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What Does Catnip Do To Cats

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How Does Catnip Work Its Magic On Cats

  • May 29, 2007

Ramona Turner, a veterinarian specializing in feline care for 25 years, owns two Fresno, Californiabased animal hospitals. She answers this riddle about our furry friends’ strange behavior.

Cats, from our domestic companions to lions and tigers, are exquisitely susceptible to a volatile oil found in the stems and leaves of the catnip plant.

When cats smell catnip they exhibit several behaviors common to queens in season : They may rub their heads and body on the herb or jump, roll around, vocalize and salivate. This response lasts for about 10 minutes, after which the cat becomes temporarily immune to catnip’s effects for roughly 30 minutes. Response to catnip is hereditary; about 70 to 80 percent of cats exhibit this behavior in the plant’s presence. In addition, catnip does not affect kittens until they are about six months old and begin to reach sexual maturity.

Catnip plants are members of the mint family and contain volatile oils, sterols, acids and tannins. Native to Europe, Asia and Africa, the plant was brought to North America by settlers; nowadays, the plant is popular in herb gardens and grows widely as a weed. Catnip is considered to be nonaddictive and completely harmless to cats.

*CORRECTION: Initially, this phrase read “two almond-size neuronal clusters in the midbrain…” Almond-size refers to the amygdala in humans, not cats.

Understanding Why A Cat Surgery Has Been Recommended

At Prestige Animal Hospital, our primary concern is for the health and well being of your cat. Unfortunately, there may arise a circumstance when a surgical procedure is in the best interest of your feline friend, and in these times you will need to make that decision. We understand what that feels like, and our veterinarians and staff are here for you too.

How Does Catnip Effect Cats

It’s important to note that some cats won’t be effected by catnip at all, while others will be sensitive to this herb. Kittens won’t experience any changes from catnip until they become 3 to 6 months old. 

Felines are attracted to the volatile oil , which is given off by the chemical Nepetaloctone.


Usually, cats will first smell and sniff catmint, which will make them lick and try to eat the plant and its leaves, as well as roll on the floor. The more they crush the plant, the more Nepetaloctone is vented, and your cat will start to rub it’s cheeks and chin on it, and feel very excited. 

Calming effect

In some cases, felines will actually feel calmer and mellow after eating or being exposed to the plant.

The effect last about 10 minutes, so it wears off very soon, after which for the next two hours your feline won’t be affected at all. 

How Worms In Cats Are Contracted

At Prestige Animal Hospital, we love helping educate our clients about the best detection and prevention methods for worms in cats, and we pride ourselves on providing our feline patients in and around the San Bernardino County, Southern California area with the utmost in care and treatment protocols. Some of the most common ways to contract worms in cats include:

Why Cats Love Catnip

What Does Catnip Do to Cats?

Catnip is like a drug for cats, which induces a heightened state of experience. It is like tripping on hallucinogenic drugs like LSD or marijuana. This herb has been turning wild cats crazy for a long time.

When your cat inhales a catnips aromatic oils, they contact particular receptors in its nose. The receptors connect the brain, which affects the cats behavior. When a cat sniffs, rubs, licks, and chews catnip, it releases the oil, which induces euphoria or bliss.

It is the only recreational drug for cats used effectively. Catnip is a very efficient tool to control a cats behavior.

How Long Does A Cat Stay High Oncatnip

There is a question I get asked quite often, particularly by parents who are looking for answers to how long does a cat stay high on catnip.

The answer is, in my opinion, that cats dont usually stay high on catnip for very long.

Feline neuro-chemicals are known to change the behavior of felines. For instance, when their reward centers get over-stimulated they tend to go on a high, high-pitch pitch grooming loop which can last for several hours.

Felines are testosterone animals. They have muchmore behavioral flexibility than any other mammal. They will go fromultra-sensitivity to sensitivity at the drop of a hat.

The primary way cats eliminate waste is through urination. Cats,like humans, also need a liquid diet to drink.

The answer to the question is that catnip is not actually the cure for urinating problems.

Cats are not generally soiling themselves through catnip, although they may do so in unusual situations.

