Many people buy catnip toys for their cats, and most cats seem to enjoy it, but why?
Catnip is related to the mint family of plants and there are different varieties that grow around the world. The active ingredient (nepetalactone) is a hallucinogen, and it releases “feel-good” hormones in the cat.
Cats will often sniff, roll around, drool, lick the catnip, head and body rub it, and sometimes become hyper. The high typically lasts for 5-15 minutes with an hour or so refractory period (when they can no longer distinguish the smell). Some cats, about a third, do not respond at all to catnip.
And not only domestic cats like a little ‘nip - big cats such as tigers and leopards like it too! There are other plants that cats seem to like in addition to catnip. One is called silver vine. It has euphoric effects similar to catnip. Silver vine is a climbing vine that grows in Asia and has long been used as a medicinal herb. The effects of silver vine may last longer in some cats, and some cats who do not respond to catnip may respond to silver vine.