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Monday, August 02, 2004

VetCentric - Getting High on Catnip:
'It doesn't cause harm. It's not addictive. We're not sure how it works or why.'

What is known is this: catnip is a member of the mint family Lamiaceae. When the branches are broken and bruised, the herb releases nepetalactone, a kind of chemical.

Cats have a special receptor for the nepetalactone molecule that activates when it inhales the scent - even though your cat eats the herb, that won't cause the reaction. It has to be breathed in.

Once that happens, the cat goes a little nuts, behaving like it's in heat - though both males and females react the same way. The high lasts five to 15 minutes, and then it's over. The cat won't react again to catnip for about an hour. So don't worry about your cat turning into a junkie, Dr. Davis said. 'There's a line of tolerance.'

Catnip can make a cat vomit or give it diarrhea if it eats too much of it, though, so dole it out carefully.

Not all cats react to catnip. A dominant gene - inherited from one or both parents - causes the response. About 25 percent of cats don't respond at all. Kittens won't be affected until they're about three months old.
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