If you are the pet parent of cats, then you will undoubtedly have heard of catnip. Officially known as Nepeta Cataria, this perennial herb is actually a member of the mint family, and can be grown with relative ease. Catnip is known for its ability to make even the most laid-back of felines act loopy, with many people likening its effects to that of a recreational drug. However, for many new cat owners, that is about as far as their knowledge of catnip extends, and they have many questions that are left unanswered. Want to learn more about catnip and its effects? Noblesville Pet Wellness Clinic has put together a list of what you may not know about catnip.

What about catnip sends cats crazy?

Cats sniff everything that they come into contact with. The stems and leaves of the catnip plant contain a chemical compound known as nepetalactone. When sniffed, this chemical acts as a stimulant and produces a reaction similar to the ‘high’ experienced by humans who use hallucinogens such as LSD.

Behavior when exposed to catnip

The way in which a cat reacts to catnip will largely depend on whether she has simply sniffed it, or if she has eaten it. Sniffing catnip produces a stimulant reaction, and your furbaby may react by exhibiting a number of strange, hyperactive behaviors including rolling around, flipping over, chasing her tail, and running around and climbing with no purpose. She may seem simply crazy! The effects of catnip usually lasts between 10 and 15 minutes before wearing off. When catnip is eaten rather than sniffed, the effect is somewhat different. Instead, it actually acts like a sedative, and “mellows out” the feline that consumes it. This can be especially useful for long car rides.

Why isn’t my cat reacting to catnip?

Catnip doesn’t affect all cats. While the exact cause of this isn’t known, it is believed that sensitivity to the chemical compound is largely an inherited trait. For those cats who are already extremely docile, eating catnip and experiencing the sedative effects it produces may seem to make little difference to her regular behavior.

Kittens don’t react to catnip

No cat will react to catnip when she is extremely young. If your kitten does have the inherited sensitivity to the chemical found in catnip, this will probably not become obvious until she is at least several months old.

Your cat may become immune to the effects of catnip

It is believed that frequent exposure to catnip can actually dull your cat’s response to it. Therefore, if you want your cat to have the enjoyment of catnip for the duration of her lifetime, you should limit her experiences with it.

If catnip works for your cat, you can safely use it to provide mental stimulation and short bursts of fun, or use it to chill your cat out when needed. For further advice on catnip, ask your veterinarian at Noblesville Pet Wellness Clinic during your next appointment.