What’s that, you ask? Nepeta cataria is the Latin name for catnip, that minty herb that makes your cats do back flips and chase imaginary mice up the walls. Many people have heard of it and even seen its effects on their favorite feline, but the history behind this strange plant can be quite fascinating, too, especially to cat lovers.
Catnip originated in Europe and Asia, but grows naturally pretty much all over the world. Its effects on cats in its natural form are just as potent as when it is cultivated, packaged, and hung up for sale in your local supermarket pet aisle.
When exposed, cats will often roll about in it, purr loudly, and otherwise make complete fools of themselves – to their owners’ delight. The exact cause of this odd behavior is not fully understood, and not all cats are affected equally, but it is suspected that the plant acts on some cats they way that certain pheromones in cat urine do, producing an arousing and stimulating sensation.
In case you’re wondering, all indicators are that catnip is completely safe for your cats, but as with any treat, it should be dispensed in moderation.