Cat owners all over the world want to give the best care and nutrition to their four-legged feline friends. One of the oldest herb plants, catnip, has been used to stimulate cats for hundreds of years. But is it really good for cats? Is there any harm in letting your cat indulge in this herb every once in a while? Here, we take a deeper look at the mystery of catnip.
What is Catnip?
Catnip is a perennial herb of the mint family and goes by many names. Notorious for its ability to drive cats wild, it is scientifically known as Nepeta cataria, and is also called catmint, catswort, and field balm.
The Catnip Effect
The active ingredient in catnip is nepetalactone, a chemical that cats detect through their scent glands. As it turns out, cats aren’t the only species that react to nepetalactone – it has a similar effect on mice, rats, and other small animals.
When cats smell the nepetalactone in catnip, they react in different ways. Some cats will roll around in excitement, rubbing their face against the catnip as if to mark it as their own. Others will spring into the air or simply lay there quietly as if in a trance. While this over-the-top reaction may be amusing for us humans, it’s important to remember that it lasts only for a few minutes.
What’s the Difference Between Catnip and Silvervine?
Catnip isn’t the only herb that can set off your cat. Silvervine is an herb belonging to the Actinidiaceae family, and it works in a similar way as catnip does. According to research, silvervine contains two types of active ingredients that have combined effects on cats, and produces an even stronger reaction than catnip.
Silvervine is found in various parts of Asia and as such, is much more difficult to come by than catnip. On the other hand, catnip is widely available in pet stores.
Is Catnip Safe for Cats?
The short answer is yes. Catnip is considered safe for cats and their owners alike.
Making sure your cat doesn’t ingest large quantities of it is probably the only concern. However, it’s always best to consult with your veterinarian before giving your cat any new food or herb.
Health Benefits of Catnip
It turns out that catnip may not only be enjoyable for cats but also serve some health benefits. It is known to have an array of compounds that have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. This means that catnip may help improve digestive health, immunity, skin health, and overall immunity in cats.
Indoor or Outdoor Catnip?
It’s best to use dried catnip indoors. Catnip grows best in a cool, dark, and humid area. When grown indoors, catnip needs at least eight hours of direct sunlight. The most important thing to remember when growing catnip indoors is to keep the soil moist.
How Much Catnip is Too Much?
Too much catnip can be harmful, so it should be given in moderation. A pinch of dried catnip is enough, while fresh catnip can be given in small amounts as a treat. You should also pay close attention to how your cat is behaving after eating catnip. If your cat is acting excessively agitated or is drooling excessively, it may be time to take the catnip away.
Is Catnip Addictive?
Contrary to popular belief, catnip is not addictive. It’s more of a stimulant than an addictive substance. Cats may become bored over time, just like humans may become bored with toys or activities, and need new stimulation.
The active ingredient in catnip is nepetalactone, a chemical that cats detect through their scent glands. Catnip is considered safe for cats and their owners alike and has a range of health benefits which include improved digestive health, immunity, and skin health. It’s best used in moderation and can be given as a pinch of dried catnip or small amounts of fresh catnip as a treat. Despite being a stimulant, catnip is not considered to be addictive.