Are you curious about what's in catnip that sends your kitty into a frenzy? Or why your neighbor's cat couldn't care less about it? Maybe you've heard that it contains something called nepetalactone, but what does that mean?
In this article, we'll explain all about the ingredients in catnip, including its infamous active component, and how it affects our furry friends.
We'll also answer some burning questions: Can humans use catnip too? Are there other plants that have the same effect on cats? How can you use catnip to soothe your cat? And more. Ready to get started?
The Secret Ingredient In Catnip
From the biggest lions to the smallest house cats, all can experience the potent allure of catnip. What's in this plant that can turn any cat into a bundle of energy or a laid-back lounge dweller? The answer lies in a single ingredient that experts have identified.
The star player in catnip (Nepeta cataria) is a key essential oil named nepetalactone. This chemical compound triggers a range of reactions in many cats, from intense euphoria to profound relaxation. Depending on the individual cat, it can act as either a stress reliever or a stimulant.
Keep reading to learn more about catnip's ingredients and its effects on cats and humans. We'll also tackle plants similar to catnip and other topics like how to use catnip to calm a cat.
What Else Is In Catnip?
Catnip, scientifically known as Nepeta cataria, is a member of the mint plant family. Its active ingredient is nepetalactone, which is an essential oil that produces euphoria in approximately 50 percent to 75 percent of cats.
The responsiveness to nepetalactone in catnip differs for each feline. Some cats may even be immune to the allure of this oil, making it more challenging than usual for pet parents to train their pets with this plant.
For instance, placing catnip on a scratching post may yield little to no positive results from a household feline that's resistant to the charm of nepetalactone. If you need more information about putting catnip on a scratching post, check out our post: Should You Put Catnip on a Scratching Post?
What Are The Benefits Of Catnip For Cats?
Nepetalactone, in many cases, produces a sedative effect in cats. Experts reveal that the chemical mimics a feline’s natural pheromones, causing their body’s receptors to stimulate a response.
The result is a psychoactive effect that can result in highs for a few to several minutes after exposure.
Non-social cats can become more vocal when exposed to catnip. These pets may start playing with catnip, especially when pet parents infuse this plant into the animal’s toys.
Additionally, overactive cats can become calm when they smell the scent of catnip. These felines can roll on the ground or stare at the ceiling while rubbing the fresh or dried version of the plant on their cheeks. Other cats may only lie down on the floor with fresh catnip nearby, seemingly in a daze.
Catnip may also help cats suffering from chronic coughs and insomnia. However, these claims tend to lack clinical trials, which means you should still practice caution when you use catnip to help treat certain illnesses felt by your cat.
To be safe, it is still best to consult your veterinarian before this procedure.
Does Catnip Have Medicinal Properties?
Catnip is rich in flavonoids, a group of antioxidants, and phenolic acids. This plant may help remove toxins from the body at a stronger rate than vitamin E.
It’s because of the rosmarinic acid content of catnip that tends to be fairly potent in removing free radical damage in the body.
What Are Other Plants That Function Like Catnip?
While some cats are immune to the charms of catnip, pet parents can use certain plants that stimulate a similar euphoric or hallucinatory effect in their pets. Some of these plants are as follows:
Tatarian Honeysuckle (Lonicera tatarica)
Tatarian honeysuckle is a safe and non-toxic plant that is so much like catnip for cats. It creates no adverse reactions in felines, and can even become natural cat toys.
Its effects are similar to that of catnip in that it can provide stress relief and enhance moods, promoting better brain and neurological health in felines.
Valerian Root (Valeriana officinalis)
A perennial plant with pink and white flowers, Valerian root is a plant substitute that might be less effective than catnip and Tatarian honeysuckle.
However, it may still provide euphoria and sedation to cats that need those effects, particularly to those that might be immune to catnip or resistant to Tatarian honeysuckle.
Silver Vine (Actinidia polygama)
Silver vine is a lianas, also known as a climbing plant, which is native to Eastern regions, specifically China and Japan. It has many of the chemical components of catnip, but it doesn’t have nepetalactone.
However, this plant is one of the more effective replacements for catnip, seeing that about 80 precent of cats will submit their senses to the chemicals in silver vine.
Is Catmint (Nepeta X Faassenii) The Same As Catnip?
Some cat parents might find it confusing to distinguish between catnip vs. catmint. Despite both plants living in the same Lamiaceae or mint family, they are different.
In their base plant forms, catnip will attract cats to your garden whereas catmint won’t.
Additionally, catnip is a hardy perennial plant while catmint is an herbaceous perennial variant. Finally, catmint won’t stimulate cats in the same way as catnip does.
Why Does Catnip Make A Cat Go Crazy?
Researchers suggest that catnip’s active ingredient nepetalactone targets a feline’s ‘happy’ brain receptors. Sniffing this essential oil can enhance happy moods. It also increases aggression in certain cats.
Therefore, naturally aggressive household felines should stay away from catnip unless advised by a veterinarian.
How Do You Use Catnip To Help Calm A Cat?
While sniffing catnip can make some cats go crazy, biting or ingesting a small amount of the plant may induce sedation in some felines.
Help your cat calm down by making your pet eat a small amount of fresh or dried catnip. Use this technique to help your pet relax, particularly before a veterinary trip.
Another method is to put catnip in your pet’s bed. If you want to know more about how you can do that, read our post: Should You Put Catnip in a Cat Bed?
How Long Does Catnip High Last?
The high brought by catnip generally lasts for about 10 minutes. But exposing your feline to significant amounts of catnip in a fairly short period can result in desensitization. In turn, the efficacy of catnip can reduce over time.
Hence, you should limit your cat’s exposure to catnip to a few minutes each day. Take the fresh or dried catnip, or the catnip-infused product away from your pet immediately after playtime is over.
How Do You Make Kitty Catnip Treats?
You can make catnip treats using reasonably simple ingredients. However, take note that the final dish may not be as effective as letting your cat sniff on fresh catnip. Still, catnip treats can be a tasty way to mix up your pet’s playtime routine.
Here’s what you’ll need to make the kitty catnip treats:
- ½ cup whole wheat flour
- ½ cup yogurt
- ¾ cup flour
- 1 egg, whole
- 1 tbsp honey
- 3 tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 tbsp dried catnip
After gathering those ingredients, here are the steps to make the delectable dish for your kitty:
- Start making the kitty catnip treats by preheating your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (176.67 degrees Celsius).
- Mix the whole wheat flour and dried catnip in a medium-sized bowl for a few minutes. Add the egg, yogurt, honey, and vegetable oil afterward and continue stirring.
- Once the mixture forms a doughy consistency, place the unfinished dish on a floured kitchen countertop or table.
- Cut the dough into small treats using your preferred cutting method.
- Grease a cookie sheet with vegetable oil and place the cut treats on it.
- Put the sheet in the oven and bake for 15 minutes or until it turns golden brown.
Once finished, you can store the treats in the refrigerator for one week. Otherwise, you can put it in a freezer, which can make the kitty catnip treats last for about 3 months.
Is Catnip Edible For Humans?
Catnip is edible for humans, especially when made into tea. Its potential health benefits come from its active essential oil, nepetalactone. This chemical acts like a sedative in both cats and humans.
However, most humans are immune to the charms of this substance. Still, many folks can benefit from its sedative and calming effects.
Catnip has an active ingredient called nepetalactone, which activates the ‘happy’ receptors in a cat’s brain.
Most felines will find it highly challenging to resist the charm of this essential oil, causing them to exhibit behaviors like rolling on the floor or rubbing the plant on their cheeks.
But not every cat will submit to catnip as some felines are immune to the plant’s charms.