Q: Do dogs react to catnip? I’m asking because I have both a dog and a cat, and when the dog sniffs the catnip, it seems to relax him. He doesn’t go all crazy and zoom around the room after sniffing it the way the cat does, but it does seem to have some kind of effect on him. Am I imagining it?

Brigit Van Ness
New York, New York

Dear Ms. Van Ness,

A: You are not imagining it. Dogs do react to catnip, although in the opposite way that cats often do. While catnip makes cats extremely active (although it puts some felines in a mellow mood), it has a calming effect on dogs, as you have noticed. In fact, for some dogs, catnip can help with anxiety, say, before a trip to the veterinarian.

Catnip, an herb from the mint family, is even safe enough for a dog to eat. Some people sprinkle a fraction of a teaspoon over their pet’s food when a sedating effect might be necessary, like before nail trimmings. Catnip may also be able to quell a dog’s motion sickness during car rides and relieve an upset stomach.

It’s probably best not to make it an everyday thing, but here and there catnip is safe for dogs, and even salutary. It should be noted that not all dogs react to the substance, just as not all cats do.


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