If you own a cat, you have seen how your cat reacts when catnip is in the vicinity. He or she gets a whiff and instantly reacts – rolling, twisting, rubbing and in general going just a bit crazy. Your cat is really, really happy when catnip is in the room.
But if just smelling catnip stimulates cats so much, what happens if they eat it. Do they go extra crazy? Do they get sick? Is it even safe?
Catnip is an herb native to Asia, Europe and Africa which eventually made its way to Canada and America. It’s a member of the mint family, related to spearmint and peppermint, and it has a long medicinal history for people. Cats have such an obvious reaction to it because of an essential oil in the plant called nepetalactone. It is in the leaves and stem of the plant, and cats can pick up even trace amounts of it – one part to a billion parts air.
What Does Catnip Contain?
Nepetalactone is the main ingredient in catnip that causes the crazy reaction. It can turn even the most relaxed cats into a ball of happiness with energy to spare. A cat’s “high” from catnip usually lasts about 10 minutes or so. Once the effects completely wear off in about two hours, a cat can have the same reaction to catnip again. A cat’s reaction to catnip is hereditary – it shows up in about 50 percent of cats.
Things To Consider About Catnip…and Cats
Many cats react so much to catnip that they take nibble every now and then. This isn’t necessarily because they like the taste of catnip – by biting into the plant, they can release more of the nepetalactone.
You might think eating catnip intensifies a cat’s reaction to it, but it’s more common for the opposite to happen – the cat becomes more laid back and sedated. If the cat does become even more over-excited when he eats it, you should probably not let him continue eating it.
In moderation, eating catnip is harmless for cats. If, however, they eat too much – or if they have a sensitive stomach – they can get sick and have vomiting and diarrhea. This is unlikely to happen, but even if it does, it is not serious and should clear up over time.
So, Can Cats Eat Catnip?
Our answer is yes, cats can indeed safely eat catnip. If your cat enjoys having a few bites of dried catnip, think about getting him his/her own fresh catnip plant, which will offer him something new to chew on. The fresh leaves will release lots of nepetalactone when your cat nibbles on them, which will keep him/her happy. They might even stick their face in it and paw the leaves, which can provide some good entertainment.
Many pet stores sell fresh catnip plants, which you can keep in a pot. One warning – don’t plant catnip near your garden because it can grow out of control just like a weed.