Spray Yourself Silly. Does Rubbing Catnip On Your Skin Really Make Cats Go Wild?

What is Catnip and How Does it Affect Cats?

Catnip is an herb in the mint family that contains a chemical called nepetalactone. This chemical is very attractive to cats. Nepetalactone binds to receptors in a cat’s nose and has an effect on their brain that makes them act strangely.

Most cats will sniff, lick, or rub against catnip. The effect usually lasts between 5 and 15 minutes. Catnip can make cats playful, affectionate, hyperactive or relaxed. Typical reactions include rolling around, flipping over, rubbing against things, and vocalizing. Some cats may meow loudly or growl and purr at the same time when exposed to catnip.

Kittens under 6 months old are generally not affected by catnip. Once they mature, most cats (around 70-80%) will react to catnip. However, a minority of cats seem to be immune to its effects.

cat playing with catnip toy

Catnip is not harmful to cats when used appropriately. However, it should be given in moderation as too much can cause overstimulation. It’s best to treat catnip as an occasional toy for your cat to enjoy.

Overall, catnip produces a euphoric effect in most cats that many owners find entertaining. But ultimately it works by stimulating your cat’s natural hunting behaviours and instincts.

Is it Safe for Humans to Ingest or Apply Catnip?

Catnip is generally considered safe for most humans when ingested or applied topically in small amounts. The active chemical in catnip, called nepetalactone, does not have harmful effects on people the way it does with cats. However, some mild side effects can occur.

According to WebMD, consuming catnip tea made from the leaves and stems in moderation is likely safe for adults. But drinking large quantities can potentially cause headaches, upset stomach, or a feeling of relaxation or uneasiness (1).

Applying catnip essential oil on the skin is generally not dangerous, but may cause skin irritation in some cases. There is also anecdotal evidence that smelling catnip oil or tea can produce a mild sedative effect, again with an upset stomach possible if inhaled in excess.

Overall, catnip is not toxic to humans, but larger doses may cause adverse effects. It’s recommended to start with small amounts if ingesting or applying catnip to see how you respond. As with any herb, discontinuing use if any discomfort occurs is advised.

Will Spraying Catnip on Myself Attract Cats?

Spraying catnip oil or extract on yourself may attract some cats who can smell it. Catnip contains an organic compound called nepetalactone that can induce a euphoric response in about two-thirds of cats when inhaled or ingested (1). Nepetalactone binds to olfactory receptors in a cat’s nose, which triggers the typical rolling, rubbing, and playful behavior cats display when exposed to catnip (2).

spraying catnip on skin

Since catnip oil contains concentrated nepetalactone, spraying it on yourself can make your scent very appealing to cats who are sensitive to it. Any cat that catches a whiff of nepetalactone from the catnip on your skin or clothes may start rubbing against you, licking you, or engaging in playful catnip-induced hijinks.

However, catnip doesn’t affect all cats. Around 30-50% of cats show little to no interest in catnip, likely because they lack the gene that enables nepetalactone to bind to their olfactory receptors (3). For these cats, spraying yourself with catnip oil won’t make you any more attractive.

Additionally, catnip sensitivity can come and go. Kittens under six months old typically do not respond to catnip. Older cats can experience periods of sensitivity and indifference. So even with cats that do respond to catnip, the results of spraying it on yourself may vary.

Overall, spraying yourself with catnip can sometimes attract cats who enjoy its effects. But it’s not guaranteed to attract all felines, or consistently draw the same cats to you each time. It’s just one potential way to catch the attention of cats who like catnip.

[1] https://www.livescience.com/does-catnip-get-cats-high.html

[2] https://www.quora.com/Will-catnip-plants-attract-cats-to-my-yard

[3] https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/herbs/catnip/protecting-your-catnip-from-cats.htm

Other Ways Catnip Can Be Used for Humans

While catnip is best known for its intoxicating effects on cats, there are also some potential uses for humans. Here are some of the ways catnip can be incorporated into human lives:

Catnip tea is one popular use of the herb for humans. Research shows that catnip tea may have a relaxing, sedative effect and can help promote sleep when consumed before bed.1 The calming properties of catnip tea come from compounds like nepetalactone. Some also find that catnip tea can help relieve headaches, cramps, and gastrointestinal discomfort thanks to its anti-inflammatory effects.2

Catnip essential oil is sometimes used in aromatherapy practices. Inhaling the scent from catnip oil may offer stress-relieving effects. Some also claim benefits for anxiety, though more research is still needed on using catnip for aromatherapy.3

Catnip can also act as a mosquito repellent when the leaves are rubbed on the skin. This is because of the nepetalactone compound. Applying catnip oil or crushing fresh leaves to apply to the skin can help deter mosquitoes in a natural way.

