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    Catnip—What It Is and Why You Should Try It On Your Cat

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    Updated: November 28, 2017

    What is catnip?

    Though many cat owners are aware of catnip (sometimes called catmint), they don’t actually know what it is. So I thought I’d take a second to “pull back the curtain” and also share a couple of great uses for catnip with you.

    Catnip is actually a herb! It’s in the mint family and, if you’re interested, its scientific name is Nepeta cataria. Though it is native to parts of Asia and Europe, you can actually grow catnip yourself in indoor pots or in your garden. And though you could technically do so, I don’t actually recommend growing catnip in your window boxes. Its attractiveness to your cats could increase your cat’s risk of suffering a high-rise fall!

    Catnip-plant.jpgWhile many cats like and do well with their “catnip high,” (see the video below for a "chemistry lesson") playing and becoming calm and content, you should know that there are some cats that actually become hyper and potentially a little aggressive under the influence of catnip. And there are also some cats that aren't affected by catnip at all (estimates put it at about 30-35% of cats that aren't affected). So, if you haven’t used it with your cat(s) yet but plan to, it might be best to do a little test and see how they respond first. Typically the effects of catnip last only about 10 minutes to an hour.

    Uses for catnip

    The typical use for catnip is to encourage cats to play, and for this it can be great to incorporate into your environmental enrichment for your cats. However, encouraging play isn’t the only use for catnip.

    Given that it can have a calming, soothing effect, catnip can also be great as part of a plan to help reduce a cat’s stress and anxiety when going to the vet, when they need to travel, or even when they’re having urinary issues (note that stress is a major contributing factor to urinary obstruction in cats!). I mean just look at this adorable ball of floof who doesn't seem to have a care in the world:


    Check out an entire gallery filled with cats enjoying catnip, and also make sure to follow the photographer, Andrew Martilla, on Instagram.

    And catnip doesn’t just help your cats! Since it has mosquito-repellent properties, planting catnip in your garden and yard can help to keep the area around your home mosquito-free! Which could greatly benefit you—both from a nuisance standpoint, as well as disease-prevention standpoint (West Nile, Zika, etc.). And since mosquitoes are how heartworm disease is spread to both cats and dogs, you’ve got even more incentive to keep these flying pests out of and away from your home.

    And there you go, a quick little overview of catnip and how it can help your cats (and you).

    Have you used catnip with your cats? How do they do with it? Have you ever tried growing your own catnip? We’d love to hear about your experiences.

    Please note: Unless otherwise stated, products, services, and/or companies mentioned, or links to same, are for illustration purposes only and their inclusion does not constitute an endorsement from Preventive Vet. Additionally, we are NOT compensated if you choose to buy what we feature.

    Topics: Cat Behavior, Cat Health, Cat Stress, Blog, Urinary obstruction, Cat

    Please do not ask emergency or other specific medical questions about your pets in the blog comments. As an online informational resource, Preventive Vet is unable to and does not provide specific medical advice or counseling. A thorough physical exam, patient history, and an established veterinary-patient-client relationship is required to provide specific medical advice. If you are worried that your pet is having an emergency or if you have specific medical questions related to your pet’s current or chronic medical conditions, please contact or visit your veterinarian, an animal-specific poison control hotline, or your local emergency veterinary care center.

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