What Does Catnip Really Do To Cats?

There’s always been a joke about catnip and that it is the drug of choice for felines. And the truth is, that there really is, what is known as psychotropic science that happens to cats when they indulge in the plant, but what exactly does it do to cats? We have the breakdown of the effects and what it is about catnip that causes it.

On the scientific side, it is the volatile oil in the plant, known as nepetalactone, that interacts with the cat’s nasal tissue from sniffing the cat nip, that gets the reaction going. Once the oil is engaged, it imitates the pheromones that turn the feline receptors on, and then the brain neurons go into overdrive.

The less-scientific explanation is that catnip can produce similar reactions to that of someone using a little marijuana or LSD. Although the sensors are quick to ignite a “high” and set-off the brain neurons into overdrive, the effects are short-lived and only last a few minutes, typically up to ten minutes, before they dwindle and the catnip sensors go back to reset mode.

For cats that tend to overdo the catnip and really get a strong high, chances are that she really is hallucinating and in a catnip zone that send her into another world of bliss. She will be blitzed out of her mind, but only for about ten minutes. Here’s more about the different interactions with catnip:

If your cat smells catnip

For cats who prefer to just smell the catnip and not partake, you may see them go into a little crazy spunk of rolling all around on her back and making all kinds of crazy moves. When this is happening, she has lost her physical faculties and has no control over her actions. You may see the results of this by things getting knocked over, in her path – a plant, her basket of toys, or other objects.

If your cat rubs on the catnip

A feline will sometimes try to get more of the addicting nepetalactone released by rubbing on the catnip. They know that this bruises the leaves and releases more as opposed to smelling or ingesting them. She will rub her whole body all over the leaves and enjoy every moment of it.

Funny symptoms of catnip highs

Some of the most funny behaviors cat will display while on a catnip high include, disorientation, funny meow-sounds, bugging-eyes, rubbing and rolling around in a frantic and odd behavior. They are often funny to watch, which is why some owners love t spoil their cats with the stuff, just to watch their hilarious reactions.

Can felines overdose on the plant?

There is really not a dose that will cause an overdose of catnip. It’s a natural plant and you can grow it in your garden or in your home. Pretty much, the only thing you might get if your cat gets into the stash of catnip, is a little puke-up, or possibly some diarrhea. But in the end, it will pass and she will be back to her normal self. Your cat might experience what is equivalent to a human hangover, but that is about the worse of it.


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