The Truth About Catnip

kitten with catnip

Catnip is a plant that is a member of the mint family and goes by several different common names. Most people know it as something that makes your cat go crazy when they are given access to the plant or a toy made with the dried herb. But what is catnip, and is it safe for your cat? Why do some cats not respond to it?

What is Catnip?

The effect that it has on some cats is produced by the volatile oil nepetalactone, which is found in the leaves, roots, and seeds. This chemical mimics natural 'happiness' chemicals in the cat's body and produces the famous effects.

Catnip Safety

Luckily, catnip is completely safe for your furry friend. It is non-addictive and safe to be eaten as well as rolled on, chewed, and played with. Most cats experience the effects for about ten minutes, and then will not respond to it for another two hours or so. Effects of the plant vary, but euphoria and playfulness are common when rubbing on or playing with the plant. Some cats may guard their 'drugs' aggressively, though. Eating catnip more often induces calmness and lethargy.

The Effects of Catnip

Only about half of cats respond to catnip. This has to do with their genetic susceptibility, and cannot be changed. Cats usually do not respond to catnip before they are at least three months old, however, and some kittens start responding even later. If your cat does not respond to catnip before he or she is about seven months old, it is likely they never will.

Using Catnip

As a member of the mint family, catnip is hardy and generally easy to grow. Many people enjoy growing catnip in a planter or pot for their kitties to go crazy over. If it is planted in the yard, however, it can be invasive.

The next best thing to fresh is dried catnip. Catnip sprays usually are not potent enough to attract your cat's attention. Because the attractant in catnip is a volatile oil, dried catnip will lose its potency over time. It can be stored in the freezer if you want to use it later.

All About Cats  Veterinary Hospital Can Answer Your Questions

If you have a question about cats, we can answer it. All About Cats Veterinary Hospital specializes in the treatment of felines at our Las Vegas facility, and we can be reached at 702-257-3222. Contact us today for an appointment.

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