Ever seen your moggie rolling round in their favourite plant? The fluffy beasts go wild for spot of catnip. But why?
The plant produces a chemical called nepetalactone, which forms a vapour that enters the cat’s nose and interacts with cells involved in its sense of smell – the olfactory epithelium. It’s thought that this chemical mimics the function of cat pheromones.
Cats seem to use catmint as a recreational drug, rubbing their faces against the stems and leaves to release more of the volatile chemicals. Just as humans become accustomed to smells if they are around them for long enough, the effect of catmint begins to wear off after about 10 to 15 minutes as the nose becomes desensitised. It takes about two hours to fully recover.