Catnip and Your Cat

It is an enjoyable (and often hilarious) experience to give your kitty some catnip and watch what happens.  But what is catnip?  Is it safe?  And what is it about it that makes some cats downright batty?

Catnip is an herb (Nepeta cataria) that originated in the Mediterranean but is now found throughout the U.S. and Canada.  The ingredient in catnip that exerts its power over our feline friends is called nepetalactone.  This chemical mimics natural kitty pheromones and can trigger a wide range of behaviors including sniffing, licking, head-shaking, head rubbing, and body rubbing.  The effects last about 5-15 minutes.

All cats respond differently to catnip, with about 30% not seeming to care at all.  While some cats may exhibit extreme behaviors, catnip is non-toxic and there is no reason to worry about your cat being exposed.