Do cats eat catnip?

Nepeta Cataria is the scientific name of catnip, the perennial herb that causes a cat to get high…to flip over. This weed-like plant has an amazing effect not only on domestic and feral cats but on big cats too. This herb has a behavior-altering effect on cats. The cats are observed to sniff the catnip and then roll on it to crush the plant and to rub the leaves and the flowers on their bodies. Catnips appear to have an addicting effect on cats as sniffing and smearing the body with the scent of the plant is not enough. Cats would be seen licking and nibbling the leaves. And finally, the cat would be seen eating the catnip with gusto.

Catnip, also called catmint grows like weeds in some parts of Asia and Africa and in some European countries. Due to the known effects of the plant on cats, catnip was exported and now has spread to United States and to Canada. Most cat owners know about the effects of catnip on their pets but few are aware that the change in behavior is caused by the substance Nepalactone. The effect of this active ingredient is the same as the effect of pheromones found in the urine of cats. Cats are excellent hunters, thanks to the ultrasensitive scenting abilities. The receptors in the cats’ olfactory system trigger a reaction when catnip is smelled. Cats would roll on the plant to crush the leaves. The scent smelled by the cat will trigger different kinds of reaction. Catnip can either act as a stimulant or a relaxant. Nepalactone can create a state of euphoria in some cats. The scent of catnip would make the cat jump and roll over while making strange noises. Adult cats would manifest a kind of hyperactivity only seen in kittens. It would appear as if the cat has received an adrenalin shot. This substance can have the opposite effect in some cats. The cat may appear so relaxed and inebriated. Cat owners may even see a foolish grin on the face of the pet that appears to be drunk. Some cats would manifest an aggressive behavior. Owners witnessing the effects of catnip on the pet should not worry as the behavioral change will be over in 10 to 15 minutes. It would be noticed that after sniffing the bruised leaves of the plant, the cat would commonly eat the catnip. Catnip acts as a relaxant or stimulant when sniffed but when ingested this amazing plant becomes a sedative. The cat’s behavior would then be back to normal. The effects of the substance released when the leaves of the catnip are crushed will be “neutralized” by the same substance that was ingested.

While cats would generally go gaga over the scent of catnips, other cats would show no reaction at all. Scientists associate the reaction of cats to this amazing herb to the genes of the cat. Apparently, the love of catnips is an inherited trait. Reaction to catnips is passed down by the parents to the kittens. If your pet has no reaction to this herb, you will be missing out on the antics the pet high on catnip will show. Moreover, catnips have become an efficient training tool. Cat parent that would want to curb the pet’s inclination to scratch furniture would simply rub catnip on the scratching post that is being ignored by the pet. Presto! The cat would transfer its attention to the scratching post. Catmint is also used by cat owners to encourage very lazy cats to burn some calories. Once sniffed, the cat would leap, roll around and be very playful. Catnip is perfectly safe for cats. The plant may appear addicting but cats know how to regulate themselves. Owners though have to make sure that the pet do not overindulge. Eating large amounts of catnips can result to vomiting and diarrhea.