Your cat, Winston, has a fondness for catnip. He has several catnip toys plus the dried catnip you keep in a can on the counter. You can count on him to come running from whatever high place he’s perched when he hears the lid of the can opens. So, what is it about catnip that Winton loves so much?

Facts about catnip

There’s more to catnip than a fun time for Winston. It has other uses which you may find surprising as well as being used as a training tool for Winston. Since catnip is a herb that contains the chemical nepetalactone, this’s what triggers the sometimes-funny responses in cats.

However, not all kitties are affected by catnip. The sensitivity to the chemical in catnip is a trait which is inherited through the parents.

  • Catnip belongs to the mint family Nepeta cataria and is a perennial which grows two to three feet tall. The leaves are, and the stem tips have small blue, pink, white or lavender blooms. Catnip was imported to the U.S. from Europe, Africa, and Asia and now grows throughout the U.S.
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Nepeta cataria

  • The response to the chemical nepetalactone is what triggers the reaction in Winston. The result is similar to the response which humans have to hallucinogenic drugs. It will give Winston a feeling of euphoria, but it isn’t addictive or harmful for felines.


  • Reactions for a cat is different depending on if it’s sniffed or consumed. If the catnip is sniffed, then it will have a stimulating effect. If the catnip is eaten, then the effect may make Winston fall asleep.

Winston may meow, growl, purr, kick it or even slap at it. The effect may only last a few minutes, then Winston may lose interest and find something else to do. Then a few hours later, he’ll rediscover the catnip again, and the effect will begin all over.

  • Catnip can be used by people, as long as they’re not pregnant. It can relieve headaches, toothache, and nausea as well as being a mild sedative.

It can be prepared as an infusion or a tea. It’s also available in the form of a capsule at health stores. Plus, if the leaves are crushed and moistened, it can be used topically for wounds and cuts. It can also be added to cooking as a herb.

To grow your own

You can grow your own catnip easily after the last freeze of the season. It can be grown from seed or as a seedling but, regardless, the plants need a lot of growing room. It can be grown in porous soil and full sunlight. After the plant is full grown, it can be cut, hung upside down to dry in a space which is airy and dark. Then the leaves can be placed in containers which are airtight and put in the fridge.

Catnip is a non-harmful herb which can be enjoyed by your cat and you when you watch his antics.

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