site news header
Updated: 25th October 2006
Cats and Scratching Litter Box Trouble
Catnip and How It Affects Cats Trimming your Cat's Claws
Mats in My Cat's Fur! Tub Baths for Cats

The Science of Catnip

Among the many mysteries that surround the feline species, their reactions to catnip (or Nepeta cataria, as a botanist would call it) are still not completely understood, but it's believed that receptors in a cat's nose and mouth transmit the herb's unusual effects throughout the cat's system.

Yes, catnip is a herb -- it's a member of the mint family (Labiatae) of plants. Spearmint and oregano are catnip's "kin," and plants such as these share common traits like intense aroma and strong flavors. Whenever a cat smells or tastes catnip, those special receptors in the nose and mouth receive stimulating signals that energize even the most sedentary kitty.

So what's the explanation behind catnip's invigorating influence? The answer is a natural chemical compound called nepetalactone. Exposure to this compound can bring about any of several responses in a cat: wiggling and wriggling, head nodding, rolling, licking, body rubbing, and happy frolicking. The peculiar reaction can last about 20 minutes and usually won't occur again for an hour.

FACT: Catnip oil is an effective natural insect repellent!

It's interesting to note that kittens have no sensitivity to catnip! That is, until they are about 12 weeks old. By then, their olfactory receptors will have developed enough to produce the classic kitty reaction to catnip. However, some cats, due to genetics, lack the special receptors necessary to experience the effects of catnip. The sensitivity to catnip is inherited; if a kitten has only one parent who gets pleasure from catnip, then that kitten has a one-in-two chance of growing up to enjoy catnip.

TIP: If you buy bagged catnip for your cats, be aware that the nepetalactone in catnip will degrade over time and the catnip will lose its potency -- unless you store it in your freezer where the nepetalactone's properties will remain intact.

Catnip stimulates felines, but humans who use catnip in folk remedies report its effects as relaxing. In the "old days," catnip tea was brewed to ease the symptoms of colic in infants; poultices made from catnip were applied to relieve toothaches. In fact, this herb has been used as a remedy for all sorts of ailments from cramps to hives and even to prevent nightmares!

In modern times, catnip oil has been used by forest rangers to attract and trap mountain lions! It's also sold in tablet form as a supplement to support a healthy immune system in humans. Tea manufacturers still use catnip leaves in special blends of tea.

Of course, cat owners know catnip best as a treat for their beloved pets. Catnip is sold bagged (as dried leaves and blossoms), stuffed into cat toys, or packed into cat scratching pads, posts, and trees.

TIP: Here's a way your cat can enjoy loose catnip without leaving a big mess for you to clean up! Sprinkle a little inside a laundry basket or good-size cardboard box. You cat can flip, flop, and roll around with glee without spreading the catnip all over your floor!

  • Danger Kitty!
  • Common Facts

  • toy spotlight
    Untitled Document
    It's getting time to bring the outdoors inside. Start grasshopperwith this squeaking grasshopper. This may look like an average grasshopper, but give it the slightest tap and it will chirp and squeak it way into your cats hearts. 3 1/2"x1