Cuckoo for catnip

By Connie Orcutt • Published: November 1st, 2012
Category: Animal Airwaves

What is it about catnip that makes our feline friends go bonkers?

Catnip is actually a relative of the mint family. Thirty to 90 percent of cats react to catnip with responses ranging from mild interest to wild excitement. All cats, even large ones, with the exception of tigers and bobcats, are susceptible to catnip’s heady effects.

Nobody is certain why cats go cuckoo for catnip, but the active ingredient appears to have opium-like action. Various responses appear to coincide with specific meanings: chewing and salivating mirror feeding behavior, rolling and rubbing mimic cats in heat while other behaviors just look playful.

Catnip is harmless to cats and is not addictive. Its other benefits can include altering the responses of feuding felines and providing pain relief. No wonder cats love it so much.