If cats could participate in a poll, they would probably vote that catnip ranks among their favorite goodies of all time. While it offers a pleasurable experience for cats, a cat on catnip also tends to be an amusing sight for homeowners to observe as well. And if you’ve witnessed a cats display of enthusiasm for this substance, you may have wondered, “Why do cats love catnip so much?” Well, that’s what we’re here to talk about today! Without further ado, here is a quick rundown of the cat owner’s guide to catnip.


What is catnip?

Catnip is an herb which falls under the mint family. However, it’s not the minty flavor that cats love, it’s a certain oil in the plant called nepetalactone, which when inhaled, alters their behavior. 


How does catnip work?

Catnip works it’s magic when it hits the olfactory glands of a cat. When the molecules from the plant oil enter the cat’s nasal tissue, they bind with a protein that induces a stimulative effect. The response that’s happening in your cat’s body is much like the response they would have to pheromones. That’s right, the behavior you observe when your cat smells catnip is much like a sexual response…you can see why cats love catnip! Because their noses are so sensitive to the oils, even a tiny amount sprinkled or sprayed on a scratching post will do the trick. 

Did you know, even big cats, like lions, can enjoy the effects of catnip? It’s true! Although, handier to know for zoo workers. 


What if my cat doesn’t seem to enjoy catnip?

If your cat is not having a response to catnip, don’t be shocked. Only 70%-80% of cats will have an inherent response when they smell this herb. In addition, kittens will not respond to catnip until they reach sexual maturity around 6 months of age. 


Is catnip safe for my cat?

Catnip, and it’s active compounds, are non-addictive and are completely safe for your fluffy feline. Cats tend to know their limit and will not overdose on the substance once they’ve had their fill of the herb. In fact, after 10 minutes their response to catnip will dull, although it will return about 30 minutes later. 

On occasion cats will overindulge on catnip if it is placed within their feeding bowl along with their food or accidentally left out on the table. Since cats are so sensitive to the oils in catnip we recommend offering a small sample at a time. However, if your kitty accidentally ingests a little too much catnip, it will only cause some digestive issues which should resolve in a short period of time.


If your cat loves this delightful treat, then it’s a great choice to use when training your feline or simply for fun. We hope this information leaves you feeling confident and comfortable with using catnip in your home. At Anasazi Animal Clinic, your vet in Gilbert, Arizona, we pride ourselves on having compassionate and caring interactions with our clients and their pets. Contact us today for all your cat and veterinarian needs!

Photo by Mikhail Vasilyev on Unsplash 06/26/2019