Screenshot from COLE & MARMALADE VIDEO (below)
Catnip has been thought by many to be the feline equivalent of marijuana. It is not. While cats may act a little silly, wild, or just weird after they eat or sniff catnip, their reactions are short-lived, and they can't be re-activated by another whiff for at least an hour or two.
What Is Catnip (Nepeta cateria)?
Catnip (Nepeta cateria)
The catnip that our cats respond to, Nepeta cateria, is indigenous to eastern and central Asia and parts of Europe, but it has spread all over the world now and grows wild in many areas of the U.S. Fortunately, you don't have to wait for it to appear wild in your yard, you can purchase seeds or potted catnip from your local gardening store. Or just purchase it, already dried and packaged for your cat, like Meowijuana.
Even if you don't grow catnip for your cat, the catnip plant is very pretty and it's easy to grow in most environments. Although catnip attracts cats and even butterflies, it deters mosquitos, flies, termites, and cockroaches, apparently even more effectively than DEET! It even repels rats!
Cats On Catnip
Zazou the cat demonstrating the effects of catnip: rolling, pawing, scampering, etc. Photos by Montrealais
About 70 percent of cats over the age of three or so months respond to a chemical in the catnip plant called Nepetalactone. It's an olfactory response affecting the same organs, the amygdala and the hypothalamus, that respond to a cat's natural pheromones.
If your cat eats the catnip, he's likely just to go to sleep.
But if he has sniffed the catnip, he may be jumping, scratching wildly, rolling around in the catnip, or delighting his audience with other very spontaneous activities. Either way, catnip is a pleasant sensation to a cat and nothing to worry about. (Only in very rare cases do cats attack while under its effects - in which case you may want to stop giving it to them.)
Cats don't tend to respond to catnip for very long. A cat's reaction may last up to 10 minutes but, generally, it's not that long. Most cats will not respond again to catnip for an hour or two, but some cat experts recommend that it be withheld for a day or so before re-introducing it to your cat. Too much of a good thing can make cats tire of it.
Here's a delightful short video about cat reactions to catnip starring two special cats, Cole & Marmalade.
I often use catnip to introduce or re-introduce a toy or a new bed to my cat. I also rub catnip on his toys and scratching posts just before playing with him. It was a real aid in diverting him from the furniture when I first took him in as a feral 9-month old kitten.
After 'a certain age' cats don't respond to catnip as readily. but you can keep trying, especially if you want to motivate your cat to exercise a bit.
Humans On Catnip
Unfortunately, neither dogs nor humans get to experience the ‘high’ that cats get from catnip.
Dogs apparently have different olfactory 'equipment' than cats, and they don't respond to catnip one way or another. Humans don't get high on catnip, even if they smoke it, as some do. But smoking catnip just makes humans sleepy.
Don't stop reading....
The main ingredient of catnip, nepetalactone, is an essential oil. It can be extracted from the plant with steam. And when boiled as a tea, the catnip plant has a myriad of benefits to humans.
Digestive problems? Try catnip tea.
Migraines? The same.
In fact, herbalists recommend a catnip solution for almost any symptom you have!
From a headache to muscle cramps, from a common cold to the flu, for stomach aches, indigestion, for fever relief, for toothaches, as an antibiotic, an anti-fungal.... Even sleeplessness!
If you drink or eat too much of the stuff it will make you throw up, so you may wish to use it as an emetic if you've eaten something bad.
Or, you can purchase catnip as an essential therapeutic oil made by Plant Therapy.
Of course, if you grow your own plants, you can use every part of the plant above ground to make a tea. According to Dirt On My Hands, folklore has it that catnip root has "the opposite effect than the stem and leaves. It is supposed to make a normally placid human, aggressive and bloodthirsty." Maybe you shouldn't use the root.
But you definitely should try the brew!