What does catnip actually do to cats?

  • Date: December 21, 2022
  • Time to read: 4 min.

Catnip is an herb with a long history of being used to make cats go crazy! It is a common household item that many cats love and can be found in a variety of forms, including fresh, dried, powdered, or as a spray or oil. Despite its long-standing use, many people are still unsure of what catnip actually does to cats and why they respond so strongly to it. In this article, we will explore the science behind catnip and explain how it affects cats.

What is Catnip?

Catnip, also known as Nepeta cataria, is an herb from the mint family. It is a perennial herb and grows to about three feet in height. Catnip is native to parts of Europe, Africa and Asia, but is now grown in many parts of the world. It has a strong, pungent smell that cats seem to love.

What Does Catnip Do To Cats?

When cats smell catnip, it triggers a neurological reaction that can cause them to become excited and playful. This reaction is caused by a chemical called nepetalactone, which is found in the leaves and stems of the catnip plant. The response to catnip is genetic, so not all cats will have the same reaction.

When cats smell catnip, they may rub their face on the plant, roll around, meow, and even drool. They may also act very hyperactive, running around and jumping. It is believed that the reaction to catnip is similar to the reaction humans have to drugs or alcohol.

The effects of catnip usually last for about 10 minutes and then the cat will become desensitized to it and will no longer react. The effects of catnip can last for a few hours, but will eventually wear off.

Is Catnip Safe for Cats?

Catnip is generally considered to be safe for cats. It is non-toxic and does not cause any long-term side effects. Catnip is also not addictive, so cats will not become dependent on it.

However, it is possible for cats to have an allergic reaction to catnip. If your cat shows signs of an allergic reaction, such as scratching, sneezing, or vomiting, you should stop giving them catnip and contact your veterinarian.

How to Give Catnip to Cats

Catnip can be given to cats in several ways. The most common way is to sprinkle some dried catnip on the floor and let your cat sniff it. You can also sprinkle some on a scratching post or bed to encourage your cat to use it.

You can also buy catnip toys that are filled with dried catnip. These toys are usually made of fabric and are designed to release the scent of catnip when your cat plays with them.

Can Cats Overdose on Catnip?

It is not possible for cats to overdose on catnip. However, if your cat has a strong reaction to catnip, you should limit the amount you give them. Too much catnip can cause your cat to become overly excited and hyperactive.


Catnip is a safe and natural way to provide your cat with some extra stimulation and entertainment. It is not addictive and it is not possible for cats to overdose on it. However, it is possible for cats to have an allergic reaction to it, so it is important to monitor your cat’s reaction to catnip and stop giving it if your cat shows any signs of an allergic reaction.

##Common Myths About Catnip
Catnip is a common plant that cats seem to be attracted to, leading many to believe that it has psychoactive effects on cats. Here are some common myths about catnip and the truth behind them.

Myth: Catnip is Addictive
Truth: Catnip is not addictive and cats will not develop a dependence on it. A cat’s response to catnip is caused by an active compound in the plant called nepetalactone, which is non-addictive.

Myth: All Cats React the Same Way to Catnip
Truth: Not all cats will have a reaction to catnip. About 50-70% of cats are affected by catnip, while the remaining cats have little to no reaction.

Myth: Catnip Has Psychoactive Effects
Truth: Catnip does not have psychoactive effects on cats. The nepetalactone found in the catnip triggers an instinctive response in cats, but does not alter their state of mind.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does catnip actually do to cats?

Answer: Catnip is a plant in the mint family that contains a chemical compound called nepetalactone, which cats are highly sensitive to. When cats smell catnip, it can cause them to become more active and playful, and some cats may even roll around and paw at the ground. Catnip can also make cats more affectionate, with many cats becoming very cuddly after they smell it.

Is catnip addictive to cats?

Answer: No, catnip is not addictive to cats. Cats may become less responsive to the effects of catnip after repeated exposure, but this does not mean that they are addicted to it. Once the cat has been exposed to the catnip for a period of time, its effects will wear off and the cat will not experience any withdrawal symptoms.



Catnip (Nepeta cataria) is an herb from the mint family that, when smelled by cats, triggers a neurological reaction that can cause them to become excited and playful. Catnip is safe for cats and not addictive, but an allergic reaction is possible. It can be given in several ways, such as sprinkling some on the floor or buying toys filled with dried catnip. Cats can not overdose on catnip, but too much can cause them to become overly excited. It is important to monitor the cat’s reaction to catnip and stop giving it if signs of an allergic reaction appear.

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