Nepeta Cataria, more commonly known as catnip or true catnip, is an herb from the mint family. This plant is characterized by its heart-shaped leaves that have scalloped edges. They are greenish, almost grayish in color and has a square and hairy stalk. There are approximately more than 200 species of this flowering plant which is native to Europe and Asia. It is believed that the name ‘Nepeta’ came from the town in Italy bearing the same name, while ‘Cataria’ is a Latin word for cat.
Catnips are famous as the plant which most cats love. Note that we used most because not all cats enjoy catnip, only about 50-65% do. Some studies say that cats which love catnips are those which carry the autosomal dominant gene and it can be passed on to generations of cats. Needless to say, if a mother cat loves catnips, its kittens will most likely love catnips as well. However, kittens younger than eight weeks are not able to enjoy the effect that catnip brings. But what really make catnips special among most of the cats? The catnip plant contains a lot of compounds but the one responsible for making cats react differently to the plant is Nepelactone. Nepelactone is a volatile oil which can be found in the leaves, stems, and seeds of catnip. When a cat sniffs the oil, the effect can be seen almost immediately. It can be quite difficult to explain the exact effects of catnip among cats because we can never know how they actually feel but the effect of catnips to cats can be compared to LSD in the sense that it has euphoric or hallucinogenic effect. What we can be certain of is that cats which are exposed to catnips experience intense but short-lived bliss. Some become playfully aggressive while some become mellow and calm. Although the effect of catnip is short-lived, cats can experience the euphoria over and over again but the exposure should have a difference of at least two hours.
Because of how cats respond to catnips, some people use the herb as a training aid for cats. For instance, cats love to scratch and sometimes, they scratch your favorite and epensive furniture even if you provide it with a scratching post. What you can do is rub some catnip on the post to make it appealing to your cat. In no time, your cat will stop scratching and damaging your furniture and just stick to its scratching post. If your cat refuses to sleep on the bed that you made for it, you can sprinkle the cushion with a little bit of dried catnip to entice your cat to sleep on it. You can also make toys with catnips so that your cat will have something new and interesting to play with. Some cats like to play with the actual plant by chewing on the leaves and stems of the plant.
Although it is compared to LSD, you do not have to worry because catnips are safe for cats. Cats are intelligent animals and they know when to stop so they will not overdose on it. It may have a sedative effect but overall, catnips will not bring our beloved cats any harm.