The Catnip Buzz

Published Date: November 26th, 2006
Category: Cats

By: Stan Beck

Cats sleep a lot, have you noticed it? It’s a natural part of being a cat, I’m convinced, because it’s a seemingly universal trait. And really, cats kind of move at their own pace, don’t they? However, should you give your sedate kitty a deep whiff of catnip, the party will come alive. Suddenly this sedate, dormant feline will ‘wake up’ and frolic and be as frisky as a kitten again.


Two to fifteen minutes pass by and your cat comes back down from the moon and returns to the same sedate cat you’ve come to love – the effects of the catnip totally gone.

So yes, the catnip can have an effect, but why do cats react to it that way?

Did you know that not all cats react to catnip? It’s true. About one third to half of all domestic cats are totally unaffected. In fact, the classic catnip ‘fever’ is inherited – a kitten with one parent who reacts and one that doesn’t has a 50 percent chance (one out of two) of reacting themselves. Cats that have both parents that react have a 75 percent chance (three out of four) to react to it themselves. Also, kittens younger than four months usually do not react to catnip – but do that really need it anyway And catnip has a lessened effect on older cats.

So what is the magic ingredient of catnip that drives the kitties wild? It’s a oil called napetalactone. However, researchers still don’t know why it causes cats to go nuts.

Did you know that even big cats – lions, leopards, cheetahs, pumas can also catch the catnip buzz. Interestingly enough, tigers seem to be immuned.

The catnip buzz seems to come more from topical exposure rather than from ingesting it. If you watch, most cats with catnip will sniff at it, rub up against it. Those that eat it can experience the opposite effect, which is act as a sedative instead as a stimulant.

So can this catnip high be dangerous for you feline friend? Catnip is chemically related to cannibis and effects typically last no more than 15 minutes. In fact, after about 15 minutes, most cats loose interest altogether. Interestingly, most cats will not react again for a minimum of an hour. Also, studies have shown that cats do no become dependant on the substance.

Not all cats react the same way to catnip. Typically, the response is increase friskiness and playfulness, but there are some cats that actually become more aggressive with its use.

So, in summary, catnip seems to be a safe, recreational drug for your kitty-cat.
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