The effects of catnip can last between 10 minutes to an hour, depending on the cat.
After sniffing or eating catnip, your cat may show certain effects, after which they usually return to normal with a happier demeanor.
Even though the “high” may last for only a few minutes, some cats may remain in the euphoric state for hours at a time. Outdoor cats that have access to catnip plants will spend stretches of time rolling on it.
Eventually, they will get bored of the activity and move on.
If your cat enjoys catnip and you are curious about the proper way of giving it to them, keep on reading.
What is catnip?
Catnip is one of the 250 species of the mint family, which is why it is sometimes called catmint. It has heart-shaped leaves adorned with small white, blue, or pink flowers. Catnip contains the essential oil nepetalactone which is the component in catnip that gives your cat the euphoria.
It can be given to your cat as dried catnip, which resembles oregano, or you can plant your own to supply your cat with fresh catnip. It does well in sunlight and grows easily.
Why do cats like catnip?
Cats like catnip because of the psychoactive effects of nepetalactone. About 70 percent of cats carry the inherited sensitivity to catnip. The trait does not emerge until the cat is three to six months old. Kittens younger than three months will not have a response to catnip.
Fresh catnip is the most desirable because it has the richest concentration of nepetalactone. Next is dried catnip, while oils and sprays have the lowest concentrations.
Cats have a variety of reactions to catnip, including euphoria, increased affection, bursts of energy, or all sorts of odd behavior. Rolling on the floor and staring into the distance with glazed eyes can be another symptom. Catnip can have a sedative-like effect on other cats, which is why some cats seem calmer even after the initial effects have worn off.
How often can I give my cat catnip?
You can give catnip to your cat every day, but you should not give catnip more than once a day. The same goes for spraying catnip oil on toys, scratching posts, or beddings. Your cat will not overdose on catnip, but giving it to them too often may make them desensitized to the effects.
If you have a catnip-stuffed toy, it is okay for your cat to play with it as much as they want. They will not get a significant dose of catnip from it.
If your cat is attracted to catnip, keep the product out of its reach. Your cat may recognize the container where you keep the catnip and try to raid it. If you grow your own plant, make sure it is somewhere your cat cannot get to.
If left to their own devices, cats can destroy catnip plants by rolling and chewing on it for the sensations the herb produces. So if you have an indoor cat, keep the plant in a different room. If you grow the plant in your garden, figure out a way to keep the neighborhood cats from it.
Can you mix catnip with cat food?
You can add a pinch of catnip in your cat’s food from time to time. This can be a treat for your cat, especially when they are not feeling well and have a decrease in appetite. Fresh or dried catnip works better than sprays or oils.
Chop up the fresh catnip and mix into the cat’s food thoroughly so they do not just eat the top layer. If your cat does not eat the seasoned food immediately, try warming the food on the stove or the microwave for a few seconds. The heat helps release the volatile components of catnip and makes it more attractive to your cat. This makes your cat inclined to consume the same food even if you serve it without catnip in the future.
If you want to use catnip on picky eaters, try tempting them with the herb first and note their reaction. If they approve, then you can try adding catnip to their food.
Does catnip go bad?
As with any dried herb, catnip loses potency over time. Buy small quantities rather than buying catnip in bulk. Buying in bulk leaves you with a lot of stale, unappealing catnip that your cat will not want.
If you notice your cat losing interest in the current catnip batch, it is time to replace it. The exact time your catnip will last depends on how it was packed and kept, but it will usually last around six months.
Once you have opened the package the catnip comes in, transfer it to a dry, airtight container to keep it fresh. If it gets damp, catnip can get moldy, so store it in a cool, dry cupboard where it will not get direct sunlight. Sun exposure breaks down the active ingredient and makes the catnip less potent.
Cat toys with catnip inside will become less attractive as the herbs inside lose potency. Refresh the toys by opening them up and replacing the stuffing with new dried catnip.
Catnip oil and sprays usually come with an expiration date. Though it is unlikely to become harmful, they will stop having an effect on your cat and may as well be discarded.
The best option is to grow catnip in your home so you always have fresh leaves to offer your cat.
Catnip can be used as a treat or as an add-on to cat food to increase appetite. The euphoric feeling it gives your cat after sniffing or eating it can last from 10 minutes to an hour, depending on the cat.
Do not give your cat catnip more than once a day, because giving it too frequently may make the cat immune to the effects.
Catnip goes bad the same way most dried herbs do: it loses its flavor and effectiveness over time. Keep the catnip in a dry, airtight container in a cupboard away from direct sunlight. This ensures the maximum shelf-life for dried catnip. You can plant your own catnip so that you always have a fresh batch on hand for your cat.
Image: istockphoto.com / Daria Kulkova