If your cat is like most kitties, she responds enthusiastically to catnip. It’s not unusual to see a cat show “catnip behavior” like rolling around, playing with it, pawing, sniffing, head butting and chewing it. But how and why does this happen?
Here’s a short primer on why your cat goes crazy for catnip:
- Catnip is an herb that is part of the mint family. It’s also known by its scientific name, nepeta cataria.
- The active chemical that drives cats crazy is nepetalactone, which cats pick up through their sense of smell. It’s an attractant that has been said to mimic the effect of pheromones. It also repels roaches and mosquitoes.
- Reactions to catnip are hereditary. If your cat doesn’t care for it, she’s one of up to 30% of cats who don’t respond to it. Very young kittens and senior cats don’t respond to it either.
- Catnip is nontoxic to cats. Ingesting large quantities of it might lead to vomiting or diarrhea, but this is rare and can be avoided by limiting exposure to fresh catnip.
- If your cat goes crazy for catnip, she’ll love catnip-infused toys, balls, treats and scratching posts.