What is Catnip and why do cats like it?

Catnip is known scientifically as Nepeta cataria . It is a plant in the mint family (Lamiaceae). Among other things, it acts as an attractant for many cats. 

Interestingly, both domestic cats and larger, wild cats can be affected by catnip. 

Among domestic cats, catnip is used as a recreational substance for the amusement of cat and human alike. As mentioned above not all cats are interested in catnip, but for those that are, the effects can be dramatic. The most commonly observed behaviors after a cat is exposed catnip include flopping and rolling around on the ground, rubbing on the plant, head butting,  pawing at it, sniffing it, licking it, chewing on it, and finally eating some of it. Once ingested, catnip causes various degrees of drooling, lethargy, sleepiness, anxiety, purring and bouts of leaping or jumping about.

Some cats will meow, grumble, or growl. Some will hiss and swat at any people nearby. The more of the substance that is ingested the more the behaviors tend toward hissing, swatting and aggression.

 The main active component of catnip is nepetalactone. It acts as an attractant and is effective on about 50-60% of cats. Some scientists have speculated that the nepetalactone may mimic a naturally occurring feline pheromone of some kind.  

Does your cat show interest in catnip? What does he or she do?


Cat eating grass

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