Catnip 101

Does your kitty get excited when you give her a new catnip toy? Fluffy’s catnip obsession may very well be one of her most charming quirks. Cats are absolutely adorable—and often quite hilarious—when they are under the influence of this unique plant. In this article, a Wake Forest, NC vet discusses catnip.


There are over 250 varieties of catnip. Our feline friends have apparently had a special relationship with this plant for quite a while. The substance in catnip that causes kitties to react is called nepetalactone. As it turns out, cats actually have olfactory receptacles that purrfectly match nepetalactone molecules. What’s even more interesting is that catnip also attracts big kitties, like leopards, cougars, and lynxes. Even lions and tigers react to it sometimes!

Kitty Reactions

Not all kitties are affected by catnip. Actually, as many as a third of them are immune to it. Kittens don’t really develop a ‘taste’ for catnip until they are a few months old. Senior pets also don’t always react. As for the reactions themselves, they can be pretty varied … and quite entertaining! Some cats roll around, while some run, jump, or pace. Fluffy may also do a little kitty happy dance. Or she may drool, attack you, growl, meow, or just fall asleep. Needless to say, watching a frisky feline playing with a new catnip toy can be just as much fun for you as it is for the cat!

The Dangers of Catnip

Good news! Catnip is completely safe for Fluffy. Kitties cannot overdose on it, and they will not build up an immunity. (Your pet’s toys may not fare so well, however.)

The After-Effects

The effects of catnip don’t last very long. It usually takes about 5-15 minutes for the zoomies to wear off. Fluffy’s brain will need to reset before she can be affected by catnip again. This takes about two hours, which is ironically the perfect amount of time for a nap.

Human Uses

Catnip is also useful to humans. It can be made into teas, and has long been used in traditional medicines. It also attracts butterflies, and can help repel mosquitos, cockroaches, and other unwanted bugs. Don’t go overboard planting it, though. Otherwise, your yard may attract every stray kitty around!

Do you have questions about your pet’s health or care? Contact us, your Wake Forest, NC pet hospital, today!

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