What Does Catnip Do to Cats?


Quick Answer

Catnip, whether ingested or smelled, gives some cats a feeling of euphoria and playfulness. Cats usually react to the herb by rolling around, purring, meowing, salivating, jumping and eventually sleeping. Catnip only affects about 50 percent of cats, and it is an intense and short-lived high.

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What Does Catnip Do to Cats?
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Full Answer

Genetics play a role in whether or not a cat feels the effects of catnip. The cats that do respond to the herb don't show signs until 3 to 6 months of age. A specific chemical, nepetalactone, is responsible for the euphoria cats receive upon contact with the herb. The chemical resides in the stems, seeds and leaves of the plant, and it only takes a few seconds for the cat to become overwhelmed with bliss upon contact. Some cats eat the herb, while others prefer to roll around in it.

Not every feline that responds to catnip succumbs to the same symptoms. Some cats act aggressively when a person or animal comes near them or their catnip during the experience, as if they're protecting their treasure. Owners can deter cats from undesirable behaviors, such as clawing furniture, by offering catnip as a distraction. Others simply delight in watching their cats enjoy the pleasures of the herb.

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