I know your first initial thoughts: What in the world is Nepeta Cataria?
Better known as catnip, Nepeta Cataria is the harmless plant that domesticated cats are susceptible towards. Cats have a constant urge for the plant, and it allows their brain to bounce off into space. When cats ingest this flavorful herb, it tends to lead to interesting behavioral patterns.
“The active substance of catnip, Nepeta cataria, is a chemical called nepetalactone that sets off in the cat’s brain the behavioral patterns usually connected with a variety of pleasurable or exciting things,” states Dr Benjamin L. Hart.
Now what behavioral patterns come in return you may ask?
After sniffing and eating the substance (yes, they sniff it), the cats start to react to the herb. Furthermore, he/she alters its normal characteristics. Behaviors such as rolling around, purring, and rubbing against the plant is pretty common within all cats. Expect a burst of energy as well, such as running around or acting fast in other movements. Although we often observe the physical characteristics, what happens to the cats mental and cognitive processes?
“Once the catnip has been engaged, it starts to replicate pheromones that in turn switch on feline receptors and make all sorts of neuron light bulbs pop off in the cat’s brain.”
Pheromones are a chemical within the brain and play a big role in mating in the animal/insect world. This explains why cats act the way they tend to do while on catnip. The addition of replicated pheromones along with real pheromones causes a tremendous euphoric-like reaction in cats.
Also, according to Scientific American, the typical response to catnip is hereditary. Following that statement, about 70 to 80 percent of cats that exist today tend to exhibit this behavior when the eye grabbing plant is available to them. Although we are aware that cats love it with a passion, Nepeta cataria does not work for a small kitten. Once the kitten reaches the age of three to six months, he/she may consume the plant. It is not that it is dangerous for consumption at a young age, it is just the fact that it will not work and change their behavior.
As an experiment, I decided to give my own cat a taste of some catnip. I recorded Oliver’s behavior, and he tended to show lots of behavior that matched the characteristics previously stated. Applying this information to real life and seeing the truth in what this plant can do is magnificent.
“Oliver absolutely loves it. I tend to give it to him every night as a treat, along with his wet food. He is such a good boy!” states Michelle Boerema, the mother of Oliver.
In general, Nepeta Cataria is a complex plant, but the love cats have for it is immense. It is completely safe for consumption and doesn’t harm any normal characteristics they hold to survive. If you own a cat or several, I recommend that you allow them to give it a try!