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Silly Humans -- Catnip is for Cats
By: Shawna Gallagher - ABCDT ~ 4/18/2014

Silly humans, catnip is for cats, well not exactly. But that is what it is more known for these days and it is very entertaining to give your cat a couple of pinches and watch them get all silly and playful. Is Catnip really just for cats? No, it is an herb that can be very beneficial for us and our canine companions; it does a lot more than just make your cat more playful!


I just love natural remedies and the more I learn about this plant the more I really like it. I think that I am going to have to plant some in my back yard.  I’ve already re-potted some in the house for Stewie and he tends to go over to it, have a nibble and then go pick on Triton, makes for a fun night!


So let’s get to it, what is Catnip anyway?
When I looked up catnip in an herbal dictionary this is what I found.
Genus: Nepeta
Family: Lamiaceae
Botanical Name: Nepeta catara


Catnip is a perennial herb that is part of the mint family. It has small white flowers and can grow up to 3 feet. With over 250 different species, the one you find in the local pet stores is the one your cat will prefer.


Native to Europe and Asia, catnip made its way over to Canada and North America in the 1600’s. Nepeta is a reference to Nepete, an ancient Etruscan city and Catara is the Latin word for cat.


Stewiewithcatnip_s.jpgWhat is it that makes cats go crazy over catnip?
It’s the oil that catnip produces is called nepetalactone. This oil when consumed by our felines causes a hallucinogenic effect.  Similar to the feel-good pheromones released during sexual courtship but without the actual act.  In other words the oil acts something like an aphrodisiac for cats. The effect is not just in our domesticated cats but also the bigger cats enjoy it as well.


Sadly not all cats are affected by catnip, having to do with genetics. Only 50% - 70% of cats react playfully when given catnip so if your cat does not react you’re not alone.


A typical response includes sniffing, chewing, licking, head shaking, and chin, cheek, and body rubbing in that order. Other responses can include stretching, drooling, jumping, and hyperactivity. This can help in getting a lazy cat to play and get some exercise.


I found this part really fascinating! The oil nepetalactone is ten times more effective at repealing mosquitoes then DEET, which is the active (and very harmful) ingredient in most insect repellents. Yes, the reason cats roll in it might just be for the high they get from it but don’t underestimate our feline friends from finding a way to be rid of those nasty mosquitoes and the diseases that they carry. Also rats and mice seem to have a strong dislike for catnip and will avoid places where it grows. Did they learn long ago that cats hang around catnip and that wasn’t good for their livelihood?


Is catnip harmful?
No your cat knows instinctively when they have had enough, if given to often it can lose some of its affect.


How to give catnip

You can give your cat catnip in a couple of different ways all of which a very easy.

  • Grow some in a pot and let your cat nibble as they see fit.
  • Dry your own and sprinkle a small amount on the floor for them to roll in.
  • Go to your local pet store and buy some either in a canister, bag, or already stuffed in a toy.

Quick Training Tip:
For some cats your drapes or furniture have become a preferred place to sharpen their claws. Try rubbing some catnip on a scratching post in order to redirect them to a more appropriate place to scratch. Make sure that the scratching post is tall enough for them to stretch fully out on; they need to get a deep stretch.


Growing catnip
This is an easy plant to grow so easy that in some places it is more of a nuisance weed. The easiest way would be to go to your local pet store or nursery and buy a small starter and repot it placing it in a window with at least 6 hours of sunlight. If you choose to plant it outside make sure that you plant it in full sun and leave enough space around it for your cat to roll in and to not damage any other plants nearby.


Catnip and humans
Fortunately or unfortunately catnip does not induce a high in humans like it does for our feline friends. It does however contain a good amount of magnesium and vitamins C and E which are excellent antioxidants.  A cup of catnip tea will relax your nerves, help with sleep, and is safe for the entire family.


To make catnip tea:
Use 1 heaping teaspoon of dried catnip to 1 cup of water, steep for 3 minutes, adding lemon or honey to taste.


Did you think that I forgot about our canine family members? I think not! Dogs can benefit from a little catnip as well.


Calming affect
Catnip in our canine companions it acts like a mild sedative helping ease their nerves. This would be a great natural remedy in helping your dog deal with things that may make them feel anxious, like riding in the car, going to the vets or going off to the groomers.


Intestinal Comfort
If your dog is suffering from some intestinal discomfort giving them a small amount can help with the room clearing flatulence. It also has antispasmodic properties which can help with cramps (also with humans), spasms, diarrhea and indigestion.  A small amount of fresh can also help calm a sick dog’s stomach.


Insect Repellant
A little bit of the oil helps repel mosquitoes and other insects that bother dogs.

Do you love catnip as much as I do?