Your Cat’s Favorite Indulgence

Your Cat’s Favorite Indulgence

Have you ever tried catnip on your feline friend? It’s our cats’ favorite plant! Catnip is widely available and quite common, but how much do you really know about it? Here, your Teller County, CO veterinarian fills in the blanks.

What is Catnip?

Catnip is an herb, and is often sold at plant nurseries and retail shops alongside the mint, basil, and thyme you’re familiar with. It grows in the wild, having originated in Europe but since spread all over the world, and the wild plant grows a few feet high and sports white flowers with purple spots.

At the pet store, you’ll find a processed, dried version of the wild plant that looks like oregano or basil flakes that you probably have in your kitchen cabinets. You can also purchase toys infused with catnip, catnip sprays, and similar products.

Is Catnip Safe?

Yes, catnip is entirely safe for cats. The substance triggers a chemical reaction in your cat’s brain, but it’s perfectly harmless. Don’t worry about your cat becoming addicted or overdosing on catnip—it’s just not possible.

What Makes Catnip Affect Cats?

The oils of the catnip plant contain a chemical, nepetalactone, that is the root cause of the chemical reaction in your cat’s brain. Nepetalactone activates the same area of the brain that deals with sexual stimuli; experts sometimes liken catnip to a sort of feline aphrodisiac because it elicits a nearly sexual response!

How Do Cats React?

Your cat might react in a variety of different ways when presented with catnip. Some cats get very excited and dart around the room. Others rub their faces or bodies intensely into the area where catnip has been sprinkled, while other cats might simply stretch out on their backs and enjoy the state of bliss.

The effects of catnip usually don’t last very long, and your cat will return to normal after only a few minutes. Generally speaking, “raw” catnip tends to be more potent that catnip toys or sprays.

Why Isn’t My Cat Reacting to Catnip?

Have you given your cat catnip, but seen no result? Don’t worry—your cat is perfectly healthy. Cats actually require a gene, inherited from the parents, that allows them to experience the chemical reaction in the brain. If they don’t possess this gene, catnip won’t make them feel much of anything!

For more information about catnip, call your Teller County, CO vet.

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