Nepeta cataria, a plant indigenous to various countries in Asia and Europe, is widely known as catnip, catmint or catswort to American and European cat lovers. The popularity of this plant is largely attributed to its effect on cats, as it can induce a feline to exhibit a variety of responses like drooling, vocalizing, sniffing, licking, biting, rubbing, or rolling on the plant.

Why Does Catnip Have an Intoxicating Effect on Cats

Catnips have a particular chemical compound called nepalacatlone, which diffuses the moment a stem or leaf is bruised. The reason why catnip seems to have an intoxicating effect on felines is that the protein receptors located in the cat’s nose react to nepalacatlone, triggering a cat’s sensory neurons to react in ways not normal to the animal’s usual brain activity.

The neurological changes usually lasts around 5 to 15 minutes, albeit depending on a feline’s makeup, including its age, neuter status and/or gender.

A recent study showed that while it has been proven that all cats respond and react to catnip, the animals tend to differ on the responses manifested. Some cats are passive responders while other are quite active especially if the catnip experience leads to the release of the cat’s peptide pleasure hormone.

Some catnip-on-cat studies also found out that by covering the cat with catnip essence, they become less susceptible to mosquito bites. The explanation actually expounds on the reason why cats respond positively to nepalactalone, since one of the feel-good effects is that of being in an insect-free environment.

Is it Safe to Use Catnip as Stimulant for Inactive, Unresponsive Cats?

Studies also show that the modified state of mind and the elevated stimulation aren’t always comfortable for all cats, even to those who regarded as active responders. Some cats seek sources of safety especially when they don’t feel in control, which makes them feel anxious. Other felines might not feel comfortable experiencing some kind of altered state of consciousness, which can also make them feel anxious or worried.

While cat owners find it delightful to watch their pet’s reactions while under the intoxicating effect of catnips, it is equally important to make sure that the effects are for your cats’ pleasure. Moreover, observers warn against touching or stroking catnip-induced cats or bothering them while under their intoxicated state.

The advice given by animal behavior experts is to let your cat take the catnip trip in their own time and to give them space. It’s therefore best to place or grow catnips in places that are private to a cat, preferably farther away from the household’s center of activity.