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Catnip, also called Catmint is a strong-scented herb that most cats are enormously attracted to. The plant has whorls of small dull-white purple-dotted flowers that grow into a terminal spike. Once the plant has been harvested and dried, the resulting flakes produce a hallucinogenic state in cats that is similar to how LSD affects humans.* Catnip contains sterols, tannins, acids and volatile oils.
Catnip was first used long ago as a domestic remedy in diverse ways. Claims are that catnip will cure spasms, headaches, nausea, colds create a tranquilizing effect and even help those with certain cancers. In circuses, catnip was used to help calm agitated lions by the “lion tamers.”
Catnip has now evolved into a herb that is found in almost every cat-lover’s home. A cat’s response to catnip can be anything from humorous to aggressive.
Catnip is enjoyed more by cats that have reached sexual maturity. Some cats love to eat catnip, and will destroy any new toy in their quest to get to the leafy substance and munch it down.
Feral cats are not accustomed to catnip and some will turn away while others will launch into battle with cats in the immediate area.
Catnip can be used to break the ice between two cats being introduced the first time. If first the cats are tested individually to their response to catnip.
As an appetite stimulant for a cat reluctant to eat.
As a feed-through herb to add fiber to a feral cat colonies diet and pass parasites effectively.
Although catnip is a stimulant for cats, people, who drink catnip tea find it has the effect of wanting a long nap.
Catnip sprinkled on the ground and inside a trap, can entice a lost cat back home and into safety.
The ingredient that appeals to the cat’s olfactory system in Nepetalactone. However, only 30% of the feline population will respond to Nepetalactone, the other 70% are unaffected.
The catnip needs to be smelled and inhaled by the cat to produce the 15 minute high. After exposure to catnip, cats may suddenly become ravenously hungry or thirsty.
Catnip is also used as a repellant for cockroaches.
You can easily find catnip toys for your cat(s) in any pet store, retail pet warehouse, grocery store or online. Keep the catnip toys in the freezer in a sealed bag when not in use to keep the smell fresh.
Don’t do what I did, and accidentally wash a catnip toy with your down comforter. It took me a month before all twelve of my cats would move off the bed willingly and find other interests inside the house!
*American Journal of Veterinary Research circa 1972 page 28-32
Mary Anne Miller is a freelance writer, website content provider and member of The Cat Writers’ Association. Her expertise lies in feral cat socialization, bottle babies and animal abuse issues.