These days, cats are being exposed to catnip now more than ever. Even in the so-called safety of their own home, it’s on the TV — such as Netflix’s recent “Inside the Mind of a Cat.” Some are even watching their own parents do it, growing it in gardens and steeping it in their tea.
Nepeta cataria, known on the streets as “catnip” also goes by other slang terms such as “catswort,” “cat wort,” or “catmint.” Some have also referred to it as “grass.” Catnip is regulated in pet stores and grocery stores that require human consent for purchase. But careless governors allow the plant to grow wild and freely in any garden — allowing easy access for any cat to find.
Catnip has many medicinal benefits on humans, treating ailments such as anxiety, cramps, indigestion, and more. However, it does not produce a “high” or any psychoactive effects.
But when cats consume catnip, the active ingredient nepetalactone cycloalkane produces a high that causes erratic, unpredictable, and frightening behavior. It causes hallucinations and drastic changes in perception.
Observations of intoxication include dilated pupils, restlessness, hyperactivity, impulsiveness, and aggression. Some have noted them to sprint in circles, yowl very loudly, scratch things, rub their faces against objects, and pick fights with their owners or other cats. And overdose of catnip can lead to sleepiness, confusion, and olfactory fatigue. Response typically lasts 5-15 minutes, while lingering affects can carry on for hours.
While this all sounds scary and overwhelming, the truth is that catnip is here to stay. It will not be “going away” anytime soon. I urge all cat parents to sit down and talk to their little one about the cautions of catnip because — if you don’t talk to your cats about catnip, then who will? They will see it on the streets — whether they are roaming about or looking out the window. They will see it on the TV. They will hear about it somehow.
Kittens must be protected from catnip at all costs. Not only are they physically incapable of the effects of catnip until adulthood, but also because they deserve to have a childhood. In adults, about one third of cats will not be able to feel the effects of catnip and therefore may be safe — but 30% is not a risk you want to take, so it’s best to assume that your cat will find interest in it somehow.
I know what you’re thinking — “my cat is different. My cat would never get into drugs.” Well, I’m sorry, but you’re wrong. Through boredom and curiosity, cats are bound to try catnip at least once in their lives.
Now tell me, would you rather have your cat getting high on the streets at midnight while you’re fast asleep? Or would you rather they get high in your home, under your supervision? You cannot say “neither” — it’s going to happen either way.
Sit your cat down and tell them that it is purr-fectly natural to experiment. Let them try a small amount of organic catnip. Better that it’s coming from you rather than the streets — who knows what that stuff is laced with, like pesticides or other nasty chemicals. Afterwards, make sure they hydrate with plenty of water. And then it’s up to your cat to decide if catnip is for them or not. You did your part.