Exploring Exactly What the Catnip Fuss is all About - Jul. 26, 2011
Our cat, Noah, is an odd duck.
We use him a bit to sample potential stock items at Animal Essentials including new treats and the odd toy.
One thing we've never tried with him was catnip.
Until the other day.
We placed some nip on the floor to see how he would respond. He walked over, sniffed it, looked around like he was hunting the nip and then literally allowed his two front legs to slide sideways while he enveloped himself in the new experience.
He loved it.
Decided to do a little research on cat nip and animal writer Amy Shojai had some pretty good explanations.
I don't think Noah cares why, but have a read:
'Rather than a simple smell, the chemical in catnip resembles sedative components also found in the valerian plant, which may be used in natural therapies to calm pets and people. Catnip also may be similar to one of the substances found in tomcat urine-yucky to you, but a lovely smell to the cat! In fact, this pheromone in urine often triggers the same sort of behavioral reaction in cats as exposure to catnip.
These types of chemicals, once inhaled, enter the highly specialized scenting organ through the roof of the mouth of cats. The vomeronasal or Jacobson organs sit between the hard palate of the mouth and the septum of the nose, and connect to the mouth via tiny conduits directly behind the cat's upper incisor teeth. You may see your cat perform an odd facial grimace (flehmen) with lips curled back and mouth open when employing this organ.
The Jacobson's organs are linked to the hypothalamus, an area of the brain that acts like a switchboard to direct information to higher centres. This part of the brain integrates taste and smell, motivates appetite, and triggers a variety of behaviours.
Catnip in cats affects the same biochemical pathways that are affected by marijuana and LSD in people. In its simplest terms, catnip is a feline hallucinogen. The "high" lasts from five to 15 minutes, and causes a loss of inhibition. Catnip-intoxicated cats act like furry fools who roll and flop about on the floor, drool, and have a wonderful relaxing time.
Cats rarely respond to catnip until they are about six months old, and some cats never do. The trait is an inherited one, with only two out of three domestic cats being affected. Boy cats seem to respond more strongly than females.
Since catnip belongs in the mint family, cats often react in a similar way to other types of mint. I have even seen some cats react to a type of honeysuckle-or even olives.
Most scientists agree that catnip provides a harmless recreation for cats. For cats who respond, catnip can be a wonderful training tool. Catnip builds the confidence of some shy cats, and it can be used to 'spike' the legal scratch objects to help lure cats to do the right thing. Catnip can help take the cat's mind off of the scary car ride-or at least induce a catnip snooze so she does not care anymore.
You will find catnip toys, herbs, even growing kits advertised in all the finest cat magazines, "special" brands touted in pet stores, and feline fanciers comparing quality like true gourmands. The fresher the herb, the more likely your cat is to react. And no, catnip doesn't affect people the same way, although it has in the past been used as a soothing tea for upset tummies.
Be aware, though, overindulgence may "wear out" your cat's response to the plant. An occasional treat, perhaps once every two or three weeks, is plenty.'
There you have it. We have not used the nip in almost a week, but prior to the long weekend perhaps Noah can get a hit to mellow for the holiday.