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Is Catnip Safe for Cats? A Guide to the Benefits and Risks

Is Catnip Safe for Cats?

The short answer is yes, catnip is perfectly safe for your cats! New cat parents sometimes voice concerns that their cat gets loopy when they give them catnip, and some realize that catnip doesn’t do anything for their kitties. Let’s dive deeper into what catnip is and how it affects cats!

What is Catnip?

Catnip is a perennial herb from the mint family that originated in Northern Africa and the Mediterranean. Cats are attracted to catnip because of the active compound in it called nepetalactone. This compound mimics the effect of a cat pheromone, possibly associated with mating. When cats smell catnip, it acts as a natural mood enhancer and can make them act in unusual ways.

How Does Catnip Affect Cats?

Catnip can make your cat act very playful or affectionate. Your cat may roll, paw, or rub her face wherever the catnip is. She may jump and be frisky, or even run from room to room. Some cats, however, will become very relaxed and stare into space. Catnip effects usually last between 5-15 minutes, and it will take your cat a couple of hours before she feels and displays the effects again. If you overdo it, catnip might lose its potency, so avoid giving it daily.

How is Catnip Useful for Cats?

Catnip is not only fun, but it can also be useful in training your cat. You can use it to encourage your cat to use a scratching post or sleep in her own bed. Sprinkling some catnip on the desired object can work its magic and entice your cat to use it. Catnip is also a great way to give your cat exercise, and it’s part of how we keep cats healthy!

Different Forms of Catnip Products

Catnip products come in many forms such as powdered catnip or catnip bulbs that you can sprinkle on the ground or on a toy. Pet stores sell toys that already have catnip inside them, or you can buy toys with an opening where you can put catnip in it yourself. You can also buy catnip oil or oil spray that can be used on your cat’s bed. Just remember that cats react to small amounts of catnip, so don’t overdo it!

Cats Who Don’t Respond to Catnip

Catnip is safe for cats, and about 30% of cats have no observable response to catnip. Being affected by catnip is an inherited trait, so many cats just do not have the receptors to be affected by it. Kittens don’t respond to catnip until after their first six months, and as cats get older, they may start to lose interest.

Cats Who Become Aggressive After Catnip

Some cats may become aggressive after being given catnip, usually male cats. This might be due to the connection between catnip and mating behavior stated earlier.  If you see this happening with your cat, stop giving it catnip and consult your veterinarian, who can recommend alternatives.

Overall, catnip is a safe, well-known, and fun way to interact with your cat. Just remember to use it in moderation and consult your veterinarian if you have any concerns.

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