The Hervey Foundation for Cats

Why Do Cats Love Catnip?

It’s common knowledge that cats love catnip, but what is catnip and why does it seem to drive your cat wild?

Catnip, or Nepeta Cateria, is a plant native to parts of Asia, the Middle East and Europe. A member of the mint family, the more common names of Catnip or Catmint are actually derived from the reaction it creates in cats. What used to be an ingredient in herbal teas, and was thought to have healing properties, is now mostly something sold at pet stores for consumption by cats.

What is happening when a cat rolls around in cat nip?

Catnip contains a specific ingredient known as nepetalactone. Cats are attracted to the odor of nepetalactone and it binds in their nasal glands producing euphoric effects. Other ingredients in catnip work to inhibit the central nervous system and once these two elements are achieved, you can expect to see your cat rolling around on the floor and generally acting crazy.

When cats smell catnip, as mentioned before, they often roll in it, but many cats will also eat it. It is said the smell of the catnip, or more specifically, the nepetalactone, produces a ‘happy euphoric sensation’, while the consumption of it will mellow them out.

In many cases, cats will sniff and consume the catnip, enjoy their moment of euphoria, then lay down and sleep it off. After about two hours or so pass, they may become interested in it again and repeat the process, though often to a lesser degree unless the catnip has been replenished.

Not all Cats Love Catnip

Catnip isn’t a sure-fire way to impress your cat or give them a little levity in their day. Some sources online say that between 30% to 50% of cats do not experience cat nip euphoria. At the end of the day, it is worth experimenting with your cat to see if they react to it as it is something they may enjoy!

Other Things that Drive Cats Wild

Cats love mint! As catnip is a member of the mint family, the same cats who react to catnip will also react to mint. Have you ever brushed your teeth and had your cat try to sit with you shortly after? If they get a whiff of your breath, they may just try to stick their face in yours.

Honeysuckle is another item that generates an unexpected reaction in your cat. It contains an ingredient extraordinarily similar to nepetalactone and generates reactions not far off from catnip. Cats will purr, roll, knead, drool and become energetic when interacting with honeysuckle.

See what your cat likes by experimenting with different things. Everyone enjoys a little break in their day and catnip may just be the thing to give your cat that break.