Dr. Jacklyn Ellis is Toronto Humane Society’s Manager of Feline Behaviour, Rehabilitation, and Enrichment programs. She has a PhD in Animal Welfare, and her dissertation focused on reducing stress in shelter cats.
I promise I will keep the cat puns to a mew-nimum. Meaning that’s the first and last one. Okay, so, catnip. I’ve seen my own cat on this stuff. He loves it. But … he can’t get addicted to it, can he?
I appreciate that. While it is probably the only recreational drug we routinely give to animals, you can rest assured that it is considered to be non-addictive and completely harmless to cats. In fact, if a cat is constantly exposed to it, they may lose their ability to respond, so it might be best to limit offering catnip to two or three times per week.
So I don’t need to worry about Quincy tearing the house apart looking for his catnip? Cool. So what IS it about the stuff that has cat’s feeeline so… silly.
So that WASN’T the last one. And I can’t promise you that. While he might not be “addicted” to it, he very well could get into it behind your back, especially, if he’s not exposed to it regularly. There have been times when people have come home to find their cats have gotten into the “stash”. Quite a mess!
Anyway, back to catnip. The plant actually produces a chemical called nepetalactone. When cats inhale nepetalactone, it sets off a chain reaction in their brain, culminating in a feeling of euphoria. This blissful state lasts about 10 minutes. What’s interesting, once a cat has had this reaction they are not capable of this response for another 1-2 hours.
Okay smarty-pants. And does catnip affect all cats the same?
Actually, no. Only two thirds of cats are susceptible to the effects of catnip, and whether or not it works for any given cat is coded into his DNA. Oh, and if people are wondering if it will work on kittens, they might have to wait – the reaction doesn’t develop until they are 3-6 months old.
Very interesting … So, apart from temporary states of kitty bliss, are there any other reasons for giving your cat the nip?
Well, catnip isn’t just fun and games. It can be used to entice a depressed or overweight cat to play, you can sprinkle some on your scratching post to encourage your cats away from your furniture, and it can be used to help fearful cats come out of their shell. It’s actually a powerful training tool.
Woah, looks like I better head down to the black meowket for some and nip some of Quincy’s couch-destroying tendencies in the bud!
Good luck with that and with your future career in comedy...