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What Does Catnip Do To Cats

Cats have been associated with catnip for as long as we can remember. Some cats go crazy for it, others find it mildly amusing, and a few have no taste for it at all. What is it about catnip that drives some cats crazy? And more importantly, what does it do to cats?

What is catnip?

Catnip is an herb of the mint family. It can grow up to three feet tall and is often adorned with purple-spotted white flowers. It’s official name is Nepeta cataria and it has a pungent smell that is attractive to many cats. And the oil extracts or crushed up leaves are particularly enticing.

What does catnip do to cats?

The chemical compound, called nepetalactone, is found in the leaves and stems. This compound is classified as a stimulant.

When it’s sniffed by a cat it can produce a “high” that is usually described as being similar to either marijuana or LSD. The effects from it can last up to 10 minutes before wearing off and your cat starts to act normal again. However, when it is eaten by a cat it can act as a sedative.

Only about half of felines appear to feel the effects of catnip. More than that, the behavior that you see from cats affected by it can vary widely. Mostly it is thought that a sensitivity or receptiveness to the compound is thought to be inherited and that’s why not all cats are affected the same.

What you might see in your cat:

  • Rubbing
  • Chewing
  • Rolling around
  • General hyperactivity
  • Chewing or eating it to release more nepetalactone

Is it safe?

Yes, for the most post part it is perfectly safe for cats. However, if they do eat too much of it they may vomit or have diarrhea. But they will return to normal without any issue as long as they don’t eat any more catnip. And it’s actually been touted as being beneficial for us humans too. It has been used as a sedative for centuries and it always is a very potent mosquito repellent.

It is fun to watch our cats go crazy with the catnip from time to time, but overdoing it could cause them to have a lessened reaction to it. So, save it for special occasions and only give it to them a couple of times a month. Do you have any wacky “cat on catnip” stories? We’d love to hear all about your kitty escapades in the comments below! And as always, make sure to contact us if you need someone for cat sitting while you’re away!



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