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Catnip 101

Does your feline buddy get giddy with excitement when you give her catnip? Giving Fluffy a bit of her favorite plant may be just as much fun for you as it is for her! Why do cats get so wound up by this innocent-looking herb? A Webster, NY vet discusses this interesting kitty phenomena below.

What Is Catnip?

Catnip is a member of the mint family. It contains a substance called nepetalactone, which is what affects our feline pals. (Interestingly, kitties have scent receptors in their noses that perfectly fit nepetalactone molecules.) This doesn’t just apply to house cats. Many big cats also love catnip, though in varying degrees. In one experiment, lions and jaguars were the most affected, with cheetahs being least impressed.

Effects

As you probably know, cats are highly entertaining when they are under the effects of catnip. Fluffy may roll around, jump, run, pounce, or meow in a comical way. Some kitties get sleepy, and more or less ‘pass out.’ However, there’s no need for concern. Barring the unlikely possibility of Fluffy being allergic, catnip is completely safe for your pet. You also don’t need to worry about your furry friend overdosing, as catnip isn’t toxic. Moreover, the effects only last a short time. Once they start to wear off, your furball will be immune to catnip until her system ‘resets.’ This takes a few hours.

Alternatives

Not all cats are sensitive to catnip, and of those that are, not all of them are affected the same way. Although we can’t really poll our furry patients, some estimates indicate that as many of a third of our feline friends are immune to catnip. If you know or suspect that your furball is one of them, try offering Fluffy some honeysuckle toys. For some reason, many cats that don’t like catnip do enjoy honeysuckle.

Growing Catnip

If your frisky pet loves catnip, you may want to try growing your own. If you keep the plants indoors, just make sure they are secure. You don’t want Fluffy knocking a heavy pot down onto herself! If you want to keep your kitty garden outdoors, you’ll want to be careful not to plant too much. Otherwise, your home will soon become a magnet for stray and feral cats.

Please contact us, your Webster, NY vet clinic, for all of your pet’s veterinary care needs. We are here to help!

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