When cats roll around like maniacs flattening your catnip bush, they're trying to get the leaves and stems to release the compound nepetalactone, which binds to their nasal receptors and causes an ecstatic 10-minute high. The fact that young kittens do not react to catnip suggests that nepetalactone mimics kitty pheremones. Surprisingly, if cats ingest catnip instead of sniffing it, it acts as a sedative—just like it does for humans! That's right: many people use catnip as a medicinal herb with similar effects to chamomile. A relative of mint, catnip is perennial and will happily spread.
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