Why Are Cats So Crazy for Catnip?

Upside Down on Catnip

What is it about catnip that makes our cats get so wild and crazy?

Classified in the mint plant family, catnip has been found to contain an essential oil referred to as nepetalactone. Nepetalactone is the component in catnip that causes your cat to react in a silly, intoxicated manner. When catnip is inhaled by your cat, researchers believe nepetalactone mimics pleasure pheromones specific to felines.

However, some cats do not react to catnip in same way as those cats more sensitive to its effects. In fact, some cats are not born with the gene that causes them to be responsive to catnip; the gene occurs in only about fifty percent of cats.

Differences Between Inhalation And Digestion

In the wild, animals are guided to mating and other important instinctual actions through scent and pheromones. Pheromones are generally inhaled, and this is why cats inhaling catnip become so excited and downright goofy after smelling it.

When cats eat catnip, most of them become mellowed out; a reaction that goes away after a nap or a period of relaxation.

Cat owners should know that young kittens, even those predisposed to being sensitive the effects of catnip, are generally not affected until after the age of six months. However, some cases have been reported about kittens being just over three months old and experiencing the effects of catnip. For the most part, however, adult cats seem to experience the greatest effects, maybe due to the maturation of the reproductive senses and pheromonal instincts.

Cat on Catnip

Individual Effects Of Catnip

Your cat might roll around the floor, meowing in a strange manner that also resembles growling after being exposed to catnip. Some cats react with extreme high energy levels, running around as though they are supercharged in some way.

Owners should also be aware that some cats become aggressive after inhaling catnip, even more so when you try to take away the source of the catnip or their favorite toys.

Cats usually have their reactions, like rolling or running around, for about ten or fifteen minutes; afterwards losing interest and finding other more interesting activities.

If your cat inhales more catnip during this ten-to-fifteen minute window, they will not experience increased effects. In fact, in most cats, the inhalation of catnip will not cause any effects until at least two hours have passed after an initial inhalation.

Benefits Of Catnip For Cat Owners

For many cat owners, the frustration of trying to train their cat is enormous. However, thanks to the effects catnip has on some cats, many owners have found it to be an excellent training tool. For example, if your cat will not stop clawing on the furniture, trying rubbing catnip on a scratching post for luring your feline friend to it and away from the couch.

The Best Sources Of Catnip

Growing your own catnip is the best way to have it fresh as possible. Catnip is easy to grow in a pot indoors and can be a good way to keep your cat out of your houseplants as well.

When examining a pot of capnip, a cat will smell it, rub it with his face, lick it, and finally eat it. Growing a pot of catnip along with wheat or barley can provide fresh catnip for the greatest effects and a delicious, nutritious snack as well.


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