Although cats typically avoid fragrant herbs, you may find your cat attracted to your garden’s peppermint pot or mint-scented products like Icy Hot patches. While some cat owners may find it cute, such an unusual behavior may leave you wondering “why does my cat love mint so much?”
The main reason why some cats love mint is that it looks and smells like catnip, which is a popular mint-like herb that is known for stimulating the cat’s pheromones. In addition to confusing it with catnip, cats have personal taste in things and a curious one may find the scent appealing.
So, is it safe for your cat to consume or smell mint, and what to do if your cat eats some? In today’s article, I’ll provide you with answers to all these questions. So without further ado, let’s dive in!
Possible Reasons Why Your Cat Is Obsessed with Catnip
If you’ve caught your cat smelling a pot of fresh peppermint or licking a mint-scented product like Vaporub or Icy Hot Patches, here are some possible explanations for such a behavior:
One thing you need to know about mint is that nature has over 600 varieties of mint. However, there’s one type of mint herb that cats are attracted to.
This plant is scientifically known as “Nepeta Cataria”. However, it’s more commercially and commonly known as “catnip”.
What is amusing about this plant is that it can simulate feline pheromones, giving your cat a sense of euphoria, excitement, and happiness.
Since catnip belongs to the family of mint plants, a fresh batch of catnip might have some minty smell, although dried catnip typically smells less minty and more like grass.
If your cat had previously consumed some catnip, they probably correlate the minty smell of catnip with the sense of euphoria that it brings to them, which makes them naturally attracted to mint.
Since cats have a much stronger sense of smell than us, they’re capable of recognizing the smell from a distance even if we can’t, and would typically follow it all over the house.
Although confusing mint for catnip is typically the primary reason for such behavior, some cats are never exposed to catnip and yet they still follow the scent and hang around fresh mint to take a whiff.
In that case, the most likely explanation for such action is pure curiosity, especially if the cat has never been exposed to the scent of mint before.
Since cats are excellent hunters, they’ve evolved to keep scanning their surroundings for any changes as a means of survival.
As previously mentioned, cats are actively inquisitive creatures that like to walk to the beats of their own drum.
Although some cats don’t like highly-fragrant herbs, your cat may simply agree to disagree. After all, each cat has its own set of traits, personality, and preferences.
Similar to humans, some of us may enjoy the scent of mint more than others, and this might be the case with your little furball
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Catnip contains multiple ingredients. However, the one that concerns cats is nepetalactone. This compound is a type of essential oil that triggers a response in the cat’s amygdala and hypothalamus similar to the one produced due to feline pheromones.
Such chemicals play a huge role in controlling various aspects of the cat’s mood and behaviors. According to research that studies the effect of pheromones on cats, these chemicals can cause the following effects on a cat:
- An enhanced euphoria and well-being
- An increased sense of playfulness and attraction towards toys
- Helps cats to relax and fend off stress
- Develop acceptance between feuding cats
- Improved appetite
In addition to mental stimulation, catnip also induces some noticeable physical actions, such as kicking the back feet, strange vocalization, rolling on the floor, rubbing face against the plant.
You should keep in mind that such a response towards catnip will kick in during the first 7 to 8 weeks of the kitten’s life.
Additionally, the effects of the herb on cats depend on a dominant gene that is found in 70% of cats only. This means that cats respond differently to catnip and some of them are fully immune to its effects.
Mint and catnip belong to the same family of herbs. That’s why some varieties of the two share a lot of similarities in terms of looks as well as the scent.
However, that’s about it when it comes to similarities. This is because mint doesn’t contain nepetalactone or any comparable ingredients that are capable of stimulating the cat’s brain in a similar fashion to catnip.
Although catnip is completely safe for cats consumption, other types of garden mint aren’t. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), mint is listed as a toxic plant to cats.
The toxicity of mint in plants is due to the main ingredient in the herb, which is an essential oil known as “menthol”.
Luckily, a cat requires a fairly decent amount to show any negative symptoms. That’s why some people might allow their cats to chew a leaf or two if they’re getting quite antsy about it.
Although it might take a few servings for a car to show signs of mint poisoning. Here are some of the signs that might help you identify a case of mint poisoning in cats:
- Gastrointestinal upset
- A faint scent of mint in the cat’s breath or hair coat
- Drooling or vomiting
- Weakness and pawning at the face
- Uncoordinated gait
The risk of mint toxicity is only a concern if the cat ingests the mint. However, skin contact as well as smelling the mint shouldn’t be a concern for you.
However, the problem with mint obsession is that cats may not be able to hold themselves from chewing on a few leaves
This can develop into a serious case of poisoning if the cat consumes large amounts. That’s why it’s generally recommended to keep your cat away if it’s heavily obsessed with mint.
[Related Article: Do Cats Like The Smell Of Apple Cider Vinegar?]
As previously mentioned, a few leaves shouldn’t be a huge concern for you. However, if your cat managed to eat a relatively large amount of mint, you should keep your eye out for any negative symptoms that the cat may develop in the next few hours.
If any of the mint poisoning symptoms start to show up, you should take your cat to the vet immediately to give them proper medical attention.
Some people might consider giving their cats a piece of mint-flavored gum if they notice that the cat has a bad breath.
However, vets and experts typically warn against feeding cats any mint-flavored products because the main ingredient for the mint flavor is concentrated menthol, which is the same reason why the plant is toxic in the first place.
Now that you know more about the toxicity of mint and mint-flavored products, here are some valuable tips to help you control your cat’s obsession with the fragrant herb:
Your cat won’t be sniffing around for minty stuff if they have the real thing within their grasp. Buying your cat some high-quality catnip is a sure-fire way to keep them off your mint-scented products and snacks.
Although smelling menthol shouldn’t be a problem for your cat, having the mint smell all over the house will make it quite difficult for you to control your cat’s attraction to mint.
For that reason, you should consider switching to other aromatic and cat-safe alternatives, such as chamomile and jasmine.
As you know, confusing mint for catnip is the main reason why your cat is so obsessed with the mint.
If you want your cat to stay calm and playful without using catnip, you’ll need to invest some time and money in quality toys and activities to keep your cat occupied.
A lot of us are huge fans of mint snacks and mint-flavored products. However, keeping these items within the cat’s reach might increase the chances that your cat has some alone time with the snack.
So, make sure that you keep the snacks in airtight sealing to keep them out of the cat’s reach. (cats have an excellent sense of smell, remember).
There you have it! A complete guide that walks you through all the necessary information that you need to know if your feline buddy is obsessed with mint and mint-scented products.
Although mint might seem like a harmless plant, it contains essential oils that are listed as toxic by the ASPCA, so you should keep it out of your cat’s reach and replace it with catnip.