Many people think catnip is as addicting and personality-altering for felines as drugs are for humans. What does catnip do to cats, really? Is it as potent as we think it is? Your friends at Union Lake Veterinary Hospital are here to help you determine if catnip toys are ideal for your favorite feline.

The 411 on Catnip 

Catnip is a plant containing a chemical called nepetalactone, which impacts different areas of a cat’s brain. This can occur if a feline eats it or inhales it through the nostrils. Scientists are not sure exactly what it does to a cat’s brain. 

There is research to show that it might create different reactions if it is inhaled than if it is eaten. Some scientists believe that when a cat inhales catnip, it turns on positive receptors in the brain and leads to a sort of euphoric reaction. On the other hand, they believe it brings on a more mellow reaction when eaten. 

Many cat owners have reported that their cats don’t seem interested in catnip or seem affected by it. Some studies think a cat’s genetic makeup will affect whether or not they will respond to catnip. Others believe that all cats will have some level of reaction. Cats who do respond to catnip have a reaction to both the pure plant form and the distilled version found in toys.

What Does Catnip Do to Cats?

While we do not know exactly how or why catnip changes a cat’s mood, we do know that there are plenty of kitties that love it. 

When exposed to catnip, cats might do the following for about ten minutes after they inhale or ingest it:

  • Roll around on the plant (or catnip toy)
  • Vocalize like female cats do while in heat
  • Salivate
  • Have dilating pupils
  • Experience extreme relaxation for about thirty minutes

Is It Dangerous?

These amusing reactions to catnip can present plenty of social media-worthy video clips, but is catnip (and the reactions it causes) safe? Cat owners can rest assured that catnip is not harmful to cats. There is a chance that eating too much of the plant could lead to an upset stomach, but it should be a mild reaction that passes quickly. Offering your kitty catnip in moderation is a perfectly safe way to give them a fun and exciting change of pace.

Cats are curious creatures. Their unique personalities and quirky behaviors have humans wrapped around their little paws. When catnip magnifies these traits and behaviors, we can’t help but love them even more. 

What does catnip do to cats? Whether you have questions about catnip, cat behavior or it’s time for your kitty’s next wellness exam, the team at Union Lake Veterinary Hospital is here for you. We love having a part in keeping the animals in and around Waterford safe and healthy. Call 248-363-1508 to learn more about our services or to schedule an appointment.