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Catnip is a perennial herb plant from the mint family “labiatae”. It was originally grown in the Mediterranean but is now native in North America and Canada.
How Does It Work?
The active ingredient in catnip that causes cats to respond to it is called Nepetalactone (ne-peta-lactone). The cat takes the chemical in through the vomeronasal (vo-mero-nasal) organ (VNO): It is a chemoreceptor organ completely separated from the nasal cavity the majority of the time, being enclosed in a separate bony or cartilaginous capsule which opens into the base of the nasal cavity. It is a tubular crescent shape and split into two pairs, separated by the nasal septum. It is the first processing stage of the accessory olfactory system.
The VNO has two separate types of neuronal receptors, V1R and V2R, which are quite distinct from each other and from the large family of receptors in the main olfactory system. Evidence shows that the VNO responds to nonvolatile cues which stimulate the receptor neurons. Its presence in cats has been widely studied and the importance of the VNO to the role of reproduction and social networking has been shown in many studies.
What Effect Will It Have On My Cat?
The response to catnip depends on the individual cat and how it responds to VNO stimulation. Some cats are very relaxed after exposure to catnip. They start with rubbing their face over the area catnip is distributed to give their VNO a chance to process the catnip scent. They may roll on their back while licking and rubbing the catnip product/raw catnip herb.
Other cats can have a more dramatic response to catnip. After exposure they may start rolling and rubbing but then become very active, running and jumping around. Some cats will simply adopt a glassy eyed ‘don’t mess with me’ expression. A small percentage of cats do not respond to catnip at all.
Kittens under three months and senior cats tend not to have any sort of response to cat nip. On average 10% of the cat population will not respond to cat nip at all regardless of their age. It’s all down to genetics and the development of their olfactory system.
How Long Will The Affects Last?
On average the affects last between 5 to 15 minutes.
Can Catnip Harm My Cat?
Catnip is a natural plant that is non toxic. Large quantities can sometimes cause vomiting or diarrhoea so keep a watchful eye on your children if they have a bag of catnip. It is very rare that cats become ill after being exposed to normal amounts of catnip but should any ill effects occur, simply remove the catnip product from the cat until they have settled down.
Is Catnip Harmful To Humans?
No, in fact it is used in its raw form to make a relaxing herbal tea, a little like camomile tea. Orally, catnip is most often used to treat anxiety, insomnia, and nervousness. The active chemical—known as nepetalactone— produces a sedating effect in humans. Due to this ability to promote relaxation, catnip may also be used to help lessen migraine headaches. Because chemicals in it may have antispasmodic (muscle-relaxing) effects, catnip has also been taken to relieve stomach complaints such as colic, cramps, gas, and indigestion. Although isolated studies in animals and numerous case reports from humans seem to confirm these effects, no clinical studies of humans have been conducted to prove or disprove any medicinal properties of catnip.
On the skin, catnip may reduce swelling associated with arthritis, haemorrhoids, and soft tissue injuries, such as bruises, when it is used as a topical poultice. A poultice is usually a soft cloth that has been soaked in a medication, possibly heated, and applied to an aching or injured area of skin surface. Recent laboratory studies have shown that catnip may contain antibacterial and antiviral substances, but the effects of these components need further study to be proved.
Article Courtesy of Paws and Co.