Catnip

Catnip

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Catnip is a plant—known scientifically as Nepeta cataria—that is a member of the mint family. The active ingredient is called nepetalactone, which many domestic cats respond to in a variety of different ways. (Fun fact: It affects big cats like lions and tigers as well.) The plant produces this chemical (nepetalactone) in microscopic bulbs that coat its leaves, stems, and seedpods. When these fragile bulbs rupture, they release the nepetalactone into the air, which is why you can find cats chewing on the plant to release more nepetalactone. While it's originally native to Europe and Asia, it now grows wild across the country along roads and highways. To identify it, catnip is a grayish-green plant with jagged heart shaped leaves and thick stems that are both covered in fuzzy hairs.