Why do cats like catnip?

  • Date: January 29, 2022
  • Time to read: 4 min.

Cats and catnip have had a close relationship for centuries, with cats showing an undeniable attraction to the fragrant herb. But why do cats love this plant so much? It turns out that catnip contains an active ingredient called nepetalactone, which triggers a highly pleasurable reaction in cats. When exposed to nepetalactone, cats may act as if they are intoxicated, rolling around, meowing, purring, drooling, and rubbing their face against the source of the scent. It’s no wonder cats love catnip so much!


Catnip, also known as catmint, is a perennial herb of the mint family. It is native to Europe, North Africa, and parts of Asia, and is now naturalized to North and South America. It has a long history of being used by humans as an herbal remedy for many ailments, from headaches to colds. But what about cats?

Cats and Catnip

Cats have a long history of being attracted to catnip, and it has long been known that they love to rub, roll, and play in it. It has been speculated that cats are attracted to the strong, pungent aroma of the plant, and that it can even act as a mild stimulant.

How Does Catnip Work?

Catnip contains an essential oil, called nepetalactone, which is believed to be the source of its effects on cats. When a cat inhales the oil, it binds to receptors in the brain and triggers a response. This response can range from mild excitement to full-on euphoria. It is thought that the oil mimics the effects of certain hormones in cats, which can explain why only about 70% of cats respond to it.

What Are the Benefits of Catnip?

Catnip has many benefits for cats, including providing a safe outlet for their natural instinct to hunt and play. It can also act as a calming aid, helping to reduce stress and anxiety. In addition, it can help to keep cats entertained and can even improve their overall health and well-being.

Is Catnip Safe?

Catnip is generally considered to be safe for cats, although it is important to note that it can be toxic if ingested in large quantities. It is also important to keep the plant fresh, as it can become moldy if not stored properly. Additionally, if your cat is sensitive to catnip, it is best to avoid using it.


Catnip is a popular and safe way to provide cats with a safe outlet for their natural instincts. It can also act as a calming aid, helping to reduce stress and anxiety. With its many benefits, it is no wonder why cats love it so much.

Common Myths About Catnip and Cats’ Affinity For It

Myth 1: Catnip makes cats high.
Fact: Catnip does not contain any psychoactive substances, so it does not cause cats to become “high” in the same way that marijuana does. What catnip does contain is a chemical called nepetalactone, which cats find attractive and stimulating. When cats smell nepetalactone, it triggers an instinctive reaction that can cause them to act in ways that are sometimes similar to those seen in cats under the influence of drugs.

Myth 2: All cats react to catnip.
Fact: Not all cats respond to catnip. About two-thirds of cats will experience a reaction when exposed to catnip, while the other third won’t show any response. It is believed that the reaction is hereditary, so cats whose parents didn’t respond to catnip probably won’t either.

Myth 3: Catnip is bad for cats.
Fact: Catnip is not harmful to cats in any way. In fact, it can be beneficial in helping cats relax and relieve stress. It is important to note, however, that cats should not be given too much catnip, as it can lead to an upset stomach.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do cats like catnip?

Catnip (Nepeta cataria) is a plant in the mint family that has a strong effect on cats. When cats smell catnip, the nepetalactone in it binds to the olfactory receptors in their noses, which triggers a sensory reaction. This reaction can range from cats becoming excited and playful to mellow and relaxed. In some cases, cats will also roll around and even salivate when they smell catnip.

Is catnip safe for cats?

Yes, catnip is generally safe for cats. Catnip is non-toxic and usually doesn’t pose any health risks. Although some cats may become overly stimulated when they smell catnip, this is usually not a cause for concern. In rare cases, cats may exhibit aggressive behavior after smelling catnip, so it’s best to observe your cat’s behavior when introducing them to it.


. Catnip is a popular herb known for its effects on cats. It contains an essential oil, nepetalactone, which acts as a mild stimulant when a cat inhales it. It can provide a safe outlet for their natural instinct to hunt and play, as well as help to reduce stress and anxiety. It is generally safe for cats but should be stored properly and avoided if a cat is sensitive.

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