Catnip – Why Don’t All Cats React?
30 March, 2016

Anyone who owns a cat knows the potential power of catnip!  Catnip is a great way to get a cat revved up and is a short term high for most cats.  And, better yet, it’s safe and is a great ride for your cats and super fun for us to watch them react.  Yet, not all cats react from catnip and it’s sort of a mystery why some cats are crazy acrobats on catnip while others walk away from it unaffected.

What is catnip anyway?

Catnip is a member of the mint family.  It is the oil in catnip (or (nepetalactone) that has the powerful effect on cats who are sensitive to it.  It can turn a sluggish cat into an athlete that suddenly runs, jumps, skids and goes batty around the house!

Catnip hits your cats’ noses

The most intense catnip experience is an olfactory one…your cat smells the catnip and then will react to it and usually go nuts! Cats are unique in that they are sensory sensitive, particularly with smells, and we humans don’t get a physical reaction from smells.  However, when your cat eats catnip, it tends to have the opposite effect: the cat may become very mellow and sleepy.

Most cats ‘on’ catnip will go crazy and become hyper-aroused

Most cats react to catnip by rolling, flipping, rubbing, jumping and then eventually zoning out. They may meow or growl at the same time.  Some cats run around like their tails are on fire, and some get downright aggressive, especially if you approach them. They must protect their food and toys!  Have an overweight cat? Give him or her some catnip and get them moving.

Catnip sessions typically last ten minutes

Usually a catnip session lasts about ten minutes, after which your cat loses interest. Some cats take as long as two hours to calm down and become susceptible to catnip again. Don’t try it before bedtime if you want to fall asleep or if you are trying to get your cat to eat a meal!

Catnip is an inherited sensitivity and not all cats react

Not all cats react to catnip as it is an inherited sensitivity and if your cat didn’t get that gene, he or she simply won’t care about catnip.  Fifty percent of cats don’t respond to catnip. The trait doesn’t emerge until a cat is between three and six months old; a kitten will not have respond.  And, don’t expose your kitten to it at such a young age so please refrain on testing on kitties.  Some older cats become immune to it quickly so dole it out sparingly.

Catnip has its most potent effect when it’s fresh

Catnip loses its potency over time so keep your catnip fresh by storing it in the freezer in an airtight container or bag.  You can also grow catnip or the mint itself and have a great supply ready and fresh!  Of course, if your cat does go crazy for it, try to keep it outside or out of your cat’s reach and dole it out sparingly.   Cats can become immune to it.

Try some catnip on your beloved feline family member (if you haven’t already) and see if your cat reacts!


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