Catnip - the stuff that gets cats high. But what is it really? Is it just for cats or can dogs benefit from its magical powers?
According to Scientific American, “Catnip plants (Nepeta cataria and other Nepeta species) are members of the mint family and contain volatile oils, sterols, acids and tannins. Native to Europe, Asia and Africa, the plant was brought to North America by settlers; nowadays, the plant is popular in herb gardens and grows widely as a weed.”
Pet stores are full of toys, treats, and mats filled with dried catnip and intended to be used by our feline friends. We learned more about how catnip works for cats, dogs and even humans!
How does catnip affect cats?
According to Dr. Jennifer Coates for petmd.com:
- The active compound in catnip, Nepetalactone is a stimulant when sniffed by a cat, producing a "high" that is described as being similar to either marijuana or LSD. (How this was determined, she says she does not know.) And the effects last for about 10 minutes before wearing off and the cat going back to normal.
- When a cat eats catnip, it acts as a sedative, but when smelled, it causes the cat to go crazy. It is thought to mimic feline pheromones and trigger those receptors.
- Cats may react to the plant by rolling around, flipping over, and generally being hyperactive.
- About 50 percent of cats seem to be affected by catnip, and the behavior that results varies widely between individuals, and it is believed to be an inherited sensitivity.
How does catnip affect dogs?
Catnip can actually be very beneficial to your pup. Even though this herb has “cat” in the name it is a dog-friendly plant.
Not only is it non-toxic, but catnip is also full of minerals including magnesium, vitamins C and E, tannins and flavonoids. It contains essential oils, which can help keep dogs’ digestive systems healthy and can help relieve any gastrointestinal upset. This could come in handy for a dog who gets carsick or has digestive issues.
Catnip has been shown to have a calming effect on dogs. If you have an anxious dog, catnip might be just the thing you need to help keep them calm and relaxed. For other pups, catnip might come in handy in a stressful situation like taking your pup to the vet or groomer.
Talk to your vet about appropriate dosing for your pet if its something you’d like to try to use. If catnip is not suitable for your dog, your vet may propose some additional options for the condition you’re trying to treat.
Does catnip have any effect on humans?
Yes, Catnip has been used over the years by humans and can offer health benefits for us too! It is most commonly brewed into a tea you can drink.
Catnip is most commonly used to treat nervousness and anxiety, along with other symptoms that these conditions can cause, such as indigestion and insomnia. It can also be helpful with symptoms related to gastrointestinal upset, including indigestion, cramping, and gas.
Catnip tea is a diuretic, which means it increases urination and thus decreasing water retention. This could help in the treatment of a number of different conditions. Be warned that you should not drink it right before bed as it might result in frequent bathroom trips which will interrupt your sleep.
Historically, catnip has been used in people to treat issues like arthritis, coughs, hives, fevers, and viruses. Before using catnip to treat these conditions in yourself, check with your doctor first to make sure it’s okay for you to use.
Women who are pregnant may want to avoid catnip. It can cause uterine contractions which may result in premature labor.
Can your dog use catnip toys?
No! Keep catnip toys away from your pup.
The biggest reason is that cat toys are usually very small. This makes them a hazard for two reasons. First, your pup could try to swallow a catnip toy and choke on it. If you’re not able to do the doggie Heimlich or otherwise removed the toy this could result in death.
Second, if your dog does manage to swallow it without choking, the danger doesn’t end there. Your dog risks an intestinal blockage should the toy get stuck as it moves through their digestive system - again, something you want to avoid. A blockage might require surgery to treat. If you suspect a blockage, call your vet immediately.
While catnip is very safe for both you and your dog, make sure to use it in a way that is safe for your best friend. Keep cat toys away from your dog. This might be easier said then done if you have both cats and dogs living in your home. Try to select toys that are safe for everyone.
The Ollie blog is devoted to helping pet parents lead healthier lives with their pups. If you want to learn more about our fresh, human-grade food, check out MyOllie.com.