What is Catnip? How does it affect Cats?

What is catnip?

Catnip is a perennial herb from the mint family labiatae. Catnip is thought to originate from the excited responses cats show towards the plant. 

The active ingredient nepetalactone is an essential oil which can alter the behaviour of about half to two thirds of cats species. Some cat species do not respond to catnip and kittens may not react until fully grown.

Cat sniffing Catnip

Typical responses to catnip includes nipping (obviously) sniffing, biting, licking, head shaking, rolling and body rubbing. The cat body rolling response mimics oestrous patterns so catnip is often misinterpreted as an aphrodisiac.

Catnip, in responsive cat species, will usually stimulate some form of hyperactivity, particularly if incorporated into a cat toy or scratching post. This typically will last between five and ten minutes. Cat grasses can have a similar effect on your pet.

Cats and Catnip

Is catnip harmful to cats?

Catnip is non-toxic to cats. Cats won't overdose on catnip, they tend to refuse it once they have had enough. Catnip can be quite beneficial to your pet cat -  placing a small amount of catnip on your cat's scratching post to encourage scratching, or in their carrier to encourage them to enter can be used to help lower stress levels. Incorporating catnip into toys is a great way to encourage your cat to interact with them too.

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Photo credit(s): Getty Images

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