All About Catnip for Cats

Catnip is quite common, and is included in many toys, scratching posts, and other items for our beloved cats. How much do you really know about our feline friends’ favourite plant? Your London, ON veterinarian fills you in below.

What is Catnip, Anyway?

Catnip is an herb, sharing many similarities to herbs in your spice garden like mint and basil. It grows in the wild and can be found all over North America; the wild plant stands a few feet high and has white flowers with characteristic purple spots. The wild plant is processed into “raw” catnip, which looks similar to oregano or other dried spices, and it’s this form that you’ll purchase in a pet store. Catnip can be sold in “raw” form, or it may be included in toys or even infused into sprays and other products.

How Does Catnip Affect Cats?

Different cats react to catnip in different ways when exposed to catnip. Some simply stretch out in a state of ecstasy and relax; others will dart excitedly to and fro. Many cats will rub their faces or bodies in the area where catnip has been sprinkled.

Have you tried catnip on your cat without seeing any results? Don’t worry! Your cat isn’t broken or ill, he simply doesn’t possess the proper gene. It turns out that cats require a particular gene, inherited from both of their parents, to experience catnip’s impact. If your cat doesn’t have this gene, catnip won’t do much of anything.

Why Does Catnip Affect Cats?

The source of the reaction caused by catnip is found in a chemical substance contained in the catnip plant’s stem and leaves. It’s called nepetalactone, and it triggers a chemical response in your cat’s brain. The area of the brain that’s triggered is the same one responsible for sexual responses; for this reason, some experts liken catnip to a sort of feline aphrodisiac!

Is Catnip Safe?

Yes, catnip is perfectly safe for your feline friend. The chemical reaction that occurs thanks to nepetalactone isn’t harmful in the least, and the effects will typically wear off after only a few minutes. Additionally, your cat can’t overdose or become addicted to the herb, so feel free to give your cat catnip as often as you see fit.

Does your cat need veterinary attention? Set up your pet’s next appointment at your London, ON vet clinic. We’re here for you!

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