Ever Wonder About the History of Catnip?

Have you ever wondered about the history of catnip?

Probably not.

Interestingly enough, I have and I thought I would share a bit of the information with you.

If you have a cat there is no doubt that may you have tried giving it catnip a time or two, just to see its reaction or bought a toy filled with catnip.

My cats each have a different reaction to the herb.

Smokey licks it up like it is his last meal, Boots rolls in it, salivates and cannot get enough of it, while Miss Tiger ignores it completely.

So what is this thing that cats either like so much or ignore completely?

It is a plant native to Europe, Asia and Africa and was imported to the North American continent. In many places in the United States it is considered a weed.

The Latin name is Nepeta and there are approximately 250 varieties of this plant. It can grow about 3 feet tall and can bear either small white, blue or lavender flowers. Catnip is a member of the mint family, though it really doesn’t smell like mint.

It undoubtedly was used first by humans as a herb tea to cure many ailments such as; nervousness, colds, fevers, bladder infections, upset stomachs, colic , diarrhea and much more.

From 1842 to 1882 it was listed in the U.S. as a drug in the U.S. Pharmacopoeia (an organization in the early days of our history that set standards for both druggists and drug manufacturers to follow) and from 1916 to 1950 by the National Formulary (a similar organization).

The USDA currently lists catnip as a drug of “undefined safety.”

Surprisingly, catnip is still widely used today in the United States, as an herb tea to help ease discomfort caused by all the ailments that people in the middle ages used it for,

Cats it is said, are either genetically predisposed to liking catnip or they are not. There is something in the genes that make cats react to it.

Kittens until the are at least 10 to 11 months old have no interest in catnip, then if the gene is there, it will kick in.

Catnip really has no smell even though it is related to the mint family, so why do cats like it? It seems catnip has a chemical called nepetalactone in it that triggers the cat’s reaction. It is kind of like “the nose knows.”

Will your cat become addicted to catnip if you give it too much?


The average cat high lasts about 10 minutes and then it is all gone. Some cats however, have been known to get sexually stimulated and will react accordingly for a short time, while others might become aggressive. It is a condition sort of like a human having too much alcohol and reacting to it.

At my house, the only reaction we really enjoy, is Boots rolling around the floor looking like he is in “hog heaven.” I do not give them a catnip treat very often, but when I do all I have to do is shake the container and Boots will come running.

Catnip is not addictive for cats and it can be grown in a flower pot or in a small place in your yard, If it is outside in the yard however, be prepared for the neighborhood cats coming to visit and play.