Catnip is actually an herb, classified together in the same plant “family” as mint. Catnip plants in the wild stand a few feet tall and are a leafy green with white flowers. The plant is originally from Europe but has since spread to many different parts of the world, including most of North America.
Catnip is dried and processed to create the product you’ll purchase in a pet store. Raw catnip looks almost like dried basil or oregano that you probably have in your spice cabinet. Catnip can also be infused into toys, sprays, and a variety of other products made just for cats.
Cats respond to catnip in several ways. Some run around erratically; some rub their faces and bodies in the area where catnip has been sprinkled; others simply stretch out their limbs and relax in a state of bliss! It all depends on your cat.
The oils of the catnip plant contain a chemical substance called nepetalactone. It’s this substance that triggers a chemical reaction in your cat’s brain, producing the results that you see. Experts liken nepetalactone to a sort of aphrodisiac-like substance—it’s believed that catnip produces a nearly sexual response!
Typically, the effects of catnip wear off after only a few short minutes. The potency of catnip, and therefore how long the effects last, does depend on the type—raw catnip is usually more potent than catnip that’s been included in toys or other products.
Have you tried using catnip on your cat to no avail? Don’t worry—your feline friend isn’t broken! It turns out that cats require a specific gene, inherited from both parent animals, to feel catnip’s effects. If your cat does not possess this gene, catnip won’t have much of an effect at all!
No, catnip is not harmful to your pet. There is no possibility of your cat “overdosing,” and you can give your cat catnip as often as you’d like.
For more information on catnip, call your Troutville, VA veterinarian.
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