Potential Risks and Downsides to Using Catnip

While catnip is generally considered safe for humans in small doses, there are some potential risks and downsides to be aware of when using catnip, especially the concentrated catnip oil. According to WebMD, catnip oil can be an irritant for skin and eyes. Direct contact with concentrated catnip oil may cause redness, burning, and irritation on sensitive skin and mucous membranes. It’s important to dilute catnip oil properly before applying it to your skin.

woman with cat

The effects of inhaling or ingesting catnip also wear off quickly, usually within 10-30 minutes. This can lead some people to overuse catnip to prolong the high feeling. Overusing catnip can cause more adverse reactions like headaches, nausea, and digestive upset. It’s best to use catnip in moderation.

In summary, while short-term, infrequent use of catnip is generally not harmful to humans, catnip oil can be an irritant for skin and eyes if used incorrectly. The effects also wear off quickly leading to potential overuse. Following dosage guidelines and proper application techniques can help avoid potential risks and downsides.

How to Apply Catnip Safely if You Want to Attract Cats

If you want to use catnip to attract cats, it’s important to apply it safely. According to the Petmate Academy, you should use dried catnip, not the pure oil extract. The dried leaves can be rubbed between your hands or placed in areas you want cats to frequent.

Only small amounts are needed, such as rubbing a pinch or two of dried catnip on your clothes. Apply it to lower areas like your pants or shoes, avoiding bare skin. Never put catnip on sensitive areas like your face or eyes. As tempting as it is to sprinkle yourself in catnip, overdoing it can be unpleasant for both you and the cats. Moderation is key to safely attracting feline friends.

Other Tips for Bonding With Cats

Here are some additional tips for forming a close bond with your cat:

Let them sniff you first when interacting. Cats use their sense of smell to become familiar with people. Hold out your hand and let your cat approach and sniff you at their own pace. This allows them to gather your scent and feel comfortable with you.

Try slow blinking. Slow blinking is a social cue that cats use to communicate affection and trust. When your cat slow blinks at you, return the gesture by blinking slowly back at them. This exchange helps create a bond.

Use treats. Offering tasty treats when interacting with your cat is a great way to form positive associations. Treats show your cat that good things happen when you are around.

Engage them with toys. Playing with teasers, balls, and other toys provides mental stimulation. It also allows for bonding through playtime. Make play a daily habit.

Provide appealing cat furniture. Giving your cat cozy beds, perches, cat trees, and scratching posts makes them feel secure in their environment. Having their own space encourages them to relax.

Don’t force interactions. Let your cat come to you on their own terms instead of picking them up unprompted. Forcing close contact can cause them to become fearful or anxious. Allow your cat to initiate affection at their own pace.

Signs Your Cat is Enjoying the Catnip

When cats get a whiff of catnip, they often go a little crazy with joy. Here are some common signs your cat is enjoying the effects of catnip:

cat rolling in catnip

  • Rolling around, rubbing against, and rolling in the catnip. The act of rolling spreads the catnip oil around their body which maximizes the effect.
  • Becoming very playful and energetic. You’ll often see cats racing, jumping, and frolicking after encountering catnip.
  • Chewing, licking, and nibbling on catnip toys. They like to get the oil directly on their teeth and tongue.
  • Purring, drooling, and vocalizing. You may hear excited meows and chirps.
  • Kneading and digging at the catnip source.

According to ASPCA Pet Insurance, most cats will play hard for 5-15 minutes after exposure to catnip and then calm down and relax. Some cats may get overstimulated and anxious from too much catnip, so monitor your cat’s reaction.

When to Avoid Using Catnip

While catnip is generally safe for cats, there are some situations where it’s better to avoid using it:

Kittens under 6 months old: Kittens younger than 6 months typically do not respond to catnip. Their sense of smell is still developing, so the plant has little effect on them at this age.

Cats with health conditions: Catnip can cause overstimulation and excitement in some cats. If your cat has a heart condition or other health issues, it’s best to avoid catnip as the energetic response could be dangerous.

Aggressive cats: Some cats can become more aggressive after exposure to catnip. If your cat tends to react aggressively to stimuli, catnip may not be the best choice.

Pregnant or nursing cats: There is limited research on catnip’s effects on pregnant or nursing cats. As a precaution, it may be best to avoid using catnip with expecting or new mother cats.

Overall, use caution with catnip around very young kittens, cats with health problems, and in situations where overstimulation could be problematic. Consult your vet if you’re unsure about using catnip with your particular cat.

Key Takeaways on Humans Using Catnip

When used appropriately, small amounts of catnip are likely safe for most people. However, you’ll want to take some basic precautions:

– Avoid getting catnip in your eyes, as it can cause irritation.

– Stick to dried catnip rather than the fresh form, as the dried herb contains less volatile oils that could cause skin irritation.

– Don’t expect catnip to have any dramatic effects on humans. You may notice mild relaxation or sedation, but the reactions are much less intense compared to cats.

– Only use small amounts at first to gauge your personal reaction.

– Be aware that some people may experience allergic reactions to catnip. Discontinue use if you notice any signs of irritation or inflammation.

While catnip is generally benign, it’s smart to exercise caution until you know how your own body responds to it. Overall, catnip is unlikely to cause significant effects in humans when used responsibly in moderation.

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