What Does Catnip Do to a Cat's Brain?

What is catnip, and what does catnip do to cats? Learn the fascinating ways catnip plants can affect your feline and how to use it appropriately.

What is catnip, and what does catnip do to cats? Learn the fascinating ways catnip plants can affect your feline and how to use it appropriately.

Is your cat cuckoo for catnip? What does it do to her brain? To start, catnip is an herb belonging to the mint family. Cats might sniff, lick, or chew on catnip. The active ingredient is nepetalic acid – which causes behavioral changes such as head shaking, rubbing, and vocalizations. Response to catnip is actually an inherited trait. Catnip attracts some cats, but not all of them.

In general, catnip is considered safe and nontoxic. But limit catnip to every two or three weeks, because ingesting too much can cause mild gastrointestinal illness such as vomiting or diarrhea. It might also cause seizures, so avoid giving catnip to cats with epilepsy. And if you use it too often, cats might lose their responsiveness to it. 

Did you know that we can have catnip, too? It has been chewed, smoked, and ingested as a tea or juice for many years as a remedy for everything from hiccups to toothaches to respiratory disorders.

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