How does catnip affect my cat?

Catnip is a plant that has a hypnotizing effect on the feline family, but how exactly does it work?

This leafy green herb doesn’t just work on house cats, but larger species as well, including the king of the jungle, according to Scientific American. While, for the most part, other animals and insects barely even notice the plant, felines can actually hone in on it.

This is because catnip contains an oil called nepetalactone, reported Dr. Ombrello, a member of Union County College’s biology department in New Jersey. The oil, described as volatile, can be sniffed out by cats. The reaction to catnip can differ slightly from cat to cat, but you may notice some of these behaviors:

  • Rubbing their heads and bodies on the catnip (or the toy containing the plant)
  • Meowing more than usual
  • Rolling on the floor
  • Salivating

Not all cats will be affected by catnip, as Scientific American explained that the oils in the plant typically only affect 70 to 80 percent of felines. It’s a reaction that come with age, as well. Cats who do enjoy the sensation and smell of catnip won’t display signs until they are at least six months old.

Scientific American stressed that the plant is completely harmless to cats, and it’s not addictive either, so go ahead and let your cat enjoy the catnip-stuffed toys you bought her.