Is Catnip a Drug for Cats?

Most people think of catnip as having drug-like effects on their cats. Some cats lick it, eat it or just sniff it and owners can see a definite behavior change. Catnip is actually a plant from the mint family. It contains the chemical trans-nepetalactone which causes the cats' odd behavior. It is not a drug; therefore completely safe for cats!

House cats aren't the only animals that go bonkers for catnip; tigers do too. In fact, all animals in the felidae family react to it. Humans and other animals are not affected by the trans-nepetalactone in the catnip. So why does this chemical make members of the cat family go crazy for it? Well, trans-nepetalactone smells just like a chemical found in a dominant female cat's urine. This smell deceives male cats, causing them to try to impress the female by acting crazy. They roll around, jump, stretch out their claws and anything else to get 'her' attention.

Not all cats are affected by catnip though. So, don't think that your cat is not truly a cat if it doesn't act bizarre around catnip. Older cats or kittens may not be affected by catnip. Also, cats may have a crazy reaction to the catnip then walk away and act normal for a while. As soon as their brain 'resets' and the cat goes back to the catnip, the same reaction occurs. The craziness associated with your cat in the presence of catnip can go on as long as the catnip keeps its smell. Although we can't smell it, our cats go wild for it!

About the Author

Rebekah Shaffer

Rebekah ShafferRebekah Shaffer is currently a Junior at Slippery Rock University, PA. She is pursuing her B.S. in Biology, minor in Chemistry. She currently works as a microbiology lab assistant at Slippery Rock University and is a member of Beta Beta Beta Biology Honorary Society. She plans to obtain her Ph.D. in Molecular/Cellular Biology after completing her undergraduate degree.