Watching your kitten entertain himself for hours with his catnip toy is truly entertaining. Even though catnip makes him act a little crazy, it's a perfectly safe natural herb. Giving it to him too early isn't a concern, although he may not respond to it if he's still really young.
How It Works
Catnip -- which is in the same family as mint -- acts as a mild hallucinogenic substance. One big whiff and he'll have an episode of hyperactive behavior. The exact cause of catnip's effects aren't clearly known, but it tends to mimic happy pheromones in his body. Catnip signals to his brain to be happy, sending him into a stage of pure bliss and delight.
You've got your feet up relaxing while watching the evening news. Suddenly out of nowhere, baby Sam darts across the room, picks up his catnip-filled furry mouse, tosses it up in the air, catches it in his mouth, drops it and then stands on it. He'll kick it up with his back feet, tossing it across the room and then start the process all over again. Meanwhile he's shaking the whole house. While he's on his "catnip high," he'll roll around, rub against your legs and head-butt everything in sight. If he's driving you nuts, don't worry. His crazy behavior won't last long.
How Long It Lasts
The effects of catnip last for about 10 minutes. Then Sam will get bored and venture off to find something new to do -- or someone else to terrorize. It takes his system roughly two hours to get over his catnip craze, but once his body resets, he'll be back at it.
Chewing vs. Smelling
Chewing on catnip -- whether it's dried or a fresh catnip plant -- has a different effect than smelling the herb. While sniffing a bag of catnip makes Sam completely bonkers, nibbling on it usually has the opposite effect. He'll probably be calm and mellow, rather than zany and hyper.
Newborn kittens aren't usually responsive to catnip at all until they are about 3 months of age. If he's still young, give it some time. He may wind up falling in love with his catnip toys when he gets a little older, but don't be discouraged if he never seems to care. Not all felines respond to catnip. Roughly 50 percent of kitties don't have the "catnip frenzy" gene, reports the Humane Society of the United States.
Melodie Anne Coffman specializes in overall wellness, with particular interests in women's health and personal defense. She holds a master's degree in food science and human nutrition and is a certified instructor through the NRA. Coffman is pursuing her personal trainer certification in 2015.