MOST cat owners will know the effect that catnip has on their furry friends. Some cats just get high and don’t have too many outward effects, while others literally go wild for the stuff. Only around two-thirds of cats are genetically programmed to react to catnip; the other third do not carry the hereditary gene and have no reaction.
A distant relation of marijuana, catnip is a member of the mint family and a perennial herb, of which there are several types. The active ingredient in catnip that gets cats high is called nepetalactone and is found in the leaves and stems of the plant. Nepetalactone gives a hallucinogenic effect, some say similar to that of LSD, others say to that of marijuana.
Cats love affair with catnip involves sniffing it, rubbing themselves up against it, licking it and eating it. Each activity produces a different effect; sniffing the herb stimulates kitty, but once eaten it acts as a sedative. The high obtained from the herb usually lasts between five and 15 minutes.
Catnip is not harmful to cats and they won’t overdose on it; when they have had enough they refuse more.
Only once a kitten is eight weeks old, or sometimes as old as three months, can they enjoy catnip, prior to that they often show an aversion to it.