Q: Does catnip do anything for a cats’ health or is it just a recreational drug for them?
A: It depends on the kitty. If your cat has the gene that makes it sensitive to catnip, it can have some health effects.
If your cat consumes it rather than just smelling and rolling in it, it can have a calming effect. Our little guy, Stiles, has feline insomnia He gets enough REM sleep, but not enough NREM sleep. Kitties usually grow out of it by the age of 3, but he’s just about to turn 2. He licks it instead of rolling in it. It mellows him out, and it helps him catch up on sleep. So that’s a definite benefit.
Our 2 older kitties who have the gene, Kiki and Kagetora, tend to roll in it and sniff it, and it makes them playful, which is good, especially in the winter months when they nap a little more than usual. This helps them get some much needed exercise. Our oldest, Kagome (19 years old), doesn’t have the gene.
But we can’t give it to the 2 older cats and Stiles at the same time because they get a little aggressive, and he gets really chill, and will just let them bite him if we don’t direct that aggression toward play.
It can also be a powerful training aid. If your cat is scratching the furniture, carpet, or walls, then using catnip on scratching posts (try to get ones made of the materials they like to scratch). If you want them to use the new kitty bed you got them instead of your laundry basket, catnip can also help with that.
If you don’t have a plant, then try to buy it as fresh as possible, and store excess in the freezer. Also, don’t give it to them too often because they can lose their sensitivity to it.