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The Reason Why Cats are Crazy about Cat Nip Toys!

Catnip although is a hundred percent natural herb but in most cat breeds it induces an exhilarating, though short-lived, neural sensation. This pleasurable herb has been turning wild cats (even the bigger ones) gaga since a long time. Catnip toys are those cat toys which are filled with catnip and are a ready source of happiness for the cat. Let’s find out what is catnip, and how it brings feline fatale under its spell.


Origin of Catnip?

Catnip is related to the mint family Labiatae (or Lamiaceae) which has got 250 species. Nepeta Cataria is one of the 250 flowering plants, which is also known as catnip, catmint, true catnip, catswort and catrup. Nepeta is believed to have first cultivated in the Nepete town of Italy. Cataria has probably been derived from the Latin word for cat. The active component of Nepeta Cataria which gets most of the work done for the cat is Nepetalactone. It is an essential oil, which is found in the leaves, stems and seeds of the plant.

One or two sniffs are all it takes to take your cat into a state of frenzy. Getting high on catnip can result in funny behaviours such as rolling and curling on the floor, rubbing its face against it, sniffing, chewing, head shaking, licking, drooling, getting into aggressive playfulness, jumping and so on. The effects cool off after 10 to 15 minutes in most cats. Getting the cat ready for the crazy-fun zone again needs an interval of at least two hours. That is the time which the cat takes to respond to catnip again.

How and why does catnip work with most cats?

The most exciting and intense experience of catnip is attained through the cat’s olfactory organs. Upon sniffing, nepetalactone enters the nasal passage and binds to the olfactory receptors which are located at the olfactory epithelium. This stimulates the sensory neurons which in turn cause neurons in the olfactory bulb to send signals to the brain, the master manager. Now, what exactly brain does after that to bring out such blissful state in the cats is still not clear. But it is thought that catnip mimics a cat pheromone, and rouses those receptors in brain which react to pheromones.


Eating catnip usually has an opposite effect on most of the felines. They get relaxed and calm instead of being wacky and excited.

Is catnip harmful to the cat?

Catnip is safe for cats. And as for the issue of overdosing is concerned, most felines know when they have had enough and will refuse further offers. The only possibility of harm can arise from some physical injury which may occur due to an overexcited central nervous system.

Catnip is not for all cats


Sensitivity to catnip is an inherited trait which means not every cat would respond to it. As per an estimate only 50% to 66% of cats will react to it and for others it won’t matter at all. Also, kittens between 3 to 6 months and very old cats are also the lot on which it won’t work. So, it is only by trying that you would be able to know if your cat is or not immune to catnip

How to offer catnip to a cat

Catnip can be given to the cat in a number of ways:

  1. Buying catnip toys are an easy and convenient way of offering catnip to the cat
  2. If you are growing it at home, keep it near a window or in your cat’s enclosure. The feline can sniff or nibble at the herb when they like.
  3. Dried catnip leaves can be crushed and sprinkled on the floor, or on cat’s toys.

You get to know that your cat enjoys catnip, now apart from having the joy of watching your cat frolicking and acting silly, the herb can also help you in training the cat. Sprinkle the catnip on the things you want to introduce to your cat like cat toys, cat scratchers, cat bed, and so on, and your feline is sure to notice it in a big way.

As per researchers, nepetalactone (the key ingredient of catnip) is 10 times more effective than DEET in repelling mosquitoes. DEET is the key ingredient of most insect repellents you find in the market. Catnip can also repel cockroaches. Rat and mice population is also believed to dislike it and stays away from its plants.

Besides plants, nepetalactone is also possessed by certain insects and ants; and it is assumed that such asset protects them from other insects.

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On humans catnip is said to have a sedative effect. When drunk as a tea it can assist in inducing sleep and in calming an upset stomach. There are a wide range of medicinal uses of catnip. It has been used to treat coughing, headaches, small pox, scarlet fever, cuts and bruises. Other medicinal uses include relieving muscular aches and pains, toothache, antispasmodic, anaesthetic, anti-rheumatic, cold in the joints, antibiotic and haemorrhoids.

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Shikha Sharma believes that Mother Earth is our mutual abode, where all creatures have an equal right to live with dignity. This belief is clearly reflected in her wonderful writing pieces that revolve around animals and their well-being. She is the blog editor of Pets World.

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