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Catnip holds great significance for сats: Scientists make unexpected claim

Catnip holds great significance for сats: Scientists make unexpected claim Illustrative photo (Photo:
Author: Daria Shekina

Cat owners often encounter toys, cushions, and other devices in stores. It turns out, catnip holds significant value for these animals and can improve their lives, according to The Conversation.

For what purpose catnip is needed

Cats living indoors can have a good life if they have access to various positive stimuli. This includes natural behavior, feelings of security, and full utilization of their sensory abilities, including their sense of smell.

Plants like catnip, silver vine, act as powerful odor stimulants that can influence the minds and moods of cats.

Owners concerned about their cats feeling boredom or disappointment can offer them fresh or dried catnip (Nepeta cataria), silver vine (Actinidia polygama), cat thyme (Teucrium marum), or other plant materials like valerian (Valeriana officinalis) and tartarian honeysuckle (Lonicera tatarica).

To what extent is such mint safe

Cats have a highly developed sense of smell. Some plants release chemical compounds to deter insects or attract predators that might otherwise harm them. This includes nepetalactone, a component extracted from catnip and silver vine.

It's been claimed that the influence of nepetalactone leads to increased production of feel-good hormones in cats. It can also act as a natural repellent against mosquitoes (note that it doesn't deter all mosquitoes and is ineffective against fighting fleas or ticks).

Perhaps it's the sniffing of catnip, silver vine, and certain other plants that makes cats roll onto their backs and rub against the plants with their chin, cheeks, and body.

Other observed behaviors include licking, head shaking while carrying plant material in the mouth, drooling, kicking the material with their hind legs, and wavy skin movements on the back when muscles contract and relax.

These reactions usually last for a short time, typically from a few seconds to minutes, as cats relax or return to normal behavior.

Rather than becoming dependent on these substances, cats are more likely to become accustomed and desensitized, reducing the plant's impact over time. Sniffing these plants doesn't negatively affect cats.

In contemplating how to improve the lives of animals we care for, we tend to focus on whether the benefit outweighs the potential harm.

Despite some marketing claims that these plants activate the brain's opioid system, providing cats with a natural high, there's no evidence that these substances actually alter cats' consciousness as alcohol or other drugs do in humans.

However, unlike offering alcohol to a child, data indicates that our cats are fine when given access to these treats. These items don't induce psychosis or lead to dependency or withdrawal syndrome. And there's no need for concern that our cats are operating heavy machinery or making important decisions under the influence of consciousness-altering substances!

Given that they can leave at any moment, allowing them to have fun seems reasonable.

In reality, we use the power of cat scent and other methods by employing synthetic cat facial pheromones. This can help reduce fear, anxiety, and stress in cats. These substances can be useful, for example, in households with multiple cats or during a move.

How to bring pleasure to your cat

Offering various scents (olfactory stimulation) is just one way to ensure a diverse and interesting life for your cat. Here are a few tips:

  • Offer choices to your cats so they can interact with treats and toys, but don't force them.
  • Change up the toys and impressions offered, providing something new each day.
  • Provide items that can be scratched: scratching posts and corrugated cardboard are popular choices.
  • If you're concerned that your cat has swallowed part of a toy or is feeling unwell, consult a veterinarian.

Considering the short-term impact of these plant-derived scent stimulants on cats, it's important to optimize their environment, lifestyle, and interaction with humans to improve their well-being.

We can't just rely on catnip or silver vine to ensure a good indoor life for our cats – it really depends on us!

Earlier, we also discussed why cats love cardboard boxes so much.