Why do Cats love Catnip?
I must admit – I went through a few years of “owning” a domestic cat, before I heard anything about the mysterious ‘lure’ of our furry friends to a ‘citrusy and aromatic mint-leaf’ plant known commonly as “Catnip”. On a recent cat photography session here in Melbourne, an owner joked with us that given the choice of a slow fat mouse and a freshly grown Catnip plant – the mouse would get away scott-free … no matter how fat that rodent was!
Catnip grows naturally in the wild in Europe and Asia, and even its Latin name – Nepeta Cataria tells us all we need to know about its biggest fans.
Once you plant it in your own garden, it grows freely if watered regularly in a shady location. So if you want to see why Catnip can be such fun, you just have to hope that your feline has inherited a genetic attraction to this miraculous herb. Sometime after 6 months, you will know for sure if they have inherited the ‘gift’ of catnip addition :o)
Although nobody knows for sure, but it seems that the big-draw to Catnip comes down to one of its constituents. This is an oil known as nepetalactone. It doesn’t take much of a sniff before this genetic trait takes full control of their bodies. In no time at all (if we are lucky), our cats will be sniffing, chewing, licking, rolling on their backs, play-fighting with the catnip, licking again, … and repeat.
I have personally witnessed this behaviour for up to 5 minutes. However some lucky owners and carers, report a 20 minute period of what can only be described as complete euphoria. I’m not sure whether to take a photograph or call the vet! There must be a law against this narcotically induced behaviour… surely :o?
Once they have thoroughly over-dosed on the experience, our cats seem to become immune to the scent for several hours, occasionally even a day or two. Quite often, there does seem to be a temporary after-effect where our feline will “chill” for several minutes. They will often lie on their sides and take in the ‘view’ from a nearby spot.
We’ve mentioned positive reinforcement before during play, and Catnip is probably the ‘magic-wand’ that Harry Potter himself would be jealous of! If that brand new leather sofa is due for delivery this afternoon, quickly rub some fresh catnip leaves on the nearest feline scratching post. This will provide the perfect distraction for our furry friend.
And of course, there is the wonderful impact of stuffing dried catnip inside absolutely any safe object. Just watch them try to pull that old mouse apart. And then watch them rub the scent all over their lips and neck! If you have any dried leaves left over, you can store them in the freezer and ‘refresh’ the contents of that furry mouse again and again. You just know you want to try it .. it really works.. :o)
Oh … and don’t worry – they can’t really overdose! Catnip is completely harmless to felines.
Here are some images of felines from our recent cat photography sessions – all of them would just love to try some of your Catnip:
If you would like to read more on the effect that catnip can have on much larger cats – like a Tiger for example, you will definitely want to look at this amusing short video
Catnip – Cat Photography Melbourne