We have all seen our cats drinking some pretty weird stuff; a muddy puddle, water out of the toilet bowl… But tea? I agree, that sounds weird. But catnip tea actually offers numerous health benefits for our cats. It is also incredibly simple to make!
What is catnip?
Catnip (Nepeta cataria) is a common perennial herb in the mint family, with purple-spotted white flowers and slightly ‘furry’ leaves. It originated in parts of Europe and Asia but can now be found growing wild all over the world. You may even have seen it growing near your home!
The name ‘catnip’ is thought to come from the way cats respond to it. If you have ever witnessed this reaction yourself, you will know just how intense (and comical!) it can be. Cats will roll in it, stretch, jump, meow, and generally act hyperactive when they get a good whiff. Catnip is commonly added to shop-bought toys and can be sprinkled over new kitty furniture to encourage cats to use them.
The strong reaction cats get to catnip is caused by the oil that is found in the leaves, called nepetalactone. The scent of this oil mimics female sex hormones which is why the behavioral changes are often similar to a female cat in heat.
What are the health benefits of catnip tea for cats?
So, we know that catnip basically causes cats to get a bit over excited! However, there are several other benefits of this herb that make it a great addition to a tasty kitty-safe beverage. Perhaps the biggest benefit is that it will encourage your cat to drink. Cats are known to be incredibly picky about their water. In fact, they have been known to point-blank refuse to drink simply because they don’t like where the bowl is! Cats don’t need large amounts of water but it is essential that they drink enough to prevent dehydration.
Catnip tea is also a great relaxant for your cat as it is proven to reduce anxiety (in both cats and humans!) due to the sedative effect of nepetalactone. Just as we would wind down with a cuppa at the end of a stressful day, catnip tea can be used to calm your feline companion in new environments and make them less prone to anxiety and agressive outbursts. Some veterinarians may even prescribe catnip to reduce separation anxiety. This herb is also thought to benefit the digestive tract as it has anti-diarrheal properties.
How to make catnip tea (recipe)
A cup of catnip tea is very easy to make! Follow along with our recipe:
- 1 cup of hot water (not boiling as this is believed to destroy some of the beneficial properties of catnip)
- 1-2 tsp of dried catnip or a few fresh catnip leaves
- Add your fresh or dried catnip to a tea steeper
- Pour your hot water over the herbs into a suitable container and allow to steep for 5-10 minutes.
- Strain the liquid and discard the remaining herbs. Alternatively, you can leave some of the herb in the mixture for your cat to eat.
- Allow the water to cool down to room temperature before offering to your cat.
That’s it! You can even make it more appealing by adding chicken or beef stock. Just make sure it is natural stock as stock cubes contain a lot of salt.
Any remaining catnip tea can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
How often can I give catnip tea to my cat?
Catnip tea is perfectly safe for cats. So, feel free to offer them a daily cuppa! Saying that, it is not recommended to offer catnip tea more than once a day as cats can become habituated to the effects. In rare cases, too much catnip can also cause stomach upsets. So if you notice your cat is acting ‘out of sorts’, especially if it is vomiting or having diarrhea, then you should stop giving catnip. Always make sure you only offer a little bit of catnip at a time and speak to a veterinarian if you are unsure.
Remember that not all cats react to catnip. In fact, around a third of our feline friends have no reaction to this herb at all! So, it is all about trial and error. If your cat is not a fan of catnip, there are several other herbs you can try such as Valerian root or lavender. However, make sure that you do your research first as some foods and plants are toxic to cats.