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The Health Risk Of Giving Your Pet Catnip

Feb 14, 2008
Most people are familiar with the affinity cats have for catnip. After viewing your cat's reaction to catnip, you may become concerned and ask some common questions in relation to products composed of this substance. Here are a few facts and answers to common questions about catnip.

What exactly is catnip? Catnip is an herb from the Lamiaceae family group, and it is known as Nepeta cataria in scientific terms. It originated in the Mediterranean area, but is now commonly found in England, North America and Canada, though it can be grown almost anywhere. Most of these plants are herbaceous perennials, but some grow annually as well.

What does a catnip plant look like? It has a thick and sturdy stem, with heart shaped green to grayish leaves. The catnip plant has flowers, and they are usually pink, lilac, blue, or white in color. The flowers are tube shaped, and are sometimes flecked with tiny purple dots.

What are the effects of catnip on cats? Some cats react more dramatically to catnip than others. Common effects of catnip include running, jumping, excessive meowing or growling, licking, salivating, sniffing, pupil dilation, and rubbing or rolling on catnip. Instead, some cats may become sedated, tranquilized, or tired. Once a cat experiences a reaction to catnip, they lose interest and cannot be affected by it for at least an hour, sometimes two after their original exposure.

How does catnip work? The primary active ingredient in catnip is called Nepetalactone, which stimulates a response from the cat's olfactory system. Some people believe that catnip may also be tied to stimulating a cat's pheromonic receptor. That is, a pheromone produces a chemical reaction within a body (or plant) and produces an effect on behavior. Some common pheromones include: aggregation, primer, territorial, and sex pheromones.

How does catnip effect kittens and elderly cats? Catnip does not effects kittens under the age of 3 months, and elderly cats are generally not effected either. In fact, approximately ten to thirty percent of the entire cat population does not respond to the effects of catnip, no matter what their age. The reaction to catnip is also genetically based. Some cats are "made" to respond to catnip, while others simply aren't.

Can catnip be dangerous? Catnip is often inhaled by cats, not ingested. This means that they cannot "overdose" or consume too much. If a cat happens to consume catnip, they may vomit, but it is not harmful or toxic. Most times, when you see a cat nibbling on catnip, it is not because they want to eat it; they are simply trying to release the scent of the plant that activates their senses.

Cats love catnip. It is an herb that triggers their senses that elicits a playful response. It is not dangerous or toxic to your cat, as the scent is inhaled and the plant is not usually consumed. So, catnip toys and scratch posts are fine for your kitty; let them have a little fun, and enjoy their treat of catnip!
About the Author
Discount Pet Mall features dog beds & elevated dog feeders.
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