What Does Catnip Do to Cats and Why Do They Like It so Much?

Cats love the finer things in life, whether it’s relaxing in a sunny corner or enjoying cuddles with their owners.

Up to two-thirds of animals also seem surprisingly drawn to a small green plant called catnip, which can see them go into a trance of bliss after a few sniffs or if they rub against it.

Teresa Keiger, Creative Director of the Cat Fanciers’ Association, said News week: “Not all cats react to catnip the same way, and some cats (and most kittens) don’t react at all.”

But Nepeta cataria, which goes by other names such as catnip, catwort and field balm, has long been recognized around the world for the dramatic, sometimes intensely intoxicating, effects it has on animals. .

Owners usually won’t be able to say for sure how sensitive their cat will be to the powerful greenery until the kittens are around three to six months old.

The key to the attractiveness of catnip, which is a close relative of aromatic herbs found in kitchens, is now believed to be in a chemical found in the plant’s oil, called nepetalactone.

This potent ingredient is stored in its leaves, stems, and seeds, and it takes relatively little oil to smell before the majority of cats start to randomly roll, playfully fiddle with, and blend in. feline ecstasy.

A 2021 Science article cited a study suggesting: “The major intoxicating chemicals in plants activate the opioid systems in cats much like heroin and morphine do in humans.”

A bottom view of a cute blue tabby Maine coon kitten licking the glass. Up to two-thirds of animals also seem surprisingly attracted to catnip
Nils Jacobi / Getty Images

Nepetalactone not only drives some cats crazy, its powers also include the ability to repel mosquitoes, flies, cockroaches, and termites.

Researchers have found that nepetalactone itself is 10 times more effective than DEET, a key ingredient in most insect repellents.

The same scientific study also sought to explore exactly why cats in the wild are attracted to catnip, and ultimately hypothesized that animals “basically apply bug spray.”

However, the obvious sheer pleasure they experience might still be the primary motivation.

CATNIP
The face of a Burmese cat before attacking a mouse. Catnip genetics are responsible for why cats get so wild for this close relative of aromatic herbs
scaliger / Getty Images

Research also shows that big cats, including leopards, cougars, and lynxes, are susceptible to catnip charms and while lions and tigers can also respond strongly, they do so less consistently.

The intense effects are usually short-lived, lasting around 10 minutes for most cats.

And regardless of the kitten’s reaction, once the peak is reached, it will take around two hours for your pet to become susceptible to catnip again.

The plant can be a useful training aid because of its powers, and it can help make living spaces more attractive to animals.

Catnip also has a long history in traditional medicine for a variety of conditions, ranging from stomach cramps, indigestion, fevers, and nervous disorders. However, its medicinal use fell out of favor with the development of modern medicines.

What does catnip do to cats
A cheerful lynx point or siamese tabby cat rolls over on the ground and plays with a banana toy crouching at catnip. It is now understood that the attraction of catnip lies in its volatile oil, in particular a single chemical in this oil called nepetalactone.
Svetlana Popova / Getty Images

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