Is Your Cat Hip to the Nip? A Quick Look at Why Cats Can’t Get Enough of This Herb

A black-and-white cat naps after binging on some cat nip...

Have you ever given your cat a toy filled with catnip and watched it run around the room? We looked into why catnip causes our kitties to go crazy (or get lazy) and what the herb is all about.

What is it?

Catnip is also known as Nepeta cataria, or several other Nepeta species. It is a member of the mint family and was originally found naturally growing in Europe, Africa and Asia. In the 1600s, settlers brought the plant to America, and it can now be found in household herb gardens and even growing in the wild as a weed. The plant is perennial and has a hairy stalk, heart-shaped leaves and small flowers.

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How does it work?

The ingredient found naturally in the catnip plant is nepetalactone, an essential oil that has a hallucinogenic effect in felines that have reached a mature sexual age. Kittens ages 6 months or younger are not usually affected by the plant, and only 50-66 percent of cats can feel the herbs hallucinogenic qualities. If your cat isn’t affected by catnip, their kittens may not be either, as sensitivity is a genetic inheritance.

Your cat on catnip

A cat that is around the herb will likely sniff it and then chew it. Some cats become sleepy and lay about stretching while others run around and become extremely active. The high will last 5-10 minutes, and once it has worn off, your cat will be temporarily immune to the herb for as long as two hours. Try introducing catnip into play sessions as a special treat for your cat.

Of course, once it has, don’t be surprised if your clever kitty helps herself to some more, like City the Kitty here:

Domestic cats are not the only felines that feel a buzz when sniffing this herb. Wild cats, from lions to leopards, are also susceptible to the high that comes from smelling catnip. There is no danger in entertaining your feline friend, and yourself, by feeding the plant to your cat or having it play with catnip toys. Once the high has worn off, your pet will go back to normal.

Does your cat have a funny reaction? Won’t touch the stuff? Let us know in the comments below!

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