Catnip has a reputation for sending cats into a state of euphoria. Even lions and tigers succumb to the fragrance. The response to catnip has been observed for hundreds of years and in 1791 The Conjurors' Magazine reported "In the new moon gather the herb nepe, and dry it in the heat of the sun, when it is temperately hot: gather vervain in the hour of Mercury, and only expose it to the air while the sun is under the earth. Hang these together in a net in a convenient place, and then a cat has scented it, her cry will soon call those about her that are within hearing; and they will rant and run about, leaping and capering to get at the net, which must be hung or places so that they cannot easily accomplish it, for they will nearly tear it to pieces. Near Bristol there is a field that goes by the name of the The Field of the Cats from a large number of these animals being drawn there together by this contrivance."
The response to catnip can range from sniffing, to licking, chin and neck rubbing and rolling. Many cat owners will have purchased cat toys containing catnip and been disappointed when their cat did not become excited by the scent.
The cat's response to catnip is inherited as a autosomal dominant gene, meaning that cats with the catnip response gene have a 50% chance of passing the gene on to each of their offspring so not all cats will become excited by catnip.
Kittens under 8 weeks seem to dislike catnip and it is not until they are over 3 months old that cats with the catnip response gene will be excited by the scent.
The true cat nip is a herb and is a member of the mint family. It is sometimes also called catmint. Although there are hundreds of varieties of Nepeta it is only Nepeta cataria that has the volatile oil which excites some cats.
If your cat has a catnip response consider growing the herb in your garden as it is an attractive plant with white flowers. If you purchase a cat toy filled with catnip, even a cat with no catnip response gene will play with the toy as it would with any other.
Why not consider catnip for your Kitty's Christmas gift?
Article Courtesy of Petcare Information and Advisory Service Australia