Answering Catnip FAQs

Answering Catnip FAQs

We’ve all heard of catnip—it’s our feline friends’ favorite plant. It’s a safe bet, though, that you don’t know as much as you thought you did about catnip! Here, your Fox Chapel, PA veterinarian answers some of the most frequently asked questions regarding Fluffy’s favorite indulgence.

What is Catnip, Anyway?

Catnip is an herb that occurs naturally in the wild; it’s originally from Europe but has since spread all over the world and is found in many areas across North America. The wild plant is a leafy green shrub with white flowers. In a pet store, you’ll be able to purchase raw catnip—which looks much like oregano or basil flakes that you may have in your spice cabinet—or catnip infused into toys, sprays, and other products.

Why Does Catnip Affect Cats?

The oils of the catnip plant contain a chemical substance called nepetalactone. It causes a chemical reaction in your cat’s brain, which is why cats respond the way that they do. In most cases, the effect won’t last long—most likely, your cat will wind down after only a few minutes, although this can depend on the type and potency of the catnip used.

Cats may respond to catnip in several ways. Some run excitedly to and fro, while others prefer to rub their faces and bodies in the area where catnip was sprinkled. Other cats may simply stretch out in a state of bliss for a few moments.

Why Isn’t My Cat Reacting?

Have you tried out catnip on your cat, but with no results? Don’t worry, your cat isn’t broken! You’ll be surprised to learn that many cats—almost half of all domesticated felines—don’t react to catnip at all. That’s because your cat needs a particular gene, inherited from their parents, to feel the effects of catnip. If they don’t possess it, catnip won’t result in much of anything.

Is Catnip Safe?

Yes, catnip is perfectly safe for your feline friend. The chemical reaction that occurs in your cat’s brain isn’t harmful in any way, and your pet cannot “overdose” on the herb or become addicted to it. That means that you’re free to try out catnip on your cat as often as you’d like!

Have more questions about your cat’s behavior or healthcare needs? Contact River Valley Veterinary Hospital, serving the Fox Chapel, PA area, for help. We’re always here to help!

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