What Is Catnip?

Returning home, you put the groceries on the floor and pull out a bright red mouse toy. Little does your cat know it contains catnip. After you let your cat take a whiff, it rips it out of your hand and races around the house like a wild beast. What is catnip and why do some cats go crazy for it?

Catnip (Nepetacataria) is a plant in the mint family. It is native to Europe, Africa and Asia. It was imported to the U.S.A. originally, but now you can easily find it all over North America. You can even grow it in your garden!

It contains nepetalactone. This oil mimics feline pheromones and triggers their receptors. Not all cats react to it. Nepetalactone affects 50-75% of cats. Kittens and senior cats don’t seem to respond to it as much. Catnip is safe, fun, and not addictive. Other plants that have a similar effect are Valerian Root and Silver Vine.

There are two types of effects that can happen to cats. If inhaled, catnip produces a stimulant effect which can make cats more playful and excitable. If ingested, catnip produces a sedative effect that can make cats feel calm and relaxed. The effects of catnip last about 10-15 minutes. It takes a few hours for their brains to reset and enjoy it again.

From house cats to tigers, catnip can work. In fact, any animal in the Felidae family can feel the effects. Catnip can also be made into a tea for owners to enjoy. It shares the same calming properties as chamomile tea.

Written by: Adora Wesson, Veterinary Assistant

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