If you’ve ever gifted your family feline with a catnip-filled toy, you’ve likely found yourself entertained by their wildly bizarre behaviour! Even if you don’t have a cat, the internet is swarming with videos of cats acting bizarre while hopped up on catnip.
So, what exactly makes your kitty go coo-coo for catnip? Well, scientifically speaking, it sparks a chemical reaction in cats’ brains that’s not unlike what happens to us humans when we take certain drugs. Here are three facts about catnip and what makes it one helluva drug for your four-legged friends!
1. Catnip Is Chalk-Full Of Stimulating Oils
The catnip plant, Nepeta Cataria, is what we like to call the estranged sister of the refreshing mint family. According to Ramona Turner’s popular Scientific American article about catnip, nepetalactone, which is one of the intoxicating oils in catnip, enters the cat’s nasal tissue and binds protein receptors that tell sensory neurons it’s time to wake up. In short, nepetalactone gets the party started.
2. The Nepetalactone In Catnip Is An Aphrodisiac For Cats
The chemical reaction that happens in a cat’s brain when they are exposed to catnip is thought to stimulate a pheromone-style response, leading many cats to act like females in heat, as Turner goes on to explain in her above-mentioned article. She says this response is due to how the sterols, tannins, oils and acids in catnip work together to stimulate neurons in the olfactory bulb that send messages to the amygdala and hypothalamus, eliciting an excited and emotional response in cats.
3. Catnip Is Perfectly Harmless (And Entertaining)
The beauty of this feline-friendly drug is that the effects of catnip only last roughly 15 minutes for most kitties and they are generally intelligent enough to stop when they know they’ve had enough. Cats can, however, technically “overdose” on catnip if they’ve overdone it but that’s pretty rare. So, you can shamelessly get a laugh out of watching your fur-baby roll around in nepeta-induced bliss.
Want to learn more about the benefits of sharing catnip with your kitties at home? Contact us today to get the facts.