Your Cat and Catnip

Watching your kitty roll around with a new catnip toy can be very amusing. In fact, getting Fluffy a new toy can be almost as fun for you as it is for her! Your furball may roll around, jump, twist, swish her tail, and generally act a bit goofy. What is it about this special plant that makes our feline friends act so silly? Below, a Poway, CA veterinarian discusses Fluffy’s favorite plant.

What Is Catnip?

Catnip is not a drug. It is, in fact, a member of the mint family. There are no known risks associated with catnip, with the possible rare exception of an allergic reaction. Researchers suspect that smelling catnip mimics or stimulates the ‘happy phenomes’ in cats’ brains. A good whiff of catnip equals instant joy for many kitties! Interestingly, cat noses have scent receptors that perfectly match up with nepetalactone, the chemical in catnip that causes the reaction.

Catnip… Not For Every Kitty

Not all kitties are affected by catnip. Some felines just don’t have the ‘catnip gene’ that makes them sensitive to it. In fact, as many as half of our furry pals are unaffected by it. This includes kittens and senior kitties. Kitties don’t become sensitive to catnip until they are about three months old.

Catnip Uses

Catnip provides our furry pals with mental stimulation, and encourages physical activity, which is great for our sleepy furballs. Catnip is also very effective for bribing cats! If you want Fluffy to scratch her cat tower rather than your couch, sprinkle catnip on and around the tower.


The effects of catnip on your feline friend are pretty short-lived. Fluffy may run, jump, roll, meow, or generally act silly for a bit, but the catnip will wear off in about ten minutes. Once this happens, your kitty’s brain needs to reset before catnip will affect her again. It usually takes about two hours for Fluffy to reboot. She’ll probably spend that time napping.

Grow Your Own

Catnip is inexpensive and easy to grow. You can put it in small pots that fit on your windowsill, or plant it in your garden. Just be careful not to plant too much, as you may find your yard becoming a magnet for stray kitties!

Do you have questions about Fluffy’s health or care? We can help! Contact us, your Poway, CA veterinary hospital, anytime.

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