Nine For Your Feline: Catnip Facts

1) Catnip is an easy-to-grow at home herb from the mint family. But don’t go eating it thinking it’ll freshen your breath. It’s like Stephen Baldwin or Rob Kardashian. Just because it’s the same family, doesn’t mean it’s got the same effect.

2) Catnip can be used as a training tool to encourage your pet to use a new scratching post or cozy cat bed you just purchased, as well as encourage an inactive housecat to get some much-needed exercise. Sadly, it does not have the same effect on your kid playing video games in the basement.

3) Catnip’s active chemical is nepetalactone. While neither addictive, nor harmful, the response in cats seems to be a kind of euphoria. Don’t be concerned, however, if your cat starts asking to listen to Phish and going on late-night Jack-in-the-Box runs.

4) A cat's reaction will depend on whether they sniff or eat the herb. Sniffing usually produces a stimulant effect, while ingesting catnip has a sedative effect.

I feel the same way about Mac and Cheese. I sniff it and get irrationally excited or I eat it and pass out for three to four hours.

5) Commonly, cats will paw at it, rub against it, roll around on it, kick and slap at it. Some even dash about, meow, growl, purr, drool, and just generally go bonkers for a few minutes. And then, like most of us with Sunday’s expert level Sudoku, they suddenly lose interest and wander off, only to return a few hours later and go nuts again. I mean, what maniac is designing these puzzles? Sorry, I digress.

6) Catnip makes some cats aggressive rather than happily euphoric or pleasantly relaxed. If you have a multi-cat household, I recommend you introduce catnip to each cat individually to avoid any potential for fighting. See also: my friends at brunch after the third pitcher of mimosas.

7) Sensitivity to nepetalactone is an inherited trait across all types of cats, even big cats like tigers! However, other cats, like those in Australia, are not susceptible to catnip at all. In fact, if a cat flushes the toilet in Australia, the water flows in the opposite direction. Well, that’s more of an Australia fact than a cat fact

8) Catnip can be prepared as a tea to help relieve minor human ailments like headaches, insomnia, and digestive upsets. You can finally throw away those bottles of three years expired Tums!

9) Catnip is a natural pest repellent! It repels flies, mosquitoes, cockroaches and termites. In fact, it's about 10 times as effective as DEET. Though you probably shouldn’t be bringing bundles of it out camping, because while it may repel the bugs, mountain lions are a different story.

Some final words: While I don’t have a specific catnip brand that I recommend, organic is always best. I understand that some may disagree about catnip’s benefits, but rest assured it is neither addictive nor harmful to kitties, and is an herb that naturally grows in the wild. Ultimately, it is a personal choice between you and your little feline friend.