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FAQ #2: Whats the deal with catnip? – Memphis Area Pet Health and Wellness

Posted 06.01.15 by Katie Wooden, DVM

dr_steppDr. Katie Wooden, who owns two cats of her own and cares for numerous at The Pet Hospitals – Collierville location, is here today to fill us in on why cats love catnip so much!

Everyone knows that most cats love catnip, but have you ever wondered why?

Catnip is a perennial herb from the mint family. Cats react specifically to an olfactory stimulant in the plant called “nepetalactone,” an organic compound that acts as a cat attractant.



catnip-flowerThis stimulant causes what we assume is a  hallucinogenic reaction in the brain. Cats may lick, chew, rub on, or eat the plant. Contact with catnip may cause cats to respond in a variety of ways, such as drooling, meowing, purring, running, or playing. Typical responses last about 5-15 minutes. However, interestingly enough, approximately 30% of cats won’t respond at all.


Research has shown that a cat’s ability to respond to catnip is an inherited trait. Even some cougars, tigers, and lions have been shown to react to catnip.


While catnip may make your cat act very goofy and wild, it is thankfully non-toxic, not addictive, and not harmful to cats. It can actually be a safe and fun way to get your cat to be more active and playful.catnip

Catnip is easily grown in small planter or in a garden, so it is easy to have a fresh stockpile throughout spring and summer.

Feel free to let your feline friends indulge!

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