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Nepeta cataria is a member of the mint family, better known as catswort, catmint, or catnip. The active ingredient in catnip is called nepetalactone, which can trigger some strange behaviors in your feline friend. It’s not the taste that cats tend to react to in catnip, but rather the smell that comes from the plant in fresh or dry form.

How Does It Work?
To release the oil trapped in catnip’s leaves, cats will bite, chew, kick, rub, and roll in it. It may seem as though they’re acting crazy following a catnip rubdown – spinning, jumping, running, climbing, flopping, even growling – but the effects should only last a few minutes. Most likely, your cat will soon lose interest and wander away from the plant, perhaps returning in a few hours to repeat the routine.

How Will It Affect My Cat?
Some cats react differently than others when it comes to catnip. Some will go crazier than others; some will feel the effects for longer than others; some will become very calm under the influence of catnip; and some won’t be affected at all, especially kittens and older cats. It is believed that a cat’s response to catnip is a trait inherited from his or her ancestors.

Is It Toxic?
No, catnip is nontoxic to cats. If exposed to too much, however, your cat may experience vomiting or diarrhea, but this is a rare occurrence. Depending on your cat’s personal reaction to catnip, you may choose to control the amount of the plant available to your pet, limiting your cat’s exposure or denying access to it altogether.

How Can I Expose My Cat to Catnip?
Catnip grows wildly in nature, so you may be able to find a plant somewhere near your home that your cat might take a liking to. You can also, of course, snip leaves from the plant to bring back to your pet. There are toys with dried catnip stuffed into their hollowed cores for sale at your local pet store, and loose dried catnip is also available in jars, bags, and cans. There is even a catnip spray that allows you to spray your cat’s favorite toys to achieve a similar effect. Kong, Petstages, PetLinks, Grreat Choice, and Whisker City are a few of the brands on the market that carry catnip products.

You can also try growing fresh catnip in your yard or garden. Just remember that fresh catnip is much more potent than its dried counterpart, so less will go a longer way when entertaining your cat.

Need More Information?
To learn more about your cat’s health and nutrition, visit your veterinarian.