How catnip gets your cat high

My cats love catnip. Especially fun-loving Spats enjoys a lazy afternoon on a drivelling high. Is it not a bit weird though, that I occasionally drug my own cats with a psychoactive drug?

Nah, they both really like it! But not all cats will intensely react to catnip and about 30% are totally missing out: sensitivity is inherited in the cat family including the big cats, like leopards or lynxes; although lions seem a little less fazed by the fun-plant, just like kittens and older cats.

Catnip, Nepeta cataria, is closely related to mint and native to southern and eastern parts of Europe. The recreational cat drug won’t get your cat addicted and is completely harmless. It’s also easily cultivated so you can totally grow your own stash. Catnip’s psychoactive quality comes from nepetalactone, the main chemical constituent of the plant’s essential oil. If a cat senses the attractant, all hell breaks loose and a reaction is usually immediate.

Nepetalactone binds to olfactory receptors in the cats’ nose and triggers familiar neurological responses: cats purr and leap about, salivate heavily, lick and chew the catnip, paw at the leaf and manically roll in it. Others scratch, meow or growl and some can show slightly unusual reactions to their owners. It looks like they’re having fun so it’s the perfect legal way of stoning your cat. Scientists still haven’t figured out exactly why cats go nuts, but the feline insanity lasts for about 10 minutes. Cats then acclimate to it, and it can take up to an hour to return to ‘normal’.

However, just like with any drug, overindulgence can wear off a user’s ability to respond to the plant, so an occasional exposure is enough. Get catnip as oil, dried leaves or as pellets and store in a dark cupboard or container since light has a way of degrading the essential oils.

As for smoking catnip, forget it. Some say ‘kitty pot’ will relax you, but it surely won’t do for you what is does for your cat. Which might be a very good thing after all.


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To win a goodie bag filled with catnip toys, simply take part in our latest Hauspanther competition.


Good luck remember to make them roar…dribble and roll around

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