What is Catnip and why does my cat love it so much?

Catnip also known as Nepeta cataria and is from the Lamiaceae or mint family. It’s a short living perennial and can be easily grown in Minnesota. The essential oil in catnip, nepetalactone, has a powerful effect on cats, often causing even the mellow couch potato to become super active.

Cats seem to enjoy catnip by rolling on it, sniffing it or eating it. When the cats sniff the catnip it’s believed to mimic the feline “happy” pheromones and stimulates the receptors in the brain that respond to those pheromones, when ingested it has more of a mellowing affect. This phase will last for only about 10 minutes and then the cat will lose interest in the catnip. It will take the cat about 2 hours for him to “reset” and become susceptible to catnip again.

Not all cats react to catnip in the same way. For some it makes them super hyper, others it just makes them more playful and others just plain mellow. Be super careful when trying catnip with your cat for the first time, some cats can become aggressive over the toy or catnip itself. Catnip is not for all cats; it’s an inherited trait and only about 50% have any reaction to it. Young kittens under the age of 6 months are not affected by catnip either.

Catnip is best when it’s grown organically without pesticides and the fresher the better. The cats only react to the flowers and leaves, no need to keep the plants stems. To keep the catnip fresh for your cat, store it in the freezer in an airtight container or bag. Enjoy!