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Catnip is a potent natural pest repellent against mosquitoes, ants, cockroaches, termites, fleas and Japanese beetles, as well as mice, rats and weevils. The American Chemical Society found Catnip to be ten times more effective at repelling mosquitoes than the commercial chemical DEET, which is found in most brand name insect sprays.
As potent at repelling unwanted insects and pests, its beautiful blooms are a magnet for attracting butterflies and honeybees. Also a beneficial companion plant when planted near gourds and beets, Catnip is a vigorous grower that will also do well in containers, or as a border plant, to keep your kitties on the outside of your garden.
How Does Catnip Work?
Because there really isn't any scent that causes this sort of reaction in humans, catnip is hard for us to understand. However, it is not an uncommon behavior in animals that rely heavily on their noses. For example, there are many scents that will trigger intense hunting behavior in dogs, and other scents will cause dogs to stop in their tracks and roll all over the scent.
Although no one knows exactly what happens in the cat's brain, it is known that the chemical Nepetalactone in catnip triggers the response. Apparently, it somehow kicks off a stereotypical pattern in cats that are sensitive to the chemical. The catnip reaction is inherited, and some cats are totally unaffected by it. Large cats like tigers can be sensitive to it as well.
The reaction to catnip only lasts a few minutes. Then the cat acclimates to it, and it can take an hour or two away from catnip for the cat to "reset." Then, the same reaction can occur again. Very young kittens and older cats seem less likely to have a reaction to catnip.