According to an article published in Pet Age magazine, the chemical nepetalactone is the active ingredient in catnip. Nepetalactone is the primary component of an essential oil of the plant.
The chemical is released when the leaves are “disturbed” by rubbing, chewing, or other movement. Why then, do some cats go wild from just the smell? That was not addressed in the article. The truth is, no one really knows!
Apparently, the response to catnip is hereditary, and up to 30% of cats do not have the “catnip gene”.
One school of thought believes that catnip activates the same brain neurons that regulates sexual behavior. Others cite evidence that the chemical structure of nepetalactone is similar to LSD and believe it leads to a mildly hallucinogenic effect.
Still others disagree with both theories, and haven’t a clue as to why it is effective.
What’s your experience?