The Basics of Catnip

Does your cat go wild when given a sprinkling of catnip? The plant is our feline friends’ preferred indulgence, but how much do you know about this fascinating substance? Below, learn more about catnip from your Niwot, CO veterinarian.

What Exactly is Catnip?

Catnip is an herb, classified in the same plant “family” as common mint. The wild plant—originally from Europe, now found all over North America and many other parts of the world—is leafy and green with white flowers. In a pet store, you’ll find a dried and processed version that looks almost like basil or oregano flakes. Catnip can also be infused into sprays (typically less potent than raw catnip) or included in cat toys.

How Do Cats React?

There are a variety of ways that cats might react to catnip. Some run around excitedly, darting this way and that until the effects wear off. Other cats rub their faces and paws in the area where the catnip was sprinkled, and still others choose to lay out on their backs in blissful euphoria. It all depends on the cat!

Why Does Catnip Affect Cats?

The catnip plant’s oils contain a chemical known as nepetalactone. It’s this substance that causes the reaction you’ll see in your cat. Experts believe that it acts almost as an aphrodisiac, eliciting a sort of sexual response in cats!

Is There Any Health Risk?

No, catnip is an entirely risk-free substance and won’t harm your cat in any way. Typically, the effects don’t last long—most cats will return to normal in a few short minutes, depending on the potency of the catnip used. Your cat cannot “overdose” on catnip, either; it’s perfectly fine to give your feline friend their favorite herb as often as you’d like.

Why Doesn’t My Cat React to Catnip?

Did you know that some cats don’t respond to catnip at all? If your cat is one of them, don’t fret—your pet is perfectly healthy. It turns out that cats require a particular gene, inherited from both of their parents, to respond to catnip. If your pet doesn’t possess this gene, catnip won’t have any effect.

Do you have questions about catnip and its effects on cats? Does your cat need an examination? Make an appointment at The Animal Hospital, your Niwot, CO veterinary clinic, if your cat needs medical attention. We’ve been helping pets since 1946!

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