If you’ve ever seen a cat respond to catnip, you might be wondering if there’s such a thing as catnip for dogs. Do dogs respond to catnip in the same way as cats?
Well, as with most things, the answer isn’t simple, and the jury is still out on whether catnip works on dogs, or if there’s an equivalent. We’re going to take a look at whether catnip is safe for dogs, if it works, and all your other catnip-related questions.
The good news is that catnip, which is a herb scientifically known as Nepeta cataria, is safe for dogs. Dogs can safely smell catnip, and it isn’t harmful if they get it on their fur or skin. They can also safely eat catnip, so if your dog just chewed up your cat’s catnip toy, don’t panic! Catnip is even safe for puppies – phew!
When cats smell catnip, they get a dose of the active compound nepetalactone. This compound makes around two thirds of cats behave strangely – often they will become mellow and roll around on the floor, although some cats get overexcited. It even works on many big cats. So, is the same true for dogs?
Well, the answer is probably not. But ‘probably’ is the important word there, as the answer is that we simply don’t yet know whether dogs are affected by catnip. And, if they are, whether it’s all dogs or just some, and what those effects are.
A quick literature search suggests that the effect of catnip on dogs has never been studied, but many herbalists advise that, although dogs don’t respond to catnip in the same obvious way as cats do, it might still have an effect.
Since humans have taken catnip tea for centuries for its calming effect (nepetalactone is very similar, chemically, to the compounds in valerian), it stands to reason that the same calming effect may work on dogs.
Can Dogs Play With Catnip Toys?
A dog that ingests a small amount of catnip is in no danger at all, but we highly recommend you not let your dog play with catnip toys! Dogs should not be allowed to play with catnip toys, not because of the catnip but because of the small parts and components that they are typically made with and the toys small size that dogs can accidentally ingest.
Ingesting catnip toys can cause blockage issues in your dog, sometimes needing surgery to remove them if they cannot pass them naturally. Some pet owners like how their dogs react to catnip and some have even made their dog catnip tea which some say may help a dogs digestion and soothe bellies.
Catnip tea is easy to make using a few teaspoons of dried catnip leaves mixed with a cup of boiling water and yes, people can drink it too.
What Exactly is Catnip and Why Do Cats Love it?
We’ve got to talk to you about catnip. No, seriously, let’s get that out of the way first.
What most of us know as catnip is also known as catwort or catmint and is, in fact, closely related to mint. The scientific name for true catnip is Nepeta cataria and you’ll find it in most pet stores, a huge amount of pet toys, and – of course – growing in gardens and pots all over the world, mostly for kitty pleasure.
There are other strains, too: Camphor, Greek, Lemon and Persian are some of them. What causes the trippy effect when cats consume catnip – excitedness, highly dilated pupils, we all know the deal – is an ingredient known as nepetalactone, which is interestingly enough also found in tartarian honeysuckle wood shavings. (The same chemical is also known for keeping mosquitoes at bay, and you can make an anti-mosquito spray from catnip at home, too.)
What Is Catnip?
Catnip is a plant in the mint family that has a powerful odor and downy textured leaves. It’s known for its ability to put cats into a state of euphoria, much like a “high” that humans obtain from certain drugs.
Catnip is harmless and nonaddictive to cats and is thought to create a “sexual” response in cats. The chemical responsible for this reaction is nepetalactone in the plants leaves and stems. When cats are exposed to this substance, approximately 75% of them (who have reached sexual maturity) show altered behaviors. These behaviors include rubbing themselves on the plant, vocalizing, salivating, and rolling around.
The effect of catnip lasts for around ten minutes, after which a cat is immune to further effects from the plant for approximately half an hour.
This is what dried catnip looks like:
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