Ever wonder why cats go crazy for catnip?
Catnip is a strange occurrence among cats, it can alter your cat’s behavior like nothing else! The exact reason why Catnip affects cats in such a weird way remains mostly a mystery. There is however much that we do know about cats and catnip even if we don’t have all the details! Here are some reasons why cats go crazy for catnip.
What is catnip?
Catnip is scientifically classified as Nepeta Cateria and is a perennial herb from the mint family. Also known as “cat mint”, catnip is indigenous to Europe but has been exported and is now found all over the world! Believe it or not, there are actually about 250 species of catnip! Catnip is often found in a bottle or spray form. This is because the active ingredient in the plant is actually an oil that comes from the leaves of the plant. The technical name of this oil is Nepetalactone (just in case you’re ever on Jeopardy). Catnip is closely related to many plants that humans are familiar with like basil and oregano. However, why cats go crazy for catnip and no other plant remains somewhat of a mystery!
What happens when cats sniff or eat catnip?
Cats get “high” from the oil in the leaves called nepetalactone which binds to receptors inside a cat’s nose, stimulating sensory neurons leading into the brain. Catnip affects approximately half of all cats with reactions ranging from complete insanity to some cats not reacting at all. Catnip is considered to be nonaddictive and completely harmless to cats although the reaction can be quite entertaining.
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What determines whether or not a cat will react to Catnip?
There is a genome in cats that’s either inherited or not inherited at birth. Kittens, regardless of whether or not they carry this genome, do not react to Catnip until reaching about 3 or 4 months of age. Older cats are also more likely to have a diminished or non-existing reaction to Catnip. This leads scientists to believe that the Catnip effect is based at least partially on sexuality. So, the reason why cats go crazy for catnip might be similar to an aphrodisiac.
Do all species of cats like catnip?
The domesticated house cat is not the only cat that may be affected by Catnip! Larger felines such as the bobcat, lynx, tiger, and even lion are also affected by it. They are known to react much the same way that the common house cat would. While catnip can act as a stimulant when a cat sniffs it, it can also act as a relaxant if ingested. Therefore, you may see a nearly opposite result depending on whether your cat chooses to eat the catnip or merely sniff it. (Sniffing it is the more typical behavior)!
Why Cats Go Crazy For Catnip Is A Mystery
Although it’s still hard to say exactly why cats go crazy for catnip we do know that they seem to love it. It does not have any negative effects on cats so if your cat enjoys it let them have their fun!