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We all need time to unwind. A little treat after a full day is well deserved, sometimes necessary. After all, it's not easy to run a household and find time for yourself. Just ask your cat. While you're at work or going through your day, your cat is busy at home, reigning over her kingdom, hunting down pests, and marking her territory. She deserves a treat, too.

For most cats, it gets no better than a few minutes with some fresh catnip or a favorite catnip-infused toy. Catnip is a plant related to mint and contains an essential oil called nepetalactone, a pheromone-like chemical that is known to cause euphoric, almost hallucinogenic feelings in cats. Don't worry though. Catnip is natural, completely safe, and nonaddictive fun for cats.

How Do Cats React to Catnip?

Cats (who have the genetic receptors to feel the effects of catnip) are drawn to the smell and enjoy rolling, chewing, and sometimes eating it. Some other effects include shaking their heads, rubbing against the catnip, and salivating. Affected cats relish in that "catnip feeling" and many experience side effects at the first scent of it.

Catnip doesn't affect all cats the same way. According to acclaimed cat behaviorist Jackson Galaxy, some cats will sit in a big pile of the dried herb and simply drool, eyes glazed over, while others experience a boost in energy for a while, running laps throughout the house. Although not all cats are responsive to catnip, it's estimated that up to 80 percent of cats do feel the elated effect that lasts between 5 and 15 minutes. So, when introducing your cat to the good stuff, consider these simple do's and don'ts of catnip and let the good times roll!

Catnip's Benefits

Catnip offers a few benefits that both cats and owners can be excited about, including:

  • Relaxation: Some cats can enjoy a sedative effect from their catnip when eaten. For pets that exhibit stress and anxiety problems, this benefit may be particularly useful, So, the next time you take your cat to the vet, consider giving them some catnip to keep them calm.
  • Pest Repellent: Believe it or not, catnip is an active ingredient found in nepetalactone, which is used to repel pests like mites, ticks, and mosquitos.
  • Training: Put the "Positive" in positive reinforcement by rewarding your cat with catnip during your training efforts. Whether you're teaching them to stay calm during bath time, a claw trimming, or something else, the treat is guaranteed to help them display positive behaviors.
  • Safety: Good news – catnip is non-addictive! Furthermore, its non-toxic qualities mean you can use it regularly without worrying about negative side effects. Of course, everything is always better in moderation, so be careful not to let your cat eat too much at once, as it may upset their stomach.

The Do's

Use it as a Treat

Catnip is a healthy and fun treat for your cat. It's a simple way to add some spunk or excitement to your kitty's day. Sprinkle the dried leaves in areas you want your cat to be interested in, like a new cat bed, or spray liquid catnip on a favorite toy.

Give in Small Doses

It is estimated that cats can smell catnip at a ratio of 1:1 billion in the air. It doesn't take much to stimulate cats' senses. So, keep in mind that a little bit goes a long way. They will enjoy it for up to 15 minutes before their senses have had enough and they won't be able to catch that buzz again for a few hours. If you have multiple cats, make sure there is enough to go around to avoid any competition for the catnip.

Catnip doesn't have to be a daily thing. While we might be tempted to offer our feline friends a little nightcap at the end of each day, it may be best to hold back. While there's no general agreed-upon consensus on how much too much, try to limit your kitty's exposure to catnip to once a week. The last thing you want is for your cat to become desensitized to catnip, thus taking away the excitement of the toys and treats.

Use Products with Catnip

Many cat products have catnip built right into them for an instant attraction. It is usually stated on the packaging, but if you're unsure, just give it a sniff! Cat towers, scratching posts and cat toys of all varieties often come pretreated with catnip. Toys like the JW Meet the Famil-ee Catnip Filled Cat Toys, durable and small canvas covered toys filled with natural USA-grown catnip, are great solo play toys that drive cats wild with their erratic bounces as they swat them across the floor.

Use the Live Plant

While dried catnip will certainly do the trick, like most herbs, fresh catnip is best. Many pet stores will sell fully-grown plants that are ready to go, but if it's of interest to you, consider growing live catnip yourself. It is an invasive species, however, so be sure to use a pot or planter.

The Don'ts

Avoid Giving Catnip to Aggressive Cats

In the world of cat personalities, some cats are just bullies. They are the ones that trouble always seems to follow and that find themselves in conflict with other animals in the house. Giving catnip to "bully" cats can make them grumpy and lead to aggression under the wrong circumstances. Deferring to the expert, Jackson Galaxy warns that, "it's as if their inhibitions, for that brief window of intoxication, have been completely dropped, and they feel like they can get away with anything."

Don't Give Too Much of a Good Thing

When it comes to catnip, there can be too much of a good thing. Catnip is fun and stimulating for a while, but too much exposure to catnip can make your cat cranky or even nauseous. Still, there is very little chance of your cat overdosing on catnip. It is completely non-toxic (even when ingested), and if a cat looks like she's had too much, simply take the catnip or catnip toy away from her. She'll be back to herself in no time.

Not all Cats are Interested, so don't Force It

We already discussed how roughly 20 percent of cats lack an attraction to catnip. Furthermore, kittens (less than 8 weeks old) and senior cats tend not to respond as much, or at all, to catnip. Test your cat's attraction to catnip before going out of your way to buy catnip-infused products.

Methods for Giving Your Cat Catnip

Now that you know the benefits of catnip, as well as how (and how not) to use it with your cat, you're probably eager to get started.

Fortunately, there are quite a few ways you can give it to your cat, which means you can experiment with each method until you find the one that your feline likes most.

1. Using Dried Catnip

Dried catnip is a versatile product that can be used in almost every way imaginable. Try placing the herb onto your cat's favorite toy, scratching post, bed, or anything else as a treat or training tool.

2. Using Catnip Plants

When it comes to providing your cat with the freshest catnip possible, it doesn't get any better than this. Most pet stores will sell live catnip plants that allow you to sprinkle them in various places.

3. Using Catnip Toys

As one of the easiest and most common forms of the herb, catnip toys come in a variety of different shapes and sizes designed to keep your cat entertained. Shop all of our catnip cat toys here.

4. Using Catnip Balls

Alternatively, you can simply gift your cat a solid catnip ball. Most cats will usually get bored of these quickly, though some might enjoy the larger amount of the herb provided with the item.

Considerations When Buying Catnip

Not every catnip product is built the same. To ensure you're buying the best item for your cat, keep some of the following considerations in mind:

  • USA-grown catnip: Catnip products that are USDA-certified organic are safest for your feline friend, as they are strictly regulated and absent of pesticides.
  • Freshness: Catnip's effectiveness largely depends on how fresh it is. Your best bet is to purchase yours from a pet store that seems to sell lots of the herb, as they will have a higher stock turnover rate.
  • Storage: If you need to save your catnip for later, be sure to freeze-dry it airtight, as this will keep it fresh for longer.

Catnip-infused products attract cats' interest and can take playtime to the next level. Keeping these few do's and don'ts in mind will ensure your cat has a positive experience with it.

For more information on catnip, visit Jackson Galaxy's blog at jacksongalaxy.com.

Additional Resources:

  1. https://www.thesprucepets.com/how-to-use-catnip-2662153
  2. https://www.rover.com/blog/what-does-catnip-do-to-cats/

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