VCA Animal Hospitals

Should I buy catnip for my feline?

Published: Oct 18, 2012

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If you're a new cat owner, chances are you've heard of catnip. This herb affects some cats in interesting and often fun ways, but if you've never purchased it yourself, you may have some questions about what it is and how it works. Here's some general information to help you decide if catnip is right for your feline companion.

What is catnip?
Catnip is an all natural herb similar to mint, according to It's official, scientific name is Nepeta cataria, and it is not a drug. In the wild, the plant has bright blue flowers, though the form given to felines looks more like a dried herb, or else is infused into a toy of some sort. reports that Nepeta cataria grows in the dry, desert regions of North America.

What does catnip do?
According to VCA Animal Hospitals, catnip only affects about 50 percent of the feline population, so don't be surprised if your pet doesn't have a response to the herb. Those who are affected by the chemical compounds in the plant can display a wide variety of reactions. Some become more mellow and relaxed, while others might act excited, playful or vocal. Some may even drool or rub their face where the catnip has been sprinkled, but this is not an indication of a pet health problem. If you are interested to see how your cat responds, start out with a small amount in a safe space where your cat can play or relax as desired.

Is catnip safe?
VCA reports that catnip is not harmful in any way to felines, nor is the chemical within catnip addictive. "If your cat is a responder, giving access to catnip can add another dimension to his life," the website reports. If you are observing your cat while he is playing with catnip, and you are concerned that he is suffering a medical issue, you should take him to one of the near by vet clinics for a checkup. Chances are it's not the catnip, but something else that is causing a health problem.

What kind of cats can benefit from catnip?
In addition to adding a bit of spice to your feline's life, catnip can also help your feline overcome cat behavior problems such as aggression toward you or other felines, or a lack of excitement and playfulness. Cats who enjoy the effects of catnip will be more likely to relax, play and exercise, so consider using the herb to encourage healthy living for your feline.


General Practice

We have over 540 animal hospitals in 41 states that are staffed by more than 2,000 fully qualified, dedicated and compassionate veterinarians, with more than 200 being board-certified specialists. The nationwide VCA family of general practice hospitals give your pet the very best in medical care, providing a full range of general medical and surgical services as well as specialized treatments*: Wellness, Spay/neuter, Advanced diagnostic services (MRI/CT Scan), Internal medicine, Oncology, Ophthalmology, Dermatology, Cardiology, Neurology, Boarding, Grooming

*services may vary by location.

Our family of pet hospitals stands out by delivering the greatest resources in order provide the highest quality care available for your pets. By maintaining the highest standards of pet health care available anywhere, we emphasize prevention as well as healing. We provide continuing education programs to our doctors and staff and promote the open exchange of professional knowledge and expertise. And finally, we have established a consistent program of procedures and techniques, proven to be the most effective in keeping pets healthy.

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Specialty Care

Sometimes sick or injured pets need the care of a veterinary medical specialist. When that happens, VCA specialty hospitals work closely with the general practitioner veterinarians who refer cases to us in order to provide seamless veterinary care to your pet. When your pet is facing any kind of serious illness or injury, our specialty referral hospitals will provide the compassionate and expert care your beloved pet needs.

Our goal is to make sure that when you and your pet are in need that you have access to board certified specialists who are up to date on the very latest developments in their field. In our state of the art hospitals, our specialists also have access to the most sophisticated diagnostic and treatment tools and techniques from ultrasonography and endoscopy to CAT scans and even MRI.

We have twenty-eight specialty hospitals across the US so there may be one near you. Our specialized services include: cardiology, critical care, dentistry, dermatology, internal medicine, neurology, oncology, ophthalmology, radiology and surgery.

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Emergency Care

In case of emergency, please call us immediately. If it is after hours, check with a local animal hospital emergency clinic.