cats and catnip

What is it about catnip that energizes your cat?  Catnip is a perennial herb of the mint family that comes from the napata plant.  It can be purchased in pet stores or grown in your garden. The active ingredient is nepetalactone, a minty smelling oil that is released when the leaves are torn into small shreds. The fresh catnip retains the most oils. You will only need a small sprig of a leaf to get the full effect. If you use the dried variety, sprinkle a dose the size of a quarter in the palm of your hand.  It is also available in cat toys.

Catnip’s effect lasts for about 30 minutes.  The majority of cats get aroused by the scent of catnip. About one third do not. The nepatalactone has a scent similar to the sex pheromones of a cat.  Even spayed or neutered cats can react to the scent. The effect of exposure to the catnip will be that your cat has more energy than usual and will act a little crazy.  It should be used as a treat about twice a week.  More than that can cause a cat to become tolerant or even immune to the catnip.

Even humans have found uses for catnip! It can be brewed in tea to help digestion, heartburn, as a sleeping aid and to lessen the pain of menstruation.  However it should not be used by pregnant women for whom it can be harmful. Another great characteristic of catnip is that it is a strong insect repellent.  You simply rub it on your skin to keep mosquitoes and other bugs away.  Just be careful that you don’t become a “cat-magnet”!

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