Why Do Cats Go Crazy for Catnip?

Catnip (Nepeta cataria) is a common herb that belongs to the mint plant family, and cats go crazy for it…or rather, from it.


Why Do Cats Go Crazy for Catnip?

If you’ve ever gone to a friend’s house and seen their cats rolling and lounging around in bliss, you may have thought, “I’ll have what they’re having!” These lucky cats are actually experiencing a reaction to catnip.

What Is Catnip?

Catnip (Nepeta cataria) is a common herb that belongs to the mint plant family, and cats go crazy for it…or rather, from it.


Why Do Cats Go Crazy for Catnip?

All cats have a special gland located on the roofs of their mouths called the vomeronasal gland. This gland allows cats to smell from inside their mouths, and when this gland picks up a scent, it transports it directly to the cat’s nervous system.

Catnip contains an oil compound called nepetalactone that causes a reaction in cats’ brains. When a cat sniffs or ingests catnip, the vomeronasal gland picks up the nepetalactone compound and transports it to the cat’s brain where it triggers a release of endorphins into the bloodstream. These hormones are responsible for the zany behavior that cats exhibit when they’re around catnip: licking, sniffing, increased appetite, scratching and rolling.

Some cats become increasingly energetic, playful, and even aggressive, while other cats become increasingly lovable, snuggly, and relaxed.

Although most cats react to catnip, the reaction is actually an inherited trait and (sadly for them) not all cats are born with a sensitivity to catnip that will produce a behavioral response to the herb. Additionally, kittens don’t usually develop any reaction to catnip until they reach about six months of age.

Is Catnip Safe for Cats?

Catnip is safe for cats to eat. In fact, it can help promote a healthy digestive system. That being said, ingesting too much catnip can cause a cat to experience gastrointestinal upset.


From Catnip to Cat Naps – Learn All About Caring for Your Cat

At Sleepy Hollow Animal Hospital, we offer comprehensive veterinary care for both dogs and cats. Whether you’ve just adopted a new kitten, are new to the area, or are looking to establish care with a different veterinarian, we welcome you to contact Sleepy Hollow Animal Hospital. With nutrition and lifestyle counseling in addition to our wellness and preventative care services, our veterinarians can help you provide your pet a healthy and happy life.