What is catnip?


What is catnip?

Many cats seem to love catnip but what is catnip exactly? Catnip is obtained from Nepeta Cataria, an herb of the peppermint family. This herb can be used as an ornamental plant, it is the source of an oil that acts as a natural insect repellent and it also causes behaviour changes in cats when they smell it.

Once in contact with this plant, cats may start acting differently, vocalising more than usual, chewing, rubbing, and rolling on the catnip toy. They can also jump or run around the house apparently chasing a phantom prey or simply lay down looking very calm and relaxed.  

The active compound of catnip is nepetalactone but scientists and researchers haven’t been able to explain exactly what is it about nepetalactone that causes these reactions. The cats’ neurological response is similar to how they react to sexual pheromones and the effect can last between 5 minutes to an hour.

It is estimated that 70% of cats will react to this plant, as it seems to be an inherited trait and kittens don’t seem to respond until they are at least 6 months old.

How does your cat react to catnip?