What is catnip and what does it do to cats?

Catnip produces narcotic effects on most cats. It is a strange thing to think about, but it is a completely normalized practice to recreationally give cats catnip, also known as Nepeta Cataria, in order to produce strong reactions.

Even the big cats like it. Mountain lions, bobcats, and tigers all have the same reaction as your fluffy little friend. They might dart around the room, roll around on the floor, or even chase imaginary mice.

You can find catnip sprays, catnip toys for cats, and even catnip scratchers. By now, you might be wondering what exactly produces such a strong reaction out of cats and why they seem to like it so much.

If you were wondering what catnip is, how it can be used, or if it is safe to give it to your cat, then you definitely came to the right blog. Keep reading to find out more about the best catnip uses and why it drives cats crazy.

What exactly is catnip?

Catnip comes from the herb Nepeta Cataria, but is also known as catswort and catmint. The catnip plant is part of the mint family and is native to southern and eastern Europe, New Zealand, and North America.

It got its name from its effects on cats, producing strong reactions like licking the plant, chewing it, and promoting play. Cat toys often come with catnip because of these reactions.

About 1/3 if cats are not affected by catnip, but there are alternatives which can produce a similar response.

Whether you purchase wild catnip, fresh catnip, or dried catnip you can be sure your feline friends will have strong reactions to it.

Types of catnip

The five most popular varieties of catnip include True Catnip (Nepeta Cataria), Greek catnip (Nepeta Parnassica), Camphor catnip (Nepeta Camphorata), Lemon catnip (Nepeta Citriodora), and Persian catnip (Nepeta Mussinii).

Catnips come in many more varieties and it seems like every country has its own. The plant usually comes in a weed-like appearance with purple flowers at its tips.

You could also purchase catnip in a variety of different forms. You can get them in sprays, toys, scratchers, and even chews.

What happens when a cat eats catnip?

It all starts with the nose. Once your cat gets a whiff, your cat