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Everything You Need to Know About Catnip

March 15 2019

It’s safe to say that catnip is your feline friend’s favorite indulgence. Have you ever wanted to learn more about this fascinating plant? Below, your Cherry Hill, NJ veterinarian tells you everything you need to know about catnip and how it affects your pet.

What is Catnip, Exactly?

Catnip is an herb, closely related to the mint, basil, or coriander you might have in your spice garden. It’s originally from Europe, but has since spread all over the world and grows in the wild across North America. The plant stands a few feet high and is leafy green; it contains white flowers with distinctive purple spots.

When you purchase “raw” catnip at a pet store, you’ll be buying a dried and processed version of the wild plant that looks much like oregano flakes or similar spices. Catnip can also be infused into cat toys, sprays, and other products, although the “raw” form tends to be the most potent.

How Do Cats React?

Different cats react to catnip in different ways. Some run around excitedly, darting to and fro, while others will simply stretch out and relax in a state of bliss. It all depends on your cat! The effects of catnip will only last a few short minutes before your feline friend is back to her normal self.

Why Does Catnip Affect Our Feline Friends?

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

Is Catnip Harmful in Any Way?

No, catnip does not harm your cat in any way. The chemical reaction that’s caused is completely harmless and only lasts momentarily. Additionally, there is no possibility of your cat “overdosing” on catnip or becoming addicted—you can give your cat catnip as often as you would like.

Why Isn’t My Cat Reacting?

Have you used catnip or a catnip-based product on your pet, with disappointing results? Don’t worry—you may be surprised to learn that not every cat responds to catnip! Cats actually require a specific gene, inherited from their parents, to respond to nepetalactone in the brain. If they aren’t born with it, catnip won’t do much of anything.

To learn more, call your Cherry Hill, NJ animal hospital.

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