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Catnip effects on cats and what it really is

Catnip: effects on cats and what it really is

Catnip is an English word that indicates in Italian the catnip, or Nepeta Cataria. The translation of catnip does not really exist because it is a word that has now entered the common use in Italian, among those who have a cat, to indicate precisely the catnip.

Cats react in a very particular way to catnip, in fact they manifest a sort of euphoria, which does not affect all cats, however. But does the catnip hurt? And why does it have this effect? Let’s find out together.

Catnip, what is it?

The catnip, from the scientific name Nepeta Cataria, is not the grass we feed our cat. Instead it is a herbaceous plant of the Lamiaceae family, aromatic herbs to which mint also belongs.

catnip or nepeta cataria

The cat nip grows spontaneously in Italy in general where there are old walls and rubble. It is a grass that reaches 15 cm in height, with a velvety stem and triangular leaves. From June to August it also produces flowers at its top.

The catnip is an aromatic herb that smells slightly of mint, and in it there is a substance very similar to the cat’s pheromones, the nepetalactone, and it is responsible for the bizarre behavior of some cats in its presence.

Nepetal teas are produced in Nepeta’s trichomes, the microscopic glands in the lower part of the leaf where many vegetable oils and volatile chemicals are produced. Researchers have discovered that catnip and other plants of the genus Nepeta produce the molecule through an unusual two-step path. The discovery could help biologists efficiently synthesize closely related molecules that are widely used as drugs.

In 2012, a team of scientists led by O’Connor and Benjamin Lichman, a biochemist now at the University of York, examined the proteins in the trichomes to identify those that stimulated the synthesis of nepetalactone from its precursor. They have a trio of enzymes that they nicknamed NEPS1, NEPS2 and NEPS3. This discovery can help to chemically synthesize the nepetalactone to use it in our homes.

 The catnip can also be used as an ornamental plant on the balcony or on the windows: it keeps insects away, in fact, like mint, it contains small amounts of menthol, which annoys insects.

Catnip: effects

The catnip was called Nepeta Cataria precisely because of its relationship with cats. In fact they, but also the big cats, except lions, are sensitive to nepetalactone, which has an effect on them that goes from aphrodisiac, to the sedative, to the euphorizing, it depends.

Cats perceive nepetalactone and other pheromones through the nasal vomero organ, or Jacobson’s organ, an organ placed on the cat’s palate that is stimulated when the cat slightly opens its mouth to smell, in the typical grimace called Flehemen.

The effects of catnip in the cat are: rubbing, rolling, purring, it will lick and chew. Often in contact with the catnip the cat will drool. We must not be frightened if we see these effects of catnip in our cat, it is a completely natural thing.

Not all cats are catnip sensitive, but about two thirds, and the sensitivity seems to be a hereditary characteristic. The effect is more pronounced in young cats, and ceases after about 15-20 minutes. After a couple of hours the cat is again sensitive to the effects of catnip. Even the valerian has the same effect: try to bring a bag of valerian herbal tea to the cat and you will see it!

Effects of catnip on man

Catnip has mild effects also on humans, like valerian it can be used in relaxing herbal teas against insomnia, it is antispasmodic and decontracting.

Like mint, it can have digestive effects and help in gastrointestinal disorders. It is often used in folk medicine for teas and decoctions.

Catnip, does it hurt?

No side effects of catnip have ever been noticed, either in the cat or on the man, so the catnip does not hurt the cat. The effect, as we have seen, lasts a few minutes, then passes, so there is no need to worry.
Read also: Catnip, effects and how to recognize it

Catnip what it is for

The catnip, as the cats are attracted to it and as soon as they smell it they are attracted and become euphoric, it can be used to attract cats to use a scratching post or to become familiar with a kennel.

It is often sold dried for this purpose and can be distributed in small quantities on the cat’s objects to make them like it. It can be inserted into a toy, a ball or a little tin foil, to stimulate the cat to play and entertain him.

Dry catnip and spray

On the market there are special dry catnip bags to be used safely at home, to familiarize the cat with kennels and scratching posts.

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There is also a spray cell, to attract the cat to the surfaces we want him to use and like, without having to scatter the dry catnip around the house.

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Using the catnip is a great way to get the cat accustomed to a kennel or scratching post, to attract it to a shelf or lure it towards itself in a playful and pleasant way and in safety, since the effect then passes without contraindications.

Catnip for cats, where to find it

You can buy catnip in pet stores, or online at Zooplus or Amazon

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And have you ever tried to use the catnip? What effect did it have on your cat? Tell us your experience in the comments!

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