It does weird things to cats, but is catnip good for cats with asthma? These are the things I think about, maybe I need a hobby. Sparrow, he has more than enough problems for a young feline and I’m always looking out for interesting ways to keep him happy, so yesterday when we were visiting the vet (again) I asked her ‘is catnip good for cats with asthma?’. I’ve asked her a lot of questions about a lot of different things and usually, she looks at me like I’m a hippy weirdo (which I kinda am), but this time she just grinned at me and said: “I can’t see why not”.
Great, let’s go.
What is Catnip?
The scientific name for catnip is Nepeta Cataria, it’s a perennial herb from the mint family and is sometimes known as catmint. The catnip plant is native to Europe, Asia and Africa, it was imported into the USA and now grows throughout North America. The plants can grow up to three feet tall with heart-shaped leaves and pink, blue or lavender flowers. There are over 250 varieties of the catnip plant, it’s popular in many herb gardens and grows widely as a weed. The active ingredient is nepetalactone, an oil found in the leaves of the plant.
Catnip is good for many things other than sending cats loopy – it’s widely used by humans, but does not produce the same effects as it does in cats. A nice warm catnip tea or infusion can give a mild sedative effect and is also good for relieving nausea, headaches and even insomnia. Nepetalactone has been found to be an effective insect repellent against flies, mosquitoes and cockroaches. It’s 10 times more effective than DEET but unfortunately, loses its insect repelling magic when applied to the skin.
Why Does Catnip Affect Cats?
The catnip plant contains volatile oils, the most potent for cats being Nepetalactone. Why this affects cats so much remains largely a mystery, but it is known that nepetalactone is quite similar to a sexual pheromone found in male cat urine. Experts estimate that only about 50-75% of cats respond to catnip and this sensitivity is likely to be inherited. Interestingly, most cats in Australia are not sensitive to catnip…most cats in Australia are also not freaking asthmatic, yet here we are. Young kittens and senior cats do not respond to catnip, which leads scientists to believe the response is partially sexual and maybe something like an aphrodisiac.
What Happens to Cats High on Catnip?
It varies from cat to cat, of course, but the typical response is euphoria, similar to what happens to humans on hallucinogenic drugs. There’s nothing harmful or addictive in catnip, so there’s no need to worry about kitty becoming a lazy, good for nothing stoner who will never get a job. The typical response for a sensitive cat is to sniff at catnip, roll around in it, paw at it and generally go a bit loopy for a few minutes. There’s often a lot of purring, meowing, sometimes even drooling. A bit like me when I’ve had a few too many martinis. The effects (of the catnip, not the martinis) generally last up to 15 minutes, at which time your cat will simply walk away and be completely disinterested for a few hours or even a few days. However, if a cat eats the catnip instead of just sniffing, it has a sedative effect.
How to Give Your Cat Catnip
I’m a big fan of natural, organic products so I’m obviously looking for that kind of quality when I’m shopping for Sparrow things. The best way to ensure the quality and freshness of your cat’s nip is to grow your own – there are plenty of kits available in pet stores if you want to grow from scratch, but it’s much easier to buy an established plant and try not to kill it like I do with every plant that comes into my home. If you’re like me in the green thumb department, you’re better off buying high quality, organic catnip and keeping it in the freezer to ensure its freshness.
You can buy catnip in many different forms, all are safe and effective so just find the one that works best for your cat. Catnip stuffed toys are the most popular, the only drawback being that you can’t guarantee the freshness of the herb inside. If this is a concern, your best bet is to look for refillable catnip toys. Cats will go mad over these toys and then ignore them completely, so be sure to put them out of sight until kitty is ready to fly again.
Dried catnip and catnip sprays are also available – these are great for getting kitty to fall in love with his new bed, scratching post, or friend. Simply sprinkle or spray where you want your cat to feel at home and watch for the hilarity to begin. Your cat really isn’t fussy – just leave a pile of catnip on the ground and the games will soon begin. Crushing or ‘bruising’ the leaves will release more nepetalactone and make for even more fun times.
Words of Warning
Some cats can become aggressive rather than pleasantly crazy when exposed to catnip, so it’s best to tread carefully the first time you try it. Don’t try to interact with your cat while he’s nipping, especially if you’re not sure how he will react. Cats with asthma should be watched extra carefully when around loose, dried catnip as it could become an irritant to the airways. Just because your cat didn’t respond to catnip the first time around, doesn’t mean he won’t ever – it’s fine to try again later once more, but don’t force it on your cat if he’s not into it. Nobody likes a pushy dealer.
Does your cat go bonkers over catnip? Share the fun in the comments below…