cats become immune to it quickly so dole it out sparingly.

The fresher the catnip, the stronger its effect

Catnip lose sits potency over time so keep your catnip fresh 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 and dole it out sparingly at different times.  Or put it in a toy or a scratch pad to get them scratching the right place! 

Try some catnip for your beloved feline and see what acrobatic stunts he or she tries.  Or maybe your kitty will just look at it like you’re the crazy one and walk away! 




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *