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Saturday, May 8, 2010

Catnip Effects | Catnip Toys

In the botanical world catnip (catswort, catmint) goes by the name Nepeta Cataria. Felines are affected by the smell of the plant and are particularly sensitive to the main active ingredient, the chemical nepetalactone.

Cat gone wild on catnip plant
The ingredient has intoxicating and psychedelic effects on cats

Studies have shown that one in three cats is missing the necessary gene to respond to catnip and remains unaffected. Same applies to kittens younger than 10 months old. They have little  if any reaction to the herb. The average catnip high lasts approximately  ten minutes, and the toxicity level is minimal, a reassuring fact for all cat owners who want to provide their felines with a lifetime of catnip pleasure. 

Growing catnip is fairly easy, even for amateurs. The plant is perennial and grows to about one to three feet tall. It requires partial shade and prefers average well drained soil over rich ones. A word of caution, even with minimal attention the catnip plant grows like a weed, so a pot is preferable to the ground, as it might spread, crowding out other plants. Grow catnip seeds by planting them directly into your soil, spaced about 20" apart. As the flowers begin to bloom, harvest your leaves. Cut off the top leaves, stems, and flowers. They can be used fresh, frozen, or dried. To dry them, spread the leaves in a cool ventilated area. Growing the plant yourself is the easiest way to guarantee it is organic catnip, free of pesticides. 

The nepetalactone concentration is  stronger in the plants leaves than at it's roots, seed, or even the stems

Catnip can cause an astonishing reaction. The cat will sniff it, rub it, roll in and on it, kick it, but this should only last a few minutes at a time. A couple of hours later, the cat is ready for round two and will most likely have the same response. 

There are several catnip toys available in the market today. One of the most common brands is Cosmic Catnip, the makers of Cosmic Catnip Banana Toy, the Cosmic Catnip Filled Cigar Toy, and a favorite of our cats, the Cosmic Catnip Bubbles. When conducting our own experiments, we ordered and tested out the Yeowww! 100% Organic Catnip Cigar. 

This is a display of a ten year old maine coon cat's reaction to the cigars
He rolled and purred loudly until his time was up and the catnip effects had abated

This kitty becomes aggressive when under the influence

One great use for catnip is shaking some on old scratch boards your feline has lost interest in. Chances are, the herb's smell will attract your cat thus sparing a couch or two. We call this process "rejuvenation" and it helps by keeping your cat (especially if she's an indoor one) entertained, interested, stimulated, and her claws mildly trimmed. 

If you have a kitty or ten and have yet to experiment with catnip and catnip toys, don't hesitate. Worst case scenario, your cat becomes mildly aggressive in which case you remove the unwanted side-effect by removing the herb. Catnip is fun only when it doesn't result in excessive aggression. 


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