Veterinarian Reviewed on January 11, 2013 by Dr. Janice Huntingford
Lots of perennial herbs are making a comeback in gardens now and one that is particularly plentiful is catnip. Catnip belongs to the mint family and its Latin name is Nepeta cataria. In folk medicine it has been used for cramps, coughing, as a sedative, as an aphrodisiac and as an anti-gas remedy. The active ingredient in catnip is nepetalactone.
Catnip has been getting attention now because of it ability to repel insects such as flies and mosquitoes. Catnip oil has been used for centuries for this purpose as well. There is some thought that when cats roll in catnip they are actually applying the herb to their fur to get rid of bugs!
When a cat encounters catnip, it usually sniffs it, rubs against it, licks it & finally eats it. When sniffed, catnip will stimulate a cat, however when eaten it will act as a sedative. The effect of catnip generally wears off in 5 to 10 minutes. Only about 50% of cats are affected by catnip, and those who are, are affected to differing degrees. Kittens younger than 8 weeks old aren’t able to enjoy its effects. In fact, they show an aversion to it. The response to catnip appears to be inherited as an autosomal gene. It’s not just domesticated cats who enjoy the effects of catnip, many wild species also enjoy it.
Nepetalactone has a mild hallucinogenic effect on cats and people as well. Catnip is not harmful to your cat. They won’t overdose on it. Most cats know when they’ve had enough and will not indulge in any more.
HAVE YOU TRIED GROWING CATNIP FOR YOUR CAT?
Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for 28 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan