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Is Catnip Safe for Your Cat?

Is Catnip Safe for Your Cat?

As animal lovers, we all know that cats and dogs are completely different; however, both cats and dogs have won our hearts over becoming important, beloved members of our families.

Cats, unlike dogs, may regard their owners simply as convenient providers of shelter and delicious wet food and will spend hours away from home, only fleetingly passing the time of day when they return for a snack. Others will win over our hearts with their unexpected demonstrations of love. Some settle on a window ledge, waiting patiently for their owners to return, then follow them around and curl up on their lap the minute they sit down.

Our furry feline friends prefer to interact with their owner than with strangers, and that they are more responsive to their owner’s voice than that of a stranger. Some cats even develop such strong attachments to their owners that they suffer from separation anxiety when left alone.

Cats are mostly known for being independent, a quality that some may dislike but others truly admire. This independence has enabled the cat to become one of the most popular pets today, in some countries outranking even the dog as the favorite companion animal.


Many pet owners look for a pet that is easy to care for, one that can adapt to living in more confined spaces, keep itself clean, and remain relatively undemanding while still providing companionship. And cats excel at this by nature.

By the way, you should read this if you need any help convincing your cat to go to the vet.

Now that we have talked a bit about cats’ personalities, it’s time we touch base on a topic that is purely relative to domesticated felines, catnip.

All cats love this plant . If you are a cat owner, you know what we’re talking about; cats go crazy for catnip. However, do you know how this plant works, or if it is healthy for your cats? As animal neurology specialists here in Orange County, we wanted to answer some of your frequently asked questions about this plant!

What Is Catnip?

Catnip, technically known as Nepeta cataria, is a perennial herb that is a member of the mint family. The chemical compound in this plant that attracts and affects cats is called nepetalactone, and it is in the leaves and stems of the plant. You can find catnip in its plant form, catnip sprays, or catnip toys and treats.

How Does Catnip Work?

So, how can a plant make your cat act so funny? Nepetalactone is a stimulant for felines, and when smelled or inhaled, the chemical produces a “high.” Catnip targets feline “happy” receptors in the brain causing cats to react by rolling around, flipping over, and generally being hyperactive and silly.

The effects of catnip and naturally occurring nepetalactone last for about 10 minutes, at which point the cat will go back to behaving normally. All of this is only true when your cat smells this plant. If ingested, this product will most likely act as a mild sedative.

Nepetalactone can mimic feline pheromones and trigger the receptors affected by cats in heat; this is why cats are affected by this plant in a way that humans and other animals are not.

Is Catnip Safe for My Cat?

The short answer is yes; catnip is safe for cats; this is especially true because they are typically just smelling it, which allows them to feel the effects. If your cat ingests too much of this plant, it may cause adverse reactions like an upset stomach and cause temporary nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.

If this happens, don’t worry; simply remove the product as soon as possible. Your cat’s symptoms will pass quickly as the compounds leave its system.

Can a Cat Become Addicted to Catnip?

For the most part, catnip is a fun and safe way for your cat to unwind and have fun. Don’t worry about a catnip addiction; instead, let your cat enjoy catnip in moderation. Many are biologically programmed to enjoy it. And for those that are not sensitive to it, never force it on them.

Do All Cats React the Same to Catnip?

In short, No! Not all cats will have the same reaction to catnip. So If your cat does not react to catnip, don’t worry. Only about a third of cats respond to catnip. Kittens and older cats typically do not react to this plant. Cats inherit their sensitivity to catnip genetically.

Thirty to fifty percent of cats lack the gene that lets them turn on and tune out. Other times, a cat may simply be too young. The proclivity doesn’t become apparent until a kitten is three to six months old.

Not all cats respond to this plant; about 1/3 of the cats lack this gene.

Additionally, kittens less than three months old don’t respond to catnip and often even show an aversion. Lastly, if your cat happens to be in the percentage that doesn’t react to catnip, never force them, as it is cruel and unnecessary. Please remember not to force a reaction to catnip by exposing your cat to the plant.

Now that you know more about your furry feline best friend and why they enjoy catnip so much, feel free to provide catnip to them every once in a while so they can have a good time. If you have any other questions regarding your cat’s behavior or health, please contact us at your convenience. We look forward to helping you and your pet

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