This peppermint-scented perennial commonly referred to as catnip, catnip, nebeda, or catnip drives most cats crazy. It is unknown why it does not affect everyone equally, but the truth is that younger cats seem to escape its influence.
In Roman times it was already used for human consumption in order to tackle a wide range of ailments. Nowadays it is used to alleviate stomach discomfort, to lower fever or to end respiratory conditions, among other uses. In the present case, it is curious how it modulates feline behavior.
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The Nepeta Cataria
Catnip or catnip, contracting its scientific name Nepeta Cataria , is a plant with serrated leaves that lives in Europe, in some Asian countries and in North Africa. It usually reaches 20-60 centimeters in height and is characterized by the intense minty aroma it gives off .
In fact, it belongs to the same botanical family as peppermint and spearmint. They are all Lamiaceae . In spring it develops a flower stem in the shape of a spike that is called an inflorescence.
Why do kittens love catnip?
It is estimated that 80% of the cats that smell this plant are seduced by it and are easily suggestible during the 10 minutes that its “narcotic” effect lasts. Curiously, in the next 30 minutes they will be immune to this influence.
A high percentage of kittens smell it, pick it up with their front paws to rub their head against it and then lick and nibble on it. This ritual can last between 5 and 15 minutes. Some find it relaxes while other cats are hyperactive after consuming it. In the most minority cases, it causes aggressive behavior.
The explanation for this behavior is believed to lie in the nepetalactone molecule that penetrates through the animal’s nostrils and activates the areas of the central nervous system that govern sexual behavior. In fact, some cats make a sound similar to that of female cats in heat when they take it.
Do you use catnip for any purpose?
Cats generally turn to catnip to ease their upset stomach. This can be produced by the massive ingestion of hairballs after grooming, by indulgence or the opposite. They may also want to make themselves vomit because they have an empty stomach and this causes uncomfortable heartburn.
If this behavior of chewing catnip is a specific event that occurs once every 2 or 3 months you should not worry, it is natural. However, if your pet uses it every 15 days or every month you should consult your veterinarian, since it could be a chronic gastritis that requires its corresponding treatment.
Taking advantage of its powerful ability to influence feline behavior, there are countless toys or sprays that contain nebeda. You will find toys filled with it that are very useful to encourage physical activity in the laziest felines. Feel free to use this type of toy to prevent tuminino overweight or obesity .
In turn, if he is bored with his toys and barely pays attention to them, you can try spraying them with a catnip spray and his reaction will surprise you. You can also apply it to the scraper to encourage him to sharpen his nails on it instead of on your furniture.
Apart from physical stimulation, this herb exerts what ethologists call an “environmental enrichment” alluding to its power of cognitive stimulation, something that is essential to preserve the psychological health of the animal. It will help you cheer up a listless or depressed cat.
Does cat grass have any contraindications?
It is absolutely harmless and not addictive, so you can have it at home without fear that your cat will get sick or feel bad. Of course, you should pay attention to the frequency with which you go to it .
The only risk that exists is that which has to do with open spaces. If your cat has taken catnip and you have open windows or a terrace, you should control the access, because it could not be aware of its actions and injure itself. Likewise, if you appreciate that after taking it it is aggressive, you should remove the plant.
Where to buy catnip?
Our advice is that you always go to specialized stores. You can buy it in seeds or directly from the plant. Depending on what your choice has been, their care will vary. We show them below.
Catnip in seeds
You should always sow them in spring. The day before sowing you should keep them soaked for 24 hours to hydrate. The next day, take a 10.5-centimeter diameter pot and universal growing medium. Water until the soil is very moist.
Do not introduce more than 2 seeds per pot and cover them with a thin layer of substrate. Water again, this time with the help of a sprayer and make sure that the pot receives the light it requires. Ideally, it should stay outside in semi-shade, but if it is going to be inside, it should be in a bright room without drafts.
If you keep the substrate always moist, after 14-20 days it will germinate and you will have to transplant it to a larger pot.
In this case we will start from the point where we left it in the previous section. You should keep it in a bright room or outside in semi-shade. You can opt for the universal substrate or to mix it with perlite.
Water it once a week in winter and 2 to 3 times in summer. You should transplant it every 2 years , in spring. It does not require greater care. In fact, it resists frosts down to -7 ºC and is not excessively vulnerable to pests. If the cottony mealybug attacks you, you can easily remove it with a brush dipped in water.
Why does it not affect all cats equally?
There is some confusion around this point. Some specialists affirm that it depends on the breeds, with common European cats being the most sensitive to catnip, but it has not been proven.
What they do agree on is that males are more susceptible to falling for it , because its chemical composition is similar to that of female cats’ urine. Consequently, non-neutered cats that eat catnip are more attracted to females.
As you can see, it is a mystery to see how catnip affects a high percentage of kittens. Given its benefits for the well-being of your pet, do not hesitate to keep it at home, but make sure it is consumed in moderation.
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