General Question

Mr_M's avatar

What technically IS the effect of catnip on cats?

Asked by Mr_M (7591points) August 31st, 2008

Does it make them high? Is it bad for kittens? What exactly does it do?

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8 Answers

Skyrail's avatar

Taken from this paper

“The response to catnip is characterized by sniffing,
then licking and chewing with head shaking, followed
by chin and cheek rubbing and then a headover roll
and body rubbing (14). Spontaneous vocalization
occurs occasionally and has been interpreted as a
response to hallucinations (1).”

It has some other stuff as well, and a lot of references if you wish to take a much further study into it. I took that from the references in the Wikipedia article of catnip (or nepeta). This HowStuffWorks article, also taken from Wikipedia citations, has a short, simplified description of the reactions and what it is, and it does state that “very young kittens and older cats seem less likely to have a reaction to catnip” but it has no reference on where a ‘study’ on this can be found.

poofandmook's avatar

I didn’t give it to my girls… in fact, I still haven’t given it to them at the age of 3. They’re crazy enough! They don’t need any help.

I didn’t like the idea that nobody really knew what it does to a cat, so I decided I wouldn’t use it. What if they get hungover and feel bad afterward? No thank you.

Mr_M's avatar

Actually, I recently heard that a study was done to see what the effects of catnip are on a cat. They looked at cat brain scans to see if the catnip made physiological changes to a cats brain the way drugs might to a human’s. They found that there was NO PHYSIOLOGICAL CHANGE and that the only appeal it has to certain cats is that they like the smell.

Anyone else heard this?

lollipop's avatar

Some cats will actually eat it also. I had a cat that I had to ‘hide’ the toys or the ‘extra leaves’, unless I wanted them to play with it. My cats just got real playful when they had it nothing real bad.

Seems like I read years ago that it was like a ‘drug’ to some cats and yet other cats don’t really care about it. Sun 8:15 am Aug 31

Larssenabdo's avatar

M, it’s a form of mint, and I have never heard anything about it being harmful to them. I think you will find that kittens are not generally affected by it.They have to get a little older before it affects them. Some cats react violently to it, but others just kinda sniff it and take a nap.

gailcalled's avatar

I just had a tiny nibble from my catnip plant. It is, indeed, taxonomically, a member of the mint family (as is oregano and marjorum.) I had no reaction but occasionally Milo (aged 6) will attack the plant; he seems to get temporary and short-term pleasure out of it. I find his behavior hilarious,which is good for my immune system. So double your pleasure.

McBean's avatar

When I was in high school, our large grey tabby, Animal, indulged in catnip from time to time. He’d sniff it, lick it, roll on it, run around like a maniac, eat a ton of food, and then settle down for some serious cartoon watching. I remember feeling a certain kinship with him.

Last summer I planted a small container of catnip for my two cats. The younger one was not a fan. My 11 year old (grey tabby again) really loved it for a while, but eventually started using it as a toilet (actually crawling into the flower pot and squatting). Needless to say, we just don’t “do” catnip here anymore.

gailcalled's avatar

edit: marjoram.

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