The Science Behind Why Cats Love Catnip

Does your cat go crazy for catnip?  Approximately 70-80% of cats are affected by catnip to some degree.  What is it about this plant that provokes such a strong reaction in cats?  Here’s a quick look at the science of catnip.

Catnip, also called catmint, is a member of the mint family.  The scientific name of catnip is Nepeta cataria.  There are many varieties of Nepeta, which are popular with gardeners for their lavender/blue flowers that attract pollinators.

But why is it so attractive to cats?  The chemical compound nepetalactone found in catnip is the key!  The function of nepetalactone is to protect the plant by repelling herbivorous insects. Its appeal to cats is an unintended side-effect, caused by its similarity to pheromones (chemicals that cats use to send messages to each other).

Common feline catnip behaviors include sniffing, licking, chewing, chin and cheek rubbing, and rolling and stretching.  The effects of catnip last for around ten minutes.

Both domestic and wild cats respond to catnip.  A cat’s responsiveness is determined by genetics. If one of your cat’s parents passes on the “catnip” gene, then your cat will respond to it as well.

Kittens will not respond to catnip until they are around 6-8 weeks old, leading researchers to believe that nepetalactone most closely mimics sex pheromones.

Besides being a kitty mood enhancer, the catnip plant has also been used by humans in herbal medicine and tea for many years.


Report: How Covid Has Impacted Pet Ownership

The American Pet Products Association has published a new report called Covid-19 Pulse Study: Pet Ownership During the Pandemic.  This study examines the ways the pandemic has influenced how we care for our pets.

See the APPA’s website to find out how to obtain a copy of the full report.  In the meantime, here are a few highlights:

  • While most Americans have not seen pandemic-related changes to their pet ownership, 7% report getting a new pet and 6% report holding off on getting a pet because of the pandemic.

  • 72% of owners report that spending time with their pets has helped reduce their stress and improve their sense of well-being during the past few months.
  • Around half of pet owners report that they are “social distancing” their pets from other people and animals.
  • 60% of owners report that increased time spent with their pets has led to greater bonding and feelings of closeness towards their pets.
  • 39% of pet owners report that they have been exercising more with their pets during the pandemic.

  • 44% of pet owners say they have “stocked up” on pet food and supplies at some point during the pandemic.
  • Mass merchandisers like Walmart and pet superstores like PetSmart are the most common shopping destinations for pet products (mostly in person, but also online). Online-only pet supply retailers come in third.

The APPA notes that “despite concerns of a recession and some having their employment impacted, many pet owners continue to demonstrate their commitment to the care and well-being of their pets.”

Veterinary care has also been affected by the pandemic. The FACE Foundation provides financial assistance for pets in need of life-saving veterinary care.  Recent grantees have faced unemployment and other financial hardships during the Covid crisis.  Read about how FACE is responding to this ongoing crisis HERE.


Video: RSPCA’s “Dogs Die in Hot Cars” Awareness Campaign

Here is a simple but powerful reminder to never leave your dog unattended in a car during the warm summer months, courtesy of the RSPCA.

For more information on the dangers of leaving your dog in a hot car, check out the RSPCA’s “Dogs Die in Hot Cars” webpage, and the ASPCA’s webpage on dogs in hot cars and other summer dangers.


HSUS Releases 2020 Puppy Mill Report

The Humane Society of the United States recently published the 2020 edition of its annual “Horrible Hundred” puppy mill report.  This report documents problematic puppy breeding and/or puppy brokerage operations in the US.

You can download and read a pdf copy of the full report HERE.  The report highlights problem puppy facilities, in an alphabetical listing of US states.  Here are a few key findings from the latest Horrible Hundred report:

  • Missouri has had the largest number of puppy sellers on the list for 8 years in a row.
  • Some breeders in Missouri are being sued by the state attorney general, but still offer puppies for sale.
  • Ohio, Kansas, and Wisconsin follow Missouri for most puppy mills (but the report notes that other states, particularly in the South, have weaker inspection laws and could have much higher numbers).
  • One third of puppy mills in the report have some connection to the AKC.
  • 53 of the puppy mills say they are licensed by the USDA to sell to pet stores.
  • The current Coronavirus pandemic could be leading to an animal welfare crisis, as the USDA has limited the number of facility inspections for health and safety reasons.

The HSUS reminds people that the best way to end the puppy mill industry is to adopt your next pet from a local animal shelter and avoid buying purebred puppies from retail pet stores and online sellers.


You’re Invited to FACE’s Free Webinar on Pet Cancer Awareness

Join us on Monday, June 29th from 4:00 to 5:00 p.m. PDT for a free live webinar on pet cancer awareness and screening.

Dr. David Proulx, a veterinary oncologist from VCA California Veterinary Specialists will discuss incidence of cancer in pets and the importance of early detection.

Click HERE to register now for this free online event!

FACE will be hosting monthly educational webinars that will cover such topics as small animal care, pet photography, and veterinary information about pets.  Keep an eye on our Facebook page for announcements on these upcoming webinars.