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Fluffy’s Favorite Herb

Catnip is commonly found in pet stores everywhere, and it’s often included in cat toys, sprays, and other products. Has your cat ever tried this popular plant? Here, your Murrieta, CA veterinarian tells you everything you need to know about Fluffy’s favorite indulgence.

What is Catnip, Exactly?

Catnip is an herb, and can grow in your garden just like mint, basil, rosemary, or countless others. In the wild, the catnip plant stands a few feet tall and boasts white flowers with purple spots; it’s originally from Europe, but has since spread all over the world and is common across North America.

You’ll find a dried and processed version of the wild plant in a pet store. This is “raw” catnip, and it looks similar to dried oregano or basil you probably have in your spice cabinet. Catnip can be sprinkled on the ground for cats to enjoy, or sprinkled on toys or cat towers to further encourage fun and play.

Why Does Catnip Affect Cats?

The oils of the catnip plant contain a chemical called nepetalactone. This substance triggers a chemical reaction in your cat’s brain. In fact, the area of the brain that is triggered is the same one responsible for sexual reactions; for this reason, some experts classify catnip as a sort of feline aphrodisiac!

How Do Cats Respond to Catnip?

Cats respond to catnip in a variety of ways. Some will become very excited and dart this way and that, perhaps scratching vigorously in the area where catnip was sprinkled. Other cats will rub their faces and bodies in the area, while others will simply stretch out in a state of ecstasy.

Catnip doesn’t tend to cause very long reactions; in most cases, the effects of the herb will wear off after only a few minutes.

Why Isn’t My Cat Reacting?

If you’ve tried catnip on your cat but gotten no reaction, don’t worry—your cat is perfectly healthy. It turns out that cats require a gene, inherited from the parents, to feel the effects of nepetalactone. If your cat doesn’t possess this gene, catnip won’t do much of anything; at least two-thirds of all cats don’t respond to catnip at all!

Is There Any Risk?

No, catnip is perfectly safe for your cat—they can’t become addicted or overdose. Give it to Fluffy as frequently as you’d like!

Learn more by contacting your Murrieta, CA vet.

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