What Does Catnip Do to Cats? The Magic of Catnip Revealed

Jun 25, 2024 | Pet Ownership, Health & Wellness, Safety, Behavior & Training

If you’ve ever asked yourself ‘What does catnip do to cats?’ you’re not alone!

Many cat owners wonder why their cats go wild for this seemingly magical herb. In this blog, we’ll explore what catnip is, how it works, and the fascinating effects it has on cats. Whether you’re a seasoned cat owner or a new pet parent, you’ll find valuable insights and practical tips to ensure a positive experience for your kitty.

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What is Catnip?

Catnip, scientifically known as Nepeta cataria, is a herb belonging to the mint family. This plant is famous for its unique ability to captivate cats. What makes catnip so special is a volatile oil called nepetalactone, found in the leaves and stems of the plant.

Cats respond to catnip by rubbing, rolling, and meowing. The scent of the nepetalactone oil triggers these behaviors, offering a temporary state of euphoria. It’s fascinating to note that while most cats react to catnip, not all do—sensitivity to catnip is hereditary, affecting around 70-80% of cats.

How Catnip Affects Cats

When cats encounter catnip, their reactions can be quite varied. Some cats will roll around, rub their faces, and purr loudly, while others may become more playful, chasing imaginary prey. The effects of catnip typically last for about 10-15 minutes, after which the cat loses interest and returns to normal behavior.



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The way catnip works is by mimicking feline pheromones. When a cat smells catnip, it binds to receptors in their nose and activates sensory neurons, sending signals to the brain that result in altered behavior. Interestingly, catnip can also be ingested, though the effects are usually milder when eaten.

The Benefits of Cat Catnip

Catnip isn’t just for fun—it has several benefits for your feline friend. For instance, catnip can help relieve pain and reduce anxiety in cats. This makes it a useful tool for calming down stressed or anxious cats, especially during events like vet visits or moving to a new home.

Additionally, catnip can encourage physical activity in sedentary cats. By stimulating playful behavior, catnip can help keep your cat active and engaged, which is essential for maintaining a healthy weight and overall well-being.

Introducing The Catnip Plant to Your Cat

If you’re new to the world of catnip, it’s important to introduce catnip to your cat gradually. Start with a small amount of dried catnip or a catnip-infused toy. Observe your cat’s reaction and adjust the amount accordingly. Remember, moderation is key—too much catnip can lead to overstimulation or digestive issues.

You can also try offering fresh catnip, which some cats prefer over the dried version. Fresh catnip can be grown at home, providing a continuous supply for your kitty. Just be sure to keep the plant in a place where your cat can’t completely destroy it!

brown cat painting

Types of Catnip Products

There are various ways to offer catnip to your cat. Here are some popular options:

Dried Catnip

Dried catnip leaves are the most common form and can be sprinkled on scratching posts, toys, or even your cat’s bedding. Store dried catnip in an airtight container to maintain its potency.

Catnip Toys

Catnip-infused toys are a great way to provide entertainment and enrichment for your cat. These toys come in various shapes and sizes, from plush mice to balls, and can keep your cat engaged for hours.

Catnip Spray

Catnip spray is a convenient option for adding a touch of excitement to your cat’s environment. Simply spray it on your cat’s favorite toys or scratching posts to encourage playtime.

How Often Should You Give Catnip to Your Cat?

While catnip is generally safe for cats, it’s best to offer it in moderation. Frequent exposure can lead to a diminished response, as cats can build a tolerance over time. To keep things exciting, limit catnip sessions to once or twice a week.

If your cat seems to lose interest in catnip, consider taking a break for a few weeks before reintroducing it. This will help reset their sensitivity and ensure a more enthusiastic response.

a cat sitting on the ground with its tongue out

Can Cats Overdose on Catnip?

Many cat owners worry about the potential risks of giving their cats too much catnip. While it’s unlikely for a cat to overdose on catnip, ingesting large amounts can lead to mild digestive issues like vomiting or diarrhea. Always monitor your cat during catnip sessions and remove any excess to prevent overindulgence.

Catnip for Kittens

Kittens under the age of six months typically don’t respond to catnip. Their sensitivity develops as they mature, so it’s best to wait until your kitten is older before introducing catnip. Once they’re ready, start with small amounts to gauge their reaction.

Other Cats and Catnip

It’s not just domestic cats that enjoy catnip—many wild cats, including tigers and leopards, also respond to the plant. The reactions can be quite similar, with wild cats exhibiting playful and euphoric behaviors when exposed to catnip.

Catnip Alternatives

If your cat doesn’t react to catnip, there are other plants that can have a similar effect. Silvervine and valerian root are two popular alternatives that many cats enjoy. These plants contain different compounds that can elicit playful and euphoric responses in cats.

a cat yawns while laying in the grass

Using Catnip for Training

Catnip can be a useful tool for training and encouraging positive behaviors in your cat. For example, you can sprinkle catnip on scratching posts to attract your cat and deter them from scratching furniture. Catnip can also be used to encourage your cat to explore new areas or use a new bed.

The Science Behind Catnip

The effects of catnip are due to the presence of nepetalactone, a chemical compound found in the plant’s essential oil. When cats smell nepetalactone, it binds to receptors in their olfactory system, triggering a cascade of neural responses that result in altered behavior.

Interestingly, not all animals respond to catnip. While many feline species are affected, other animals, including humans, do not experience the same effects. This unique response is part of what makes catnip so fascinating and beloved by cat owners worldwide.

Creating a Catnip-Infused Environment

Incorporating catnip into your cat’s environment can provide enrichment and stimulation. Consider adding catnip to their favorite resting spots, scratching post, toys, and play areas. This can help keep your cat engaged and entertained, promoting overall well-being.

an orange cat is chewing on a stick

Six Popular Catnip Products

If you’re looking to spoil your feline friend with some of the best catnip products available, here are six popular options to consider:

  1. Yeowww! Catnip Toys

    These catnip-infused toys are well-known for their high-quality and potent catnip. The sturdy fabric ensures long-lasting fun, and they come in various shapes, including bananas, cigars, and fish.

  2. Kong Naturals Catnip Spray

    Ideal for adding a dose of excitement to any surface, Kong Naturals Catnip Spray is made from all-natural ingredients. Just a few spritzes on scratching posts or toys are enough to get your cat excited and engaged.

  3. SmartyKat Catnip Mist Spray

    Packed with pure, concentrated catnip oil, SmartyKat Catnip Mist Spray offers a mess-free way to elevate your cat’s playtime. Simply spray it on toys, beds, or scratching posts for instant feline fun.

  4. Petlinks Pure Bliss Organic Catnip

    For those who prefer an organic option, Petlinks Pure Bliss Organic Catnip is a top choice. Harvested and processed without chemicals or pesticides, this catnip is both safe and highly effective.

  5. Catit Senses 2.0 Digger with Catnip

    Combining entertainment and mental stimulation, the Catit Senses 2.0 Digger includes a catnip-infused play center that challenges your cat to dig out treats or small toys, providing both exercise and fun.

  6. OurPets Cosmic Catnip

    OurPets Cosmic Catnip offers dried catnip that’s been cultivated to maximize potency. Perfect for sprinkling on toys, scratchers, or sprinkling directly for your cat to enjoy, it’s a favorite among many feline aficionados.

By exploring these popular catnip products, you can find the perfect option to delight and entertain your cat, keeping them happy and active.

Kate’s K9 Pet Care Service

At Kate’s K9 Pet Care, we understand that your time is valuable, and ensuring your pet has everything they need can sometimes be a challenge. That’s why we offer a convenient delivery service for all your pet supply needs, including fetching fresh catnip for your feline friend. Our team is dedicated to providing prompt and reliable service, ensuring your cat’s new favorite treat arrives right at your doorstep.

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Conclusion | What Does Catnip Do To Cats?

Catnip is a magical herb that can bring joy and enrichment to your cat’s life. By understanding its effects and how to introduce it properly, you can ensure a positive experience for your feline friend. Remember to use catnip in moderation and explore different forms to keep things exciting.

Ready to enhance your cat’s playtime? Try our premium selection of catnip products and discover the joy of watching your cat revel in the magic of catnip. Your kitty will thank you!

For more tips on cat care and to join a community of cat lovers, visit our website and sign up for our newsletter. Let’s keep our feline friends happy, healthy, and entertained!

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