If you have cats, you know there’s one thing most goes crazy for — catnip. This perennial herb belongs to the mint family Nepeta Cataria. It is native to Europe, Africa and Asia and is now grown throughout North America. Outdoor plants can grow to well over three feet tall. The flowers are small and can be white, blue, pink or lavender and the scent of the herb can be smelled from several yards away.
What makes susceptible cats go bonkers for catnip is a chemical in the herb called nepetalactone. Only about 50 – 70 per cent of cats react to catnip and those reactions can vary depending on whether it’s sniffed or eaten. Give your cat a toy with catnip on or in it and sit back and watch the show. Some will paw at it, roll around on it, rub up against it, or kick and swat at it. Other reactions to catnip include dashing here and there, meowing, purring, growling and even drooling.
Catnip is a wonderful tension reliever, and you can use it after your cats have had a stressful experience such as after you’ve had company over or after you return from a trip. Consider giving your cats a “catnip party” on days when you’ve been busy at work and come home exhausted and too tired to engage in a full interactive play session. Sprinkle catnip on their favourite toys and rub some on their cat tree or scratching post, or maybe fill a few socks with the herb.
Catnip is a great way to help frightened or timid cats come out of their shell and particularly helpful with a new cat from a shelter or rescue who may have had a traumatic experience before adoption. It’s also a wonderful start to an interactive play session for a kitty who is too timid to focus on the toy otherwise.
Make sure to purchase organic catnip for your cat to avoid any toxic chemicals and pesticides used on the plants as they grow. Organic catnip is said to have a higher concentration of nepetalactone, making it more potent than conventionally grown catnip.
Catnip can be purchased in many forms including loose leaves, sprays, flowers and buds, pellets, dental chews, scratching pads and a wide variety of catnip toys from wand styles to stuffed animals and everything in between. And whatever form of catnip you offer to your cats, rest assured that it is neither harmful nor addictive to them.