First of all, cats dont generally get their vital nutrientsources from catnip. They will eat catnip, but they wont get nutrition throughcatnip.

Not only that, catnip is actually toxic. It is a weed thatsbeen cultivated for its reddish flowers. The flowers attract bees and flies, sothe plants are easy prey for those insects.

The leaves contain the non-toxic, even in relatively smallamounts, poisonous alkaloid called thujone, which is almost identical to thedangerous alcohol, ethanol. A 50% extract from the leaves can easily kill ahuman being.

Science With Sam: Why Do Cats Go Crazy For Catnip

Catnip turns fearsome felines into drooling balls of fluff. But how? This week, Science with Sam explains why cats love catnip

If your cat turns from an elegant hunter into a drooling ball of fluff at the merest whiff of catnip then you might be curious to know how such a nondescript plant has the power to cripple such a ferocious beast. Seventy per cent of domestic cats are susceptible to catnip, and so are big cats such as lions, but how did this plant evolve to hold such sway over our pets, and what exactly is it doing to them?  This week, Science with Sam explains why cats love catnip.

Tune in every week to  for a new episode, or check back to 

Cats are fearsome predators. Fast, stealthy, ruthless

Why arent you stalking your prey like an assassin? Stay focused! Oh no. This cat is broken. Whats done this to you? A herb?!

Why does this nondescript plant drive this ferocious carnivore crazy? Are you high? I need some answers.

Catnip comes from the plant Nepeta cataria, a herbaceous member of the mint family native to Europe and Asia.  When cats get a whiff of it, they seem compelled to sniff, lick and chew its flowers and leaves, rub their faces and bodies on the plant, roll around, shake their heads and drool.

Not all cats are affected, though. Kittens are immune to its allure and thanks to a genetic variation, 7 out of 10 adult cats find it irresistible, but the rest arent really bothered. See.

More on these topics:

How Can I Give Catnip To My Cat

Catnip products exist in a variety of forms. You can purchase toys impregnated/scented with catnip or buy it in powder form, sprays, or oil. Cats that are responsive to catnip will only need a tiny amount, so you dont need to use much at all. 

Most cats have a really enjoyable experience when exposed to catnip. It can be entertaining for both of you and provide a bond-strengthening time too. 

If youre thinking about using catnip for the first time or are unsure, always chat it through with your vet. 

Can Your Cat Overdose On Catnip

So, what does catnip do to cats if they ingest a LOT of it? Can cats overdose on catnip? Not really. Catnip is natural you can buy seeds to grow it yourself on your kitchen windowsill or in your backyard. So, all that will really happen if your kitty decides to break into the secret catnip stash is that she might end up puking a little of it back up. Oh, and maybe her poop will turn into rivers of diarrhea for a minute. But after that? Shell be right back to normal. Think of the potential effects of a catnip binge as little more than the feline version of a particularly messy human hangover.

Tell us: What does catnip do to your cats? Do you have any hilarious stories about cats on catnip? Tell us in the comments!

Thumbnail: Photography by gvictoria/Thinkstock. 

Can A Cat Have Too Much Catnip

If you’re introducing catnip to your feline for the first time, make sure you give a little bit and then monitor how it reacts to it and if experiences some stomach discomfort. 

Another way to introduce the herb to your cat is by getting them a cat toy, which contains catnip inside. This way, they’ll only be rubbing it and trying to bite it, however they won’t consume any. 

But Catnip Doesnt Work On All Cats

Its been long thought only an estimated 50 to 70 percent of adult cats react to the herb. But now, Dr. Bruce Konreich, an associate director with the Feline Health Center at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, reported more cats than initially thought might be affected by catnip. Those previously thought to be unaffected by the plant actually might be feeling it to a lesser degree.

Cats once thought immune assume whats called a kind of sphinx position, and they vocalize less.

If you see your cat sitting in this way after an encounter with catnip, then perhaps she is feeling the effects, but she handles her high like a mellow kitty.

Catnip love is also an inherited sensitivity. Brother and sister, Tigger and Roo, could care less when their mom puts out some catnip. Their genetics tell them both to say no thanks. But their adoptive siblings all behave in their own ways.

