With all the cats I visited over the Christmas holidays I had many fun and interesting experiences. One was watching cats who were exposed to catnip.
Catnip is the common name for an herb native to Europe that is part of the mint family. It now grows here in North America all over the place.
Most of us who are the parents of kitties are familiar with the reaction our cats have to it. Following inhaling catnip, behavioral changes often make the cat appear intoxicated. It will roll around in the catnip, kick at it, lick it, vocalize and often appear quite euphoric.The reaction may last several minutes and then the cat will simply walk away. It may take a few hours before another exposure creates the reaction all over again.
The cause of this response is a chemical in catnip called nepetalactone. Only about 85% of cats are sensitive to this chemical and the sensitivity is inherited. The other 15% of cats will not have any reaction whatsoever. Interestingly, just as some humans can act aggressive when intoxicated, so can some cats exposed and sensitive to catnip. If this happens to your feline, future exposure should be avoided.
If your cat has a positive response to catnip you can consider growing it yourself so you have a steady, natural, supply. It can also be purchased as a dry herb or in toys that are catnip filled.
The benefits of giving your kitty catnip are : 1) it can help them to relax, 2) it can encourage exercise in a sedate cat; 3) it can be used in training by sprinkling it on a scratchboard to encourage the kitty to scratch that instead of the furniture; and 4) it is a great source of amusement for us as we watch our "furry kids" get high and have fun.