by Barbara George, Tellington Ttouch Behaviourist
The chemical nepetalactone found in the leaves of catnip plants is responsible for the behaviour of cats who react. The liking for catnip is genetic, with only around half the kittens inheriting this from their parents. Kittens generally do not react until they are six months or older. Large cats have been observed behaving the same as our small cats around catnip bushes.
Cats have access to catnip in different forms; actual plants, dried catnip in toys or concentrated catnip spray. Playing with catnip toys gives them the smell of catnip, which evokes the usual reaction. Eating fresh catnip leaves or ingesting the concentrated spray has a calming effect.
The leaves of the plant need to be touched to release the oil. Toys containing catnip can be rubbed or held in your hand to warm them slightly in order to enhance the smell. Use concentrated catnip spray sparingly on toys as the smell can be too intense.
Each cat has their own level of reaction to catnip, anything from falling asleep, being friendly, playing, racing around or aggression. Typically, the reaction is the same each time he reacts, although the environment and other cats in the vicinity can play a role in the behaviour.
Catnip is non-addictive and has no medical side-effects – there may be side-effects from the behaviour it promotes! The effects wear off after 15 to 20 minutes, although cats may not be interested in the smell immediately afterwards.
Our catnip patch is a neutral ground where Ginger Jim and Thor can both enjoy themselves at the same time without arguing.
To contact Barbara, please email email@example.com