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Why Do Cats Go Catnip Crazy?

cat_catnipA lot of cats love catnip. But, a lot of owners aren’t sure what catnip is exactly, or why and it affects cats. If your cat is rolling on the floor, rubbing his face against the furniture and drooling, chances are he’s been in the catnip!

Catnip (Nepeta Catara) is an herb that is part of the mint family and can be grown in your own backyard garden.

The ingredient in catnip that cats love is nepetalactone, which is found in the leaves and stems of the plant. The theory on the effect of catnip is that it mimics feline “happy” pheromones, stimulating the cat’s receptors in the brain that respond to those pheromones. Generally, cats experience catnip through the olfactory system (through the nose), though some cats will eat catnip.

Catnip affects only about 50% of cats and those cats respond in different ways. It’s actually an inherited gene; if your cat doesn’t have that trait, which doesn’t emerge until kittens are between three and six months old, he probably won’t respond to catnip. Your cat my react by snipping, shaking, licking, and rubbing their body against the catnip.  They may also do some jumping and playing or show signs of aggression. Some cats react by becoming hyperactive and others react by mellowing (cats who eat catnip tend to become more mellow). Usually, the reaction lasts between five and ten minutes.

Catnip is not harmful to cats and they will not overdose on it. However, it is recommended to use it only occasionally as the effects seem to lessen the more a cat is exposed to it. Catnip loses its potency overtime; it’s best stored in a freezer in an airtight container to keep it fresh.

There are many ways you can give your cat some catnip, including growing it in your house, offering it to your cat loose, or giving them toys stuffed with catnip.