All About Catnip and Your Feline Friend

Have you ever given your feline companion catnip? Perhaps you’ve tried a catnip toy or even a spray product. But what do you really know about catnip? What is it, exactly, and is it safe for your pet? Learn more here from an Anderson, IN veterinarian.

What is Catnip, Exactly?

Catnip is an herb, classified in the same plant “family” as common herbs like mint and basil. It grows all over North America, and the wild plant stands a few feet tall and boasts green leaves with white flowers. In a pet store, you’ll find “raw” catnip, which is a dried and processed version of the wild plant and looks much like oregano or basil flakes you probably have in your spice cabinet. There are also catnip toys, spray products, and more.

Why Does Catnip Affect Cats?

The oils of the catnip plant contain a chemical substance called nepetalactone, and it’s this chemical that triggers the response you see in your cat. The chemical affects the same area of your cat’s brain that is responsible for sexual impulses, causing some experts to consider catnip as a kind of feline aphrodisiac!

How Do Cats React?

Different cats may react differently when exposed to catnip. It simply depends on the cat. Some will dart around excitedly, running this way and that, while others will rub their faces and bodies in the area where catnip has been sprinkled. Other cats, meanwhile, might simply lay out on their backs and relax in a state of bliss.

The effects of catnip don’t tend to last very long—a few minutes at most, for the majority of cats. And “raw” catnip tends to be more potent than toys or other products infused with catnip.

Is Catnip Safe?

Yes, catnip is perfectly safe for your feline friend. The chemical reaction that is caused by nepetalactone doesn’t harm your pet in any way, and your cat cannot become addicted to the herb or overdose on it. So, feel free to offer your pet catnip as often as you would like!

Why Doesn’t My Cat Respond to Catnip?

Is your cat not responding to catnip? Don’t worry, they’re perfectly healthy. It turns out that if a cat doesn’t have a specific gene inherited from their parents, catnip won’t have much of an effect.

Want to learn more about your cat’s behavior and care needs? Contact your Anderson, IN vet.

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