Catnip FAQs

Have you ever tried catnip out on your feline friend? We’ve all heard of it, but how much do you really know about catnip? Here, your Cameron Park, CA veterinarian answers some common questions.

What Exactly is Catnip, Anyway?

Catnip is an herb that comes from a plant (Nepeta cataria), grouped in the same “family” as the mint plant. The catnip plant is originally from Europe, but has since spread all over the world and can now grow just about anywhere. It’s common across North America, and the wild plant is a leafy green shrub with white flowers.

The catnip you purchase in a pet store is a dried and processed version, and it looks similar to dried oregano or basil flakes. Catnip also comes in other forms, such as spray products, or is added to the center of toys and other cat items.

Why Does Catnip Affect Cats?

The oils of the catnip plant’s stem and leaves contains a chemical substance known as nepetalactone. Nepetalactone is the root cause of the reactions you’ll see in your feline friend; it causes a chemical reaction in your cat’s brain that causes them to act a certain way. Experts say that catnip causes a nearly sexual response in our four-legged companions, as nepetalactone is a kind of aphrodisiac for cats!

How Do Cats React?

There are a variety of ways that cats react to catnip, and not all cats react in the same way. Some will get excited and dart around, while some might relax and lay down in ecstasy. You’ll often see cats rub their faces and bodies in the area where raw catnip was sprinkled.

How Long Do the Effects Last?

The effects of catnip usually don’t last very long; your cat will probably only react for a few minutes before the effect wears off. Raw catnip is usually more “potent” than catnip sprays or other products.

Is Catnip Safe?

Yes, catnip is entirely safe and won’t your cat any harm whatsoever. Ask your veterinarian for more insight into exactly how catnip affects your cat’s brain chemistry.

Why Doesn’t My Cat React to Catnip?

If you’ve tried catnip on your feline companion and nothing happens, don’t fret—nothing is wrong with your pet! Cats actually need a specific gene, inherited from their parents, to feel catnip’s effects.

Do you have questions about catnip? Call your Cameron Park, CA animal hospital.

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