If you visit any local pet shop you’re sure to find catnip. There are toys filled with catnip, bags of ground up catnip and even catnip spray. So what exactly is catnip?
Nepeta cataria, or catnip, is a perennial herb that belongs to the mint family Labiatae. It is a weed-like mint plant that is common in North America and Canada. Cats have a special receptor for Nepetalactone, the active ingredient in catnip. Cats are extremely sensitive to catnip, and can smell one part in a billion! This ingredient has a unique and often dramatic effect on cats that can cause a variety of behaviors, including: rolling, rubbing, drooling, licking, jumping, running, growling.
This induced reaction lasts from five to fifteen minutes before wearing off and cannot be evoked again for an hour or longer after exposure. The response to catnip seems to be genetic. Young kittens and senior cats tend to not respond to catnip, as well as about 30% of the cat population at any age.
Catnip is completely safe and isn’t addictive for cats, so go ahead and give your cat a treat once in a while! You can give your cat a small palm full of ground catnip or you can give your cat a catnip toy. Catnip is also a great way to help your cat to feel comfortable relaxing on his or her new furniture. Fresh catnip is recommended for the best results.