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A Crash Course in Catnip

July 15, 2016
Have you ever tried out catnip on your feline friend? Perhaps you’re new to cat ownership and are wondering more about catnip. Look no further—here, Westside Animal Hospital, your Savannah, GA veterinarian, goes over the basics.

What is Catnip, Anyway?

Catnip is a naturally occurring herb, categorized in the same plant family as mint. Catnip is originally from Europe, but has since spread all over North America as well as most other parts of the world. Today, you can find catnip almost anywhere. The wild catnip plant is several feet in height, leafy and green, and is noted for its characteristic white flowers with purple spots. The catnip you’ll find in stores has been dried for consumer use. It looks similar to the oregano you likely have in your kitchen. Catnip also comes in a spray variety and is found in some cat toys.

How Do Cats Usually Respond?

Different cats respond to catnip in different ways. Some may dart around the house excitedly, some may purr or vocalize intensely, and some may rub their faces and bodies in the area that the catnip has been sprinkled or sprayed. Still other cats may simply lie down on their backs, spread their limbs, and relax. The effects of catnip usually don’t last long for most cats. Generally, the effect will wear off after a few minutes, although this can vary depending on the form the catnip is delivered in. (Typically, raw catnip is more potent than catnip included in sprays or toys.)

How Does Catnip Affect My Cat’s Brain?

There are oils found in the catnip plant’s stem, leaves, and seeds, and this oil contains a chemical substance known as nepetalactone. Nepetalactone is what causes the reaction you see in cats; many experts liken the substance to an aphrodisiac, essentially producing a sexual response in our feline friends. There’s no need to worry about catnip harming your cat—nepetalactone isn’t harmful in the least. For more information on the way the substance acts in your cat’s system, contact your veterinarian.

Why Isn’t My Cat Responding to Catnip?

Does your cat not seem to react to catnip at all? Don’t worry—nothing is wrong! Cats actually need a specific gene, inherited from their parents, to feel catnip’s effects. If they don’t possess the gene, catnip won’t do anything at all. Contact Westside Animal Hospital, your Savannah, GA veterinarian, for more information.

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