Kitty's Favorite Herb: Catnip

Cat enjoying a bit of fresh cat nipThe attraction of cats to catnip has been known for centuries and has given us the common name of this plant. An essential oil — nepetalactone — triggers an amazing reaction in cats: sniffing, licking and chewing the plant with head shaking, chin and cheek and body rubbing. Eye dilation and drooling may also occur. Cats respond to tiny amounts of nepetalactone — concentrations approaching one part per billion. It is interesting that only about two thirds of cats respond to catnip. It is an inherited trait— breeds originating from Asia typically don’t respond to catnip.

Catnip (Nepeta cataria), a perennial herb in the mint family, was introduced to North America by European settlers and grows wild in most of the U.S. Catnip tea was used by settlers as a folk remedy for colds and fever, cramps, migraines and other disorders. Despite this widespread use, the pharmaceutical uses of catnip have not been studied very much.

catnipEven though the response of cats to catnip is well known, many people are unaware that catnip oil repels a number of different insect species, including planthoppers and spittlebugs, German cockroaches, subterranean termites, mosquitoes and several beetle species.

For more information, read the entire Nebline Article: Catnip Attracts Cats and Repels Pests by Barb Ogg, Extension Educator. (this is a .pdf file)

Other resources you might enjoy:

What's the Scoop on Insect Repellents

Youth Gardening Activity. Plant a Zoo Garden

The World is Their Litterbox. Discouraging Cats. (this is a .pdf file)

The Butterfly Garden (Nebraska Statewide Aboretum)


Guess it PhotoThis Can You Guess It?? photo appears in the January 2006 NEBLINE Newsletter.

Did you miss a
Can You Guess It??

See more photos & resources here.


Lancaster County Home PageHome Page

University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension in Lancaster County
Confidentiality Statement

University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension educational programs
abide with the nondiscrimination policies of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln
and the United States Department of Agriculture.
All Rights Reserved 1996-2006