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My cat really goes crazy over catnip, is it dangerous?

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Beaker gets 'nipped by iLoveButter on Flickr

Beaker gets 'nipped

by iLoveButter on Flickr
Question: My cat really goes crazy over catnip, is it dangerous?
Catnip is a perennial herb belonging to the mint family Labiatae. Catnip is known in scientific nomenclature as "Nepeta cataria". The plant is a weed-like mint that is now native in North America and Canada after being introduced from its native Mediterranean soil. Some cats go crazy for catnip. Why? Is it harmless? Read this FAQ to find out.
Answer: Cats are unique in their response to catnip, as cats have a special receptor for the catnip active ingredient, called Nepetalactone. The receptor is located in the cat's hard palate (roof of the mouth) and is called the vomeronasal organ.

Nepetalactone is not addictive or harmful for cats. The behavioral response can be very dramatic in some cats - rolling, licking, rubbing, drooling, jumping, running. Other cats appear to become very sedate after exposure.

Very young and senior cats do not respond as much, or at all to catnip. Additionally, the feline response to catnip is genetic; 10-30% of the cat population does not respond to catnip at all, at any age. Some cats are genetically "programmed" to respond to catnip, some aren't.

In any case, for all of the (sometimes entertaining) behaviors seen, catnip is completely nontoxic to cats. If a large quantity of fresh catnip is consumed, you may see some vomiting or diarrhea, but this is rare and self-limiting. If your cat experiences this, limit or withhold catnip.

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