Talking about catnip with , Tigger and Roos mom shared, I have 7 cats and catnip affects each of them differently. Tigger and Roo arent affected by it. Frederick and KitTon get aggressive. Zoey likes to roll around and meow. Casey likes to eat it and go lay down and DJ takes a couple of sniffs then walks away.

Courtesy of Tigger_Roo

This feline family of seven provides a great example of the varied responses cats exhibits when it comes to Nepeta cataria.

Courtesy of Tigger_Roo

Other Uses For Catnip

Catnip is not just for cats. If you grow the herb and have been wondering what to do with catnip that is left over from making cat toys, you have a lot of options. A compound in catnip called nepatalactone, has been found to be insecticidal. You can use it as a natural repellent against mosquitoes, spiders, ticks, cockroaches and other critters in the home.

As a gardener, you may consider planting catnip between rows of vegetables to deter certain pests. A study found that intercropping the herb with collard greens reduced damage from flea beetles. Catnip in the vegetable garden may even repel rabbits and deer.

Catnip may also have some medicinal properties for humans, although before using any herb as a supplement, it is important to speak to your doctor. A tea made from dried catnip leaves and flowers has long been used for stomach upset, fever and other flu symptoms, insomnia, and stress. It is especially helpful for children who are not feeling well as a calming agent and to relieve digestive issues.

In the kitchen, catnip uses expand to include any recipes in which you would use . It belongs to the mint family and has a similar flavor but adds a slightly different taste. Whether you grow catnip intentionally in the garden or you find it growing wild, there are many uses for this common herb.

Need More Information Than Whats In This Catnip Faq

What Does Catnip Do To Cats: (Does it Harm Cats)?

Catnip is a safe and fun treat for most cats. Still, its important for pet parents to remember that every cat is different and some may have more extreme reactions than others. 


To talk with a vet about catnip tips and how it works on cats, become a member today and take advantage of Fuzzys 24/7 Live Vet Chat to get on-demand answers to all your pet health and behavior questions from the Fuzzy Veterinary Support Team. 

Do Any Cats Hate Catnip

In general, a positive reaction to catnip is considered a hereditary response in felines. However, research has observed that around 30 per cent of domestic cats do not respond to catnip and 20 per cent do not respond to silver vine, showing only indifference.

Plus, scientists found that tigers appear indifferent when offered catnip and even responded disapprovingly to silver vine, taking a sniff, turning and walking away. Some researchers even reported a few tigers them shaking their heads at the catnip.

Information And Services To Spay And Neuter Cats

Since 2012, the dedicated and compassionate veterinary team at Prestige Animal Hospital have successfully performed spay and neuter procedures on many male and female cats of all breeds and ages. We have also helped educate cat owners throughout CA about spay and neuter procedures. These include when to spay or neuter a cat, what to expect during and after surgery, and why cat spaying and cat neutering is essential to helping control the pet population problem in the state of CA.

How Worms In Dogs Are Contracted

At Prestige Animal Hospital, we love helping educate our clients about the best detection and prevention methods for worms in dogs, and we pride ourselves on providing our canine patients in and around the San Bernardino County, Southern California area with the utmost in care and treatment protocols. Due to their outdoor lifestyles and social natures, most dogs will be at risk of contracting worms throughout their lives. Some of the most common ways to contract worms in dogs include:

Veterinary Services For Cats

Since 2012 the Veterinarians and support staff at Prestige Animal Hospital have sought to achieve the highest standards of veterinary medicine. We feel that cats are part of the family, yours and ours. Our clients response to the care we provide is the strongest testament to the quality of care we provide for their cats.

How To Give Catnip To Your Cat

Catnip can be effectively used to encourage your cat to adopt good behaviour. If your indoor cat needs extra exercise, you can make playtime even more exciting by tucking a bit of catnip in their favourite toys.

Catnip can also be great to encourage your cat to interact with certain toys. If you want to use a scratching post to sharpen your cat s claws and keep them away from the furniture, you can rub some catnip into the scratching post or sprinkle some at its base.

The catnips effect on cats means that theyll pay attention and want to discover what this new toy does.

If your cat adopts the sedated reaction to the plant you can also use catnip for cats that are anxious about traveling in the car. Sprinkle catnip in their carrier to help them make it through the journey stress-free.


Does Catnip Really Get Your Cat High Here’s What Catnip Does To Catsand Why They Go Crazy For It

An interesting phenomenon is seeing cats go off their scratcher for catnip, which is an herb. Who knew that sniffing or eating this plant would make cats act in such interesting ways? Our entertainment aside, catnip has proven benefits for felinesbut that still leaves us with the question, what does catnip do to cats?

What Kinds Of Catnip Exist Which One Is Better For My Cat

If you decide to buy this herb you will see some variations of color or texture in some animal stores, lets see some types of this plant:


It is called Nepetacataria, with white flowers and can measure almost one meter. This species is the most abundant and the one that most cats enjoy.


Nepetacapmhorata, also of white flowers but with purple spots. This plant can reach about 50 cm and have a camphor aroma.


It is called NepetaParnassica, they have white and pale pink flowers, they also grow up to 50 cm.


Nepetacatariacitriodora, grows up to almost a meter and has white and purple flowers, has a lemon-like aroma.


Nepetamussinii, has purple flowers. This plant has green/gray leaves more than small size. They grow up to 50 cm.

How Long Does It Last

What does catnip do to cats?

Catnips effects have a ticking clockabout five to 30 minutes, Rotman says. This is all dependent on the cat because only two-thirds of adult cats are affected by catnip, according to a . About 50 percent of cats seem to be affected by catnip, and the behavior that results varies widely between individuals, Rotman says. is an inherited sensitivity and it doesnt show up immediately. Instead, it will take a few months since young kittens are not affected. If youre interested in this little herb, you can make your own catnip crackers.

Effects Of Catnips On Cats

It is the genetics of the cat that determines whether they will fall for this plant, which is said to be a cousin of oregano and basil. According to studies, one in two cats inherits sensitivity to this herb. But theres really no way of determining if your kitten will like this herb until they reach the age of 3-6 months.

The allure of catnip has something to do with its volatile oil, most especially the nepetalactone, a chemical thats found on this oil. This chemical is present on the plants stems, seeds, and leaves. It will only take a sniff or two of this oil before the cat will start chewing and licking it with much bliss!

Although the feeling of bliss that cats enjoy is short-lived and lasts around 10 minutes for most cats, the euphoria could make some cats to behave with aggressive playfulness. But the oil has contradicting effects on some cats. It could make them stay calm and mellow.

Regardless of the reaction that your cat has, when the pleasure passes, it will be around two hours before the kitty responds to the catnip again.

What Does Catnip Really Do to Cats? Image via

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Is Catnip A Drug For Cats

Many cats are certainly very attracted to catnip and will actively seek it out in their environment. For these reasons, catnip is often used to encourage cats to use their scratching posts as opposed to the arm of our expensive new sofa. Its also commonly placed within cat toys or planted in gardens as a for cats.

In humans, smoking catnip has been described as inducing sensations akin to those of marijuana or LSD. Its possible that cats may experience similar effects, although their brains are not quite the same as ours, so their trips might feel a little different to them.

Read more:Is it unethical to give your cat catnip?

However, a recent study indicates that exposure of cats to nepalactalone leads to increases in a peptide hormone associated with pleasure. This suggests that catnip could have some pretty powerful feel-good properties for kitties.

Interestingly, the authors also found that cats covered in nepalactalol were less likely to be bothered by mosquitoes. This provides a suitable evolutionary explanation for cats innate attraction to the plant – covering yourself in catnip might feel really good, but also help keep those pesky insects at bay.

Can Cats Eat Catnip

For the most part, cats dont seem to have a big desire to ingest catnip, even my Annie who loves hunting the house for dried leaves weve tracked indoors by accident.

But in the course of play with a catnip-filled toy, its inevitable that a frolicking feline might ingest some. Usually, this is not a significant problem.

While some sources do list catnip as “toxic” to cats, including the ASPCA Poison Control site, “toxic” in this case does not refer to making a cat dangerously ill. Just about anything, if ingested in large enough amounts, can cause toxicity signs.

Catnip can cause mild self-limiting vomiting or diarrhea, but only if large amounts are ingested. Fortunately, and fingers-crossed, I have yet to get a call from a concerned kitty parent about catnip ingestion.

But what about cat grass? Lots of folks provide fresh cat grass for their kitties. Is it at all related to catnip?

Cat grass is a completely separate collection of plants. Cat grass is actual grass, usually of the rye, oat, wheat, or barley grass variety, and is not related to the mint family at all.

Cat grass contains folic acid, an essential B vitamin, and can act as a laxative, aiding in digestion and passage of hair, so it can be a healthy item to provide.

Regardless of why cat grass is so interesting to kitties, its probably something more instinctually a part of their nature, and is not related to the “altered reality” effect caused by catnip.

What Are The Benefits Of Cats Eating Catnip

Catnip can stimulate the cat’s appetite, ease the cat’s mood, induce vomiting, and has a calming effect on individual cats.

  • If you find that your cat has poor appetite and does not like to eat, you can add catnip to your cat food to promote its appetite.
  • Allowing cats to smoke catnip once a week can relieve cats boredom, and use it during estrus can also reduce cats anxiety.
  • Let the cat lick it in the palm of your hand, which can promote the relationship with the cat and increase the interaction. Catnip can relieve tension and relax mood for new or timid kittens.
  • Putting catnip in the cat’s toy can increase the cat’s love for the toy, and the cat will take the initiative to play with the toy.
  • Put the catnip directly on the scratching post, and the cat will take the initiative to grind its paws on it. The smell of catnip is very big, you don’t need to put too much every time, the cat will take the initiative to eat it. There will be the smell of catnip on the scratching post, and the cat will naturally scratch it, which can reduce the cat’s damage to the sofa.
  • The catnip can be sprinkled on the ground when changing the environment to reduce the cat’s stress on the environment and reduce the cat’s decline in resistance caused by stress. In addition, the consumption of catnip can also help cats arranging hair balls.
  • What Does Catnip Do To Cats And Do All Cats Love It

    Catnip affects the brain of a cat when it’s inhaled or eaten. When a cat finds catnip they may rub, roll in, chew, bite, or lick it, causing the herb to take effect, entering the brain by way of the nose. Researchers are not totally sure how catnip affects certain areas in the cat brain, though. Some research has shown that when smelled, catnip may cause certain “happy” chemical responses in some adult cats, but when it’s eaten it’s more likely to create a more tired and “mellow” kitty. This may be due to a hereditary predisposition to catnip that only some cats have. Yet, a different suggested that all cats respond to catnip in some way. There’s still plenty of research to be done; we just don’t know yet how, and why, cats may go crazy for catnip. 

    About Your Cats Favorite Plant

    A fluffy green plant with heart-shaped leaves and scalloped edges native to the Eurasian continents but now grown worldwide, catnip is in great demand for cat parents who want to please their kitties. As the plant is part of the mint family, its related to other savory herbs such as rosemary, sage, oregano, and basil.

    Catnip leaves and stems contain a fragrant oil responsible for getting cats high.

    And beyond attracting cats, the University of Wisconsin Master Gardener Division reports pollinators love the delicate white or lavender flowers too. Bees of all types, wasps and flies, as well as many different types of butterflies, visit the nectar-laden flowers.

    While the fragrant leaves are a favorite smell to cats, many people are not enamored of their pungent odor, variously described as a combination of thyme and oregano to mildly skunky.

    We know the kitties can smell the skunky aroma from quite a distance, but how strongly can they smell it? Herbalist Debs Cook , Cats are very sensitive to the scent given off by catnip, in fact, they can smell nepetalactone even if its 1 part per 1,000,000,000,000 parts in the air.

    Wow! The smallest whiff of catnip will bring a cat running for the good stuff!

    Helen Nock/Flickr

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