Everything You Need to Know About Catnip

Catnip: it’s our feline friends’ favorite plant. How much do you really know about this fascinating product and how it affects your cat? Have you ever tried catnip on your pet? Here, your Carolina Forest, SC veterinarian answers some frequently asked questions.

What is Catnip, Anyway?

Catnip is an herb—it’s classified in the same plant “family” as common mint. Catnip originated in Europe but has since spread all over the world; in the wild, it is a leafy green plant with white flowers.

In a pet store or retail outlet, you’ll purchase a processed and dried version of the wild plant which looks similar to many products in your spice cabinet. Catnip is also commonly included in cat toys, and it can be infused into catnip sprays and other products.

Why Does Catnip Cause a Reaction?

The catnip plant’s oils contain a chemical substance called nepetalactone. It’s this substance that causes a chemical reaction in your cat’s brain, eliciting the response you’ll see when you present your feline friend with the herb. Many experts believe that nepetalactone acts as a sort of feline aphrodisiac, causing a nearly sexual response in your cat’s brain!

Cats may react to catnip in a variety of ways; you might see your pet stretch out on the ground in bliss, or rub their face and body in the area where catnip was sprinkled. Keep in mind that raw catnip tends to be more potent than sprays or other products.

Is Catnip Safe?

Yes, catnip is entirely safe to use on your cat. They cannot overdose or experience harmful effects. Feel free to give your cat catnip as often as you’d like—the effects will usually wear off after just a few moments, and it’s entirely risk-free.

Why Isn’t My Cat Responding?

Some cats won’t respond to catnip at all. If this is the case with your feline friend, don’t fret; your pet is perfectly healthy. It turns out that cats require a specific gene to experience the chemical reaction in the brain, and therefore feel the effects of catnip. If your pet hasn’t inherited this gene from their parents, they won’t feel much of anything when presented with catnip!

Do you have questions about catnip and the way it affects your pet? Wondering about other aspects of your feline friend’s behavior or healthcare? We’re here to help—contact your Carolina Forest, SC animal hospital.

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