What is cat­nip and how does it work? We ex­plain this enig­matic herb and how it works its magic on cats

Modern Cat - - The Scoop -

Some cats can’t get enough cat­nip while oth­ers couldn’t care less—even the lazi­est fat cat can turn into a ma­niac fur­ball with one whiff, yet an­other cat re­mains un­af­fected. What’s at work here? While it’s un­de­ni­ably fun to watch a cat rolling and rub­bing in cat­nip and do­ing back flips for about 10 min­utes be­fore com­ing back to earth, what ex­actly is cat­nip and what is it do­ing to your cat?

What cat­nip is—and isn’t

Cat­nip is an­other name for the herb Nepeta cataria, a rel­a­tive of oregano and spearmint. An ac­tive mol­e­cule in it is be­lieved to mimic a cat pheromone. This mol­e­cule (called Nepeta­lac­tone) binds to a cat’s ol­fac­tory re­cep­tors to pro­duce cat­nip’s eu­phoric re­sults. This is why if cat­nip is ingested your cat mel­lows out, but sniff­ing the stuff, they go bonkers—the most in­tense cat­nip ex­pe­ri­ence starts at the nose. Although your cat may look and act stoned, cat­nip is not a drug and it isn’t ad­dic­tive.

How it Works

Ge­net­ics de­ter­mine whether your fe­line falls for the herb. The re­sponse is hered­i­tary, with about 70–80 per­cent of cats ex­hibit­ing be­hav­iours such as rub­bing their heads and body on the herb, sali­vat­ing, jump­ing around, and vo­cal­iz­ing. These cats are re­act­ing to the Nepeta­lac­tone, the chem­i­cal com­pound found in cat­nip’s leaves and stems. Nepeta­lac­tone is be­lieved to tar­get fe­line “happy” re­cep­tors in the brain, pro­duc­ing a “high.” What’s at work here is your cat is essen­tially re­act­ing to an ar­ti­fi­cial cat pheromone that trig­gers some­thing akin to a sex­ual re­sponse. This is why kit­tens don’t re­spond to cat­nip un­til they are about six months old and be­gin to reach sex­ual ma­tu­rity.

Is it safe? How long does it last?

Yes, cat­nip is safe and cats def­i­nitely seem to love the blissed out state, mak­ing it a great en­rich­ment tool for the home en­vi­ron­ment. Its re­sults are tem­po­rary, caus­ing about 10 min­utes of eu­pho­ria, after which cats will be im­mune to its ef­fects for about 30 min­utes to two hours. Re­sults among cats that re­spond to the herb will also vary from eu­pho­ria to calm mel­low­ness to ag­gres­sive play­ful­ness. All are nor­mal re­sponses.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.