Q: What do you think about giving catnip to cats?
A: I am a big fan of catnip and always carry some in my backpack to give to the cats I care for –with their owner’s permission, of course. I have found that two out of three cats enjoy catnip, which is a member of the mint family. It is nontoxic, non-addictive and safe to give to your kitties regularly at playtime and as a reward for good behavior.
I once had a very funny “first impression” with a new client and their cat Boris. Before going to their home for our initial meeting, I did a house call to care for a cute calico named Daisy. She seemed bored, so I reached into my backpack and gave her some catnip. She thoroughly enjoyed it; so much so that she rubbed up against my legs, getting catnip all over my pants. I thought I had gotten it all off before meeting Boris and his owners, but I was wrong. The minute I entered the house, Boris came right over to the chair I was sitting on and proceeded to roll over my ankles and grab my foot and not let go. It was a gentle hold, but his owners were amazed — he had never behaved that way before. When I told them what I suspected had happened, we all started to laugh. I had obviously won over Boris and all was well.
Cats are fun to watch when they have catnip to play with. They roll around in it, jump up and rub against all sorts of things or vigorously lick it off their fur. My cats even like to lick it off each other! Though most become more playful with catnip, not all cats react the same way. Some can become over-stimulated and even aggressive, so use your judgment.
Catnip stays fresh longer if it is kept in the refrigerator. Also, make sure your catnip toys are stuffed with 100 percent catnip and not fillers that could be harmful if the toy is worn open. For fastidious folks who like to keep their house free of any mess, you can purchase catnip spray in pet stores.
I have found that kittens 8 weeks old or younger seem immune to the effects of catnip, but don’t worry about giving your older cats too much. They tend to only react to it for a short time and walk away once the playful effects are over. Some simply settle down for a good nap after all the fun.