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Catnip – An Interesting Herb

September 8, 2015

The other day, while in an exam room with one of our feline patients, I became aware of a new product.  During most of the examination and even while receiving her vaccinations, the client had her cat mesmerized by this green ball.  I started asking her questions about it and she informed me that it was called a “Pawbreaker”, a compressed edible catnip ball.  Sydney the cat literally kept her focus on this cat candy the entire time, licking away, not aware of anything going on around her.  As a veterinarian, it seemed like an effective way to keep a cat distracted so I was able to perform a thorough examination and administer her vaccinations with ease.  As an animal lover, I found Sydney’s obsession with the “Pawbreaker” delightful and somewhat comical.

So, it got me thinking more about catnip and what this herb does to cats.  Catnip is a perennial herb in the mint family.  It contains an essential oil called nepetalactone which can provide a “feel-good” effect on some cats.  Up to 66% of cats will respond to the effects of catnip and the level of response is varied.  Typical responses to catnip include sniffing, licking, chewing, face, chin, and body rubbing.  A few cats may have a less than desired response, such as hyperactivity or aggression.  The effects of the catnip only last for about 5-10 minutes at a time.

It is good practice to wait until kittens are at least 5-6 months of age before offering them catnip.  You can grow catnip, purchase dried catnip, or find products already laced with catnip such as “Pawbreakers”, scratching posts or toys.  It is very difficult to overdose a cat with catnip as they tend to turn away from it when they feel they have had enough.

Here’s to keeping our feline friends “happy” in any way we can!


Written by: Dr. Jen Seidl

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