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Off on a trip with catnip

 | October 15, 2012

If your cat’s looking like she’s high, slinking around the house, acting coy and behaving rather promiscuous then she’s most probably high on catnip.


If your cat’s looking like she’s high, slinking around the house, acting coy and behaving rather promiscuous then she’s most probably high on catnip.

A stimulant & a relaxant

A favourite among our feline friends, catnip or ‘Nepeta Cataria’ is an ancient herb of the mint family that has a history trailing back to Egypt. It is both a stimulant and a relaxant and is found abundantly all over Europe, Asia as well as North America.

The scent in catnip that captivates her is a cheeky chemical called nepetalactone that is found in its stem and leaves. This chemical is an unsaturated lactone that stimulates and relaxes her much the same as marijuana does to some people. When a cat sniffs at catnip, she will get stimulated. However if she eats it, the catnip will have a sedative effect on her.

Crazy cat behaviour

When your cat is on one of her ‘trips’, you will see her behaving rather out of character, ditching her usual elegant demeanour to rub her body against the leaves or roll on it ungracefully with her paws up in the air, totally oblivious or uncaring of her surroundings. It is a heady feeling that puts her in a state of prolonged ecstasy, which she surrenders to with great willingness.

Cat behaviourists say all species of cats react in this way, even wild cats like lions. Imagine that, the majestic King of the Jungle, ‘rocking and rolling’ as he trips out on catnip. Bet the wildebeest are holding their sides chuckling at the very sight!

However if your cat maintains his dignity even in the presence of catnip, it could simply mean he is not genetically predisposed to it as only 50 to 60 percent of cats show a reaction to catnip. Kittens in particular are repelled by the very smell for the first two months of their lives.

Feel good hormones

Scientists believe that when a cat sniffs catnip, the chemical induces the release of ‘feel good’ pheromones, the same hormones released during sexual activity. However some cats also display other kinds of behaviour such as high-intensity playing, manic chasing and keen hunting.

Unlike drugs that leave humans feeling physically spent and eventually addicted, a cat pretty much returns to normal after her ten-minute stint and never gets hooked on catnip for her survival. Other plants that produce similar reactions are Valerian and Canadian Honeysuckle.

In Malaysia, many pet stores carry cat toys stuffed with catnip. The catnip brings to life many stationary toys that would otherwise be a tad boring to them. For maximum effect catnip toys should be stored in airtight containers with a pinch of loose catnip in it. Since the essential oils in catnip weaken the longer it is exposed to air, remember to limit your cat’s playtime to 20 minutes.





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