Why Does Catnip Drive My Cat Crazy?
Is “crazy” the right term here? In a word, YES! When cats are exposed to the stems or leaves of the Catnip plant, they will paw at it, chew it, lick it, leap about and salivate copiously. Some cats will even growl and meow more than usual. This reaction actually only lasts for a few minutes, and then for unknown reasons, the cat will lose interest. After two to three hours though, the cat will display the same behavior if exposed again. Only about two thirds of cats will display this reaction, kittens and older cats may not react at all.
So why this “crazy” reaction? Catnip (a member of the “mint” family of herbs) contains nepetalactone, a terpene that is believed to mimic feline sex pheromones. Cats, including tigers, sense these pheromones through their vomeronasal organs. So these reactions can be attributed to the fact that catnip is actually a feline aphrodisiac!
When or why should I expose my cat to catnip? If you have a particularly lazy cat, it may encourage him/her to exercise (by playing with catnip toys). Or, if you have a cat that is TOO active, it may have a sedative effect on him/her. Adding a catnip scratching post near your most-valued furniture may save the furniture from damage. The exact effect that catnip will have on your particular cat will be a mystery until you try it. If your cat displays any aggression when exposed to catnip, you may want to try an alternative such as valerian root or honeysuckle.
We have catnip and catnip toys in our online store! See the catnip page for details.
Left: Kittens Are Generally Immune To Catnip's Effects.
Left: Catnip is a member of the "mint" family of aromatic herbs.
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