By Marva Marrow

If given catnip, nepeta cataria, most cats will react with wild antics. Even the most laid-back couch potatoes will start vigorously rolling, purring, growling and leaping in the air. Domestic cats are not the only ones to have this strange attraction. Lions, lynxes and other felines are known to have the same response to this mild kitty hallucinogen. One in three cats does not react to catnip and usually until kittens are five or six months old, they will usually just stare at the older cats' reactions in curious disbelief.

Cats react to the odor of catnip, although they do nibble on the leaves. Sometimes catnip is used as a tranquilizer, to distract a cat from a stressful situation, such as her first cat show or car trip. Breeders used to think it was aphrodisiac because the rolling behavior is very similar to the behavior of a cat in heat. However, this is not true.

Catnip, a member of the mint family, is related to herbs such as thyme and sage. The plant has heart-shaped leaves with zigzag edges and grows easily and wild, reaching a height of three feet. It is a perennial that you can grow for your cat with little effort. Catnip also makes an aromatic and delicious tea for humans. In humans, it has the effect of soothing nerves, inducing sleep and reducing fever.

For your cat, catnip is most effective when used in small doses every so often, as an occasional pleasure-- like a kitty cocktail! Rub it on scratching posts, on toys, or sprinkle some on the carpet and watch 'em roll!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Marva Marrow is a Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (IAABC: International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants) with more than 30 years of experience. Her feline behavior business, The Kitty Kouch aids veterinarians, shelters, rescue groups and private clients. She is a frequent contributor and consultant to Cat Fancy and Animal Awareness magazines and to nationally syndicated newspapers. Marva breeds, shows and shares her home with her Oriental Shorthair cats. She may be reached at marva@kittykouch.com.


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