What Does Catnip Do to Cats?

What Does Catnip Do to Cats?

Author WCF Staff


If you’re a cat owner or just an appreciator of the species, you probably know about the effects catnip has on cats. Cats can go crazy over catnip. They can roll in it, chew it, lick it, or even try to eat the herb. Many cat owners are aware of catnip’s effect on cats, but they are not entirely sure why. One of the common questions we get is, “What does catnip do to cats?” The correct answer might be - nothing. It can also be - it drives them crazy. That will depend on several things. Let’s go into more detail.

What is catnip?

Before we go into catnip’s effects on cats, we need to understand what catnip actually is. Catnip is a herb that is a part of the mint “family” of herbs. This herb contains flowers, leaves, and stems. There is a chemical called nepetalactone on the bottom side of catnip leaves. This is the chemical that can influence and alter our cat’s brains.

catnip and bee

How do cats get to nepetalactone?

If you ever saw a cat playing with a catnip plant, you probably noticed all the things cat does to the herb. We already mentioned cats might want to roll in catnip, try to lick it, chew it, or eat it. They do that because nepetalactone gets released when they play with catnip. The leaves will get stimulated, and the chemical gets released.

How does it affect cats?

This is the question all cat owners should know the exact answer to. Let’s get the easy part of the answer out of the way first. Some cats can have absolutely no reaction to catnip. In fact, it is estimated that about 50% of all cats don’t have catnip sensitivity. That means the herb won’t cause any reaction, and the cat will not be attracted to it.

catnip leaves

However, 50% of cats will get a reaction and be severely drawn to catnip. When the chemical enters the cat’s system through its nose, it reaches the cat’s brain and triggers the “happyresponse. If it enters the cat’s system through the mouth (eaten), it is more likely to cause a tired and mellow feeling. However, that can happen only to cats that are genetically predisposed to have a reaction to catnip.

The effects of catnip on cats were pretty well documented. Cat owners love filming their cats while they’re on the “catnip high.” However, the long-term effects on the cat’s body are still unknown. There is still much research that needs to be done.

What are the most common effects catnip has on cats?

Cats can react differently. Some cats will roll in it and become hyperactive, and some might simply become very mellow. Again, catnip’s effects on a cat will depend on the cat’s genes. Some of the most common effects catnip has on a cat are;

  • Flipping
  • Rubbing
  • Rolling
  • Meowing and growling at the same time
  • Hyperactivity
  • Aggression
  • Zoning out

Can kittens have catnip?

The interesting thing is that undeveloped kittens most likely won’t have any reaction to catnip. Most researchers believe that the main reason is the underdeveloped vomeronasal organ. This organ is responsible for analyzing different scents, and kittens simply need some development to go through. General advice is that you shouldn’t include catnip in your kitten’s life. Responsible cat owners wait until their kittens reach maturity. Even then, it is possible that the cat has no reaction to catnip.

catnip zoomed

WORLD CAT FINDER TIP: If you’re getting a cat from a cat breeder, you should ask them about the effect catnip has on their cat. If they have breeding cats that aren’t reacting to catnip, chances are, you’ll get a kitten that won’t react to catnip.

Is catnip safe for cats?

As we said earlier, there is still some research that needs to be done regarding catnip. However, it is generally considered safe for cats. Cats can ingest it or sniff it, and they shouldn’t have any bad reactions to it. However, it can be mildly harmful in some cases. If your cat overindulges and eats too much of it, the catnip may cause mild digestive issues. Your cat might get diarrhea or vomit. As long as you control the amount your cat ingests, they should be fine.

How long does catnip for cats last?

Since the effects catnip has on a cat depend on the cat’s genetics, you can probably imagine that the effects can be different. That means that most average cats feel the effects for about 10 minutes. The cat will need about 30 minutes to reset and become susceptible to it again. However, catnip can lose its potency over time. That means you should keep it in an airtight container or give fresh catnip to your cat to see full effects.

How can I give catnip to my cat?

Many cat owners want to know how to safely include catnip in their cat’s life. The good news is that there are several different and safe ways to do that. If you have time and space, you can grow catnip yourself. Here are some other ways you can give catnip to your cat;

  • Give your cat a small amount of dried catnip to sniff or even eat.
  • Give your cat a fresh catnip plant. You can even grow it yourself.
  • Get a catnip spray or bubble.
  • Cat toys that contain catnip are safe and popular choice for cat owners.

World Cat Finder Team

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