Catnip Poisoning in Cats | Wag!

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Catnip Poisoning in Cats | Wag!

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A cat’s response to catnip is mediated through the olfactory system, or sense of smell. As with any scent, the active ingredient of the scent source enters the nasal passages and binds to the receptors in the olfactory system. This action stimulates the sensory neurons which then go on to trigger the olfactory bulb to send signals to the brain. Felines are especially sensitive to the smell of catnip because they have a specialized receptor in the hard palate (roof of the mouth) known as the vomeronasal organ. This olfactory organ is receptive to the active ingredient in catnip, called nepetalactone, causing the feline to display dramatic behavior of running, jumping, drooling, rubbing, licking and rolling on the ground. Researchers believe the plant to cause a similar release of feel-good pheromones as marijuana, but catnip does not affect all cats in the same way. Only 50 to 60 percent of felines can pick up on the scents released by the weed-like plant and kittens, as well as older felines, are not affected at all.

Catnip is a perennial herb from the Labiatae mint family. Catnip can be identified by its heart shaped, scalloped leaves, hairy stalk and greenish/grey coloration. Catnip is native to North America, known for its unique effect on cats. Catnip releases feel-good pheromones that over half the feline population are heavily attracted to, displaying a subdued or in-love behavior. Although catnip is not a true toxin and is not addictive, consuming the plant in large amounts can cause a poison-like reaction. A feline that has consumed too much catnip will display clinical signs of vomiting and diarrhea with no other accompanying symptoms.

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