We finally found the answer to the question of why cats like catnip so much. No longer do we sit with question marks when we see our cats go nuts on some dry powder, it is all finally explained to the chemical level.
What Is Catnip?
Catnip is a herb or plant that is pretty popular among cats. The catnip plant is in family with the mint plant. While we don’t smell the same way as cats do, cats can recognize this plant from a long distance. Would you grow the plant in your garden, the plant would end up being eaten up by your lovely cats (and those others in the neighbourhood).
Catnip is sold as a dry herb or powder in pet product stores but can also be sewn or bought as plants in plant stores. It can be sprinkled over toys and scratching poles and given straight to your cat. Catnip is also inside many of the cats toys available.
Catnip is most famous for the totally mad cats that result of it. Cats love this stuff and will roll in it, eat it, sniff it, rub their bodies into it and generally will go mad and crazy for it. Catnip has a drug-like effect for most cats. Even their ancestors, for example the Tiger family reacts upon this stuff.
As with many things in life, catnip is however not for everyone.
How Crazy Do Cats Go With Catnip?
Cats go pretty crazy with catnip. They roll in it, nibble it, drool all over the floor, rub their glands into it and eat it.
We know the crazy time that mostly kittens have at two or three times a day, but the catnip makes any cat, no matter what age go nuts. Well almost everybody, but on that later more.
This video should give you an idea of how crazy cats go on catnip:
The Reason Why Cats Like Catnip So Much
I knew only part of the reason why cats like catnip so much. The American Chemical Society however found the real reason behind it all. Let’s dive deeper into this subject.
The Chemical That Does It All
Catnip is a mint type of plant. The chemical substance that makes cats go nuts from this stuff is called nepetalactone. To my surprise however, this nepatalactone doesn’t get picked up by the cat eating the substance, but it is actually picked up by the receptors in the cat’s nose. This does explain why cats like to put their nose into the stuff.
They do also eat the catnip, for it tastes nice to them as well as roll in it and get covered in catnip if possible. The extremely happy cat will start to drool and excrete pheromones from their pheromone glands on their face/cheeks.
After a good session with catnip, we can wash our floors, for it seems to get very wet from their saliva and pheromone production on said floors.
Uses of Catnip
Catnip stimulates a cats senses. It isn’t crazy to think that catnip therefore also is used within many products for cats. Cat toys are probably the most well-known and among the popular uses of catnip, but you will find forms of catnip also used as part of a teaching program to teach cats to use certain items instead of unwanted places.
As such you can find catnip used to train cats to use the scratching board or scratching pole instead of the sofa and table legs for their need to scratch and sharpen their nails. Catnip generally attracts cats to the objects you want them to use, so catnip works also excellent on cat furniture such as a cat tree.
The objects where catnip is used do need cleaning and refreshment of the herb, to keep the effect strongest. Most cat toys that come with catnip also have an option to restock and refresh the catnip by the use of a zip or Velcro.
Cat toys that cannot be refreshed by renewing the catnip, can be refreshed by a short freeze in the freezer.
Not Every Cat Loves Catnip
While most cats and cat-like creatures react to catnip, not all cats react to the herb. Scientists don’t really know the answer to that, but it could have to do with how the receptors in the cats nose is constructed or perhaps we are talking on a chemical level in the cats body.
In any case, there is another option for cat lovers to see their cats get engaged in this weird crazy behaviour. The alternative to catnip is silver vine. Silver vine is the vine or branches to the kiwi-plant. These plants do not usually grow in Europe, so the product is generally imported from warmer countries.
You might find them as silver vine or kiwi-sticks sold in packets of about 4-5 sticks in your pet products store in the cat toys and cat treats section.
Just like with catnip, your cat might go crazy on the kiwi-sticks. It might also cause a watery substance on the floors because of your cats drool and pheromones and your cat will also be very happy, crazy and calm for a moment of time.
Not all cats do like kiwi-vine, so it is perfectly possible to have a cat that doesn’t like either form of “drug”.
Both the catnip effect as also the kiwi-vine effect doesn’t last forever. After about 10-15 minutes of play with the toy or herb or stick the cat will be overstimulated and will go away from it. It isn’t once and never again though, for the same effect might be achieved some hours later.
While the effect is short-lived, it proves to be an excellent form of attraction and training method for cats. You gladly want your cat to play with a toy during the day or scratch at a certain scratching pole, but you don’t want them to do that task for the whole day.
What is your experience with catnip and your or other cats? Have you ever tried kiwi-vine? Share your experiences below in the comments section.