Why Do Cats Love Catnip?

Catnip, also known as catmint or catswort, is a fragrant plant which is quite widespread.

It grows in Asia, Africa, Europe, as well as North America, where it was imported.

This plant is distinguished by its heart-shaped leaves and a variety of different species.

There are about 250 different types of catnip, and each type is made up of either purple, pink, blue or white flowers.

What is especially interesting about catnip is how much some cats seem to be affected by it. 

They may exhibit a range of peculiar behaviors which can be interpreted as immense happiness, great pleasure, or even pure euphoria.

Owners observing such unusual behavior may wonder why cats seem to love catnip so much?

There are several facts concerning this fragrant plant which may answer this question, as well as show the benefits of catnip.

​1. Allure Of A Certain Chemical Found In Catnip

​The fragrant plant catnip is characterized by the chemical known as nepetalactone.

This chemical is in fact a volatile oil, one which stimulates certain receptors in cats' brains.

These special receptors are connected with chemicals known as pheromones.

The effect catnip may have on cats can be compared to the one humans have when subjected to hallucinogenic drugs.

However, unlike the long-term detrimental effect of these drugs on humans, catnip has no lasting effect on cats.

It is not harmful for them and they cannot become addicted to it.

A cat's reaction to nepetalactone, and in extension, catnip, may last a few minutes, before the cat becomes indifferent to it.

Some time later, the cat may return to the catnip and start exhibiting the same distinctive behavior as it did when first introduced to it.

​2. Various Cats React Differently To Catnip

​When subjected to catnip, some cats react strongly and exhibit behavior usually associated with euphoria. While some may prove completely insensitive to it.

Researchers have shown that cats in Australia are usually not susceptible to catnip, and neither are kittens and older cats.

However, about 50 to 75% of all cats do have a reaction to it.

Some cats may start rubbing their heads and bodies on the catnip itself. 

Some may start rolling around, jumping, or even attacking the catnip.

Individual cats may also try licking it or even chewing it.

Cats who are especially susceptible to catnip may start drooling, purring or meowing.

Different reactions are also expected in relation to whether the cat eats the catnip or simply smells it.

Eating the catnip may lead to a sedative effect, while sniffing it may lead to a stimulative effect.

In any case, the intensity of a cat's reaction to catnip may depend on whether the cat in question has inherited sensitivity to nepetalactone from its parents, since it is a hereditary trait.

This also doesn't just stop with your typical household cat. Large wild cats are affected as well. ​

​3. Ways To Utilize Catnip For Full Benefits

​Considering its potentially strong effect on cats, catnip can have beneficial uses.

First, simply smelling the catnip may improve the overall mood of your pet cat.

Also, if a cat is picky with its food or has seemingly lost some appetite, adding a little catnip to its food may increase it.

In any case, it is still not advisable to expose your cat to catnip more than two or three times a week.

In order to deter a cat from scratching sofas or carpets, it may be an effective solution to buy a scratch post and rub it with some catnip, to encourage the cat to use it.

In cases when a travel carrier is needed, when it is time to visit the vet. You can rub some catnip on the travel carrier to tempt the cat to enter it.

Also, if you want the cat to exercise more by playing with toys, rubbing catnip on the toys may help.

​In conclusion, nepetalactone found in catnip may effect cats differently, and some may not even react to it at all.

Those that do, can exhibit a number of different behaviors, and catnip can be used for their benefit and the benefit of the household.

This fragrant plant can increase the cat's appetite, helps ensure it exercises more, as well as accepts new objects easier.

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About the author 

Erick Dimalanta

I'm just a regular awesome guy that loves everything about Bengal Cats. I have two Bengal sisters that keep my wife and I busy all day. One of our Bengals named Xena eventually went blind at a young age. Which inspired me to create this blog. :-)

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