Catnip, the Kitty Gateway Drug?

catnip

Oliver is the first cat that I have owned, though I have also worked with cats at the humane society, and I will be the first to admit that the journey through cat supplies has been a confusing and difficult one. But one of the questions that kept popping up for me was “Is catnip safe for my baldy baby”?

I remember one of my coworkers coming to work and talking about her new kitten and flashing the mandatory Instagram pics of her cat, in the picture he was playing with a toy and I naively asked her if the toy had catnip in it. It didn’t go over well. According to her catnip was the greatest of all kitty evils and she didn’t want to expose her cat to it, she seemed offended that I would even ask about it. Coming off that experience I was a little wary where catnip was concerned. Was I crazy in thinking that catnip was just a way for a cat to have some feel good time? If I gave Oliver catnip would he soon start sinking deeper into the world of kitty drugs, missing curfew, and getting tatted? I bypassed many a cute toy on Etsy because I didn’t want to send Oliver into this downward spiral. But eventually I realized I was being a little crazy and decided to look into the catnip thing myself. This is what I found.

Catnip comes from the mint family and the variety that drives cats crazy is called nepeta cataria which contains an oil called nepetalactone that just makes cats crazy. When exposed to catnip cats can start rolling on the floor, rubbing their faces into the catnip, and drooling (cute, but surely no worse than my dog does when exposed to steak). It is said that catnip can cause hallucinogenic effects, many compare it to a mix between LSD and marijuana. It also might mimic kitty “feel good” pheromones. Cats love the smell of catnip and really that is all it takes to make your kitty happy, but they often try to eat it as well. It is thought that by eating it the cats seem to “mellow down,” but who knows, as with everything in life, this is an individual experience, every cat is different and so may have different results. Though, if your cat likes catnip then they will probably act the same as the other cats who like catnip.

Now here is an interesting fact: not all cats respond to catnip. It is thought to be an inherited trait so if your cat didn’t get it, he is out of luck. It is estimate that 50% of cats don’t respond at all to catnip, so sad for them. Kittens don’t respond to catnip right away either. It is something that they grow into. If your cat is prone to liking catnip they will develop this love somewhere between the ages of 3 to 6 months, if exposed to it earlier they will likely have no response to the herb at all.

So that being said, will exposing my cat to catnip cause him to become a kitty drug addict? No, it won’t. In actuality if you cat is overexposed to catnip they will start to build a resistance, or an immunity, to its effects. There is a reset time of 10 minutes to 1 hour in most cats before they will react to the catnip again, but if exposed often it will take longer and longer for them to respond to the catnip, and may even seem to lose interest in the catnip entirely because it no longer seems to have the same effect on them. It is recommended that you have catnip time no more than 2 times a week to optimize on kitty enjoyment. Because of this you probably shouldn’t leave catnip toys laying around, not just because of the cat losing interest in them, but because catnip needs to be kept “fresh”. I read somewhere that this woman keeps all her catnip toys in a Tupperware with loose catnip with the lid sealing it all in, so when she gives the toys to her cat the toy is much more potent because it hasn’t been “aired out”. I thought that was a good idea.

So catnip is okay in small doses, and even large doses won’t send your cat into the kitty underworld looking for a fix, which is good news. So buy those catnip toys!

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Haha. Get it? the cat looks like a Jedi!

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The Sphynx Cat

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“Hairless” cats can occur in any breed just by chance and genetic mutation, but the Sphynx cat is a breed that has cultivated these hairless genes in order to get a naked cat. And thus an entire breed of hairless cats was created.

Now, the Sphynx cats are not actually bald, most of them have a soft fuz on their bodies (leading them to be described as feeling like suede), and depending on the season and the individual cat, some might even grow fur on their tails and ears. They can also grow and shed fur throughout different times in their lives. Some are particularly hairless, and these are called “sticky” bald, but even they can grow fur on their faces, ears, and tails. Because of this lack of traditional fur, the cat has no hair to absorb the oils that its skin produces and so must be bathed more frequently than most cats or the furniture could end up with oil marks. As for colors, these kitties can be pretty much every color and pattern under the sun, except instead of it showing up on fur it shows up on their skin, makes you wonder what your tabby would look like if you shaved him, huh? And the wrinkles! The Sphynx wrinkles are one of their stand out features and are an extremely prized characteristic for a cat of this breed to have.

As for personality, as with every animal, they will all have individual personalities, but the breed over all is known for being extremely outgoing and friendly. They are often referred to as being a very “dog-like” cat who are very playful and usually not very graceful. They love the people in their lives, and thrive on the attention of their owners and are extremely affectionate, which can lead to anxiety if they have to be separated from their owners for long periods of time. But they are considered a breed of cat that forms a strong bond with their family.

In the beginning there was a lot of inbreeding just to make sure that the hairless gene was passed on, but this created health problems, especially heart problems, within the breed and so now responsible breeders use something called out crossing, which means that they will breed a Sphynx with a furry cat (usually a short haired cat) and then breed any hairless babies that come from that litter to another Sphynx with no genetic relation. They do this to bring diverse genes into the breeds gene pool.

Personally, I think that they are crazy cute. Obviously, I mean, Oliver is one, but some people think they are ugly, or look like aliens, and so on. But does it really matter what he looks like as long as I love him and he loves me and is happy and healthy?

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Photo cred: Vidar Skauen, Animal Photography

Welcome To Oliver in Training!

This is our first post!

About 3 years ago I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and when through chemotherapy to treat it. I am okay now, the cancer has been gone for two years. That being said, I went through much of my treatment alone. My friends were there, but I was at college and so my family was thousands of miles away and with them, my dog Sam. As I was going through treatment, sometimes all I wanted was to hold Sam and just let him love me, but I couldn’t. When I got home, I got to spend all the time I wanted with Sam, but it got me thinking, how many people going through treatment go through it alone? How many people just want an animal friend to hold for 30 minutes just to feel loved and normal again?

Well, recently my therapist and I decided that I was in a good place to get a pet, I had been suffering from some anxiety and depression as a result of treatment (I am much better now, no worries!) but with that behind me, I felt I could bring a new member into my family. I am graduating college in May, and as a present my grandparents are getting me a kitten. And not just any kitten, but a Sphynx kitten. My little baldy. His name is Oliver and he is just the sweetest. The first time I held him he fell asleep in my arms. I am getting him as a personal pet, and if his personality suits, I am hoping that I can train him to be a therapy cat. I was also thinking about how he can’t be with every person who is sick and that gave me the idea for this blog. While I wish I could give everyone a little kitten to cuddle, I can’t, but maybe if I post my journey with Oliver it can help a little. Maybe he can be a therapy cat through this blog and help people escape for a little while, and give them some joy and strength to get through whatever trial they are facing.

I plan on sharing our experiences through posts, pictures, videos and more. I hope that this helps some people! And check back for pictures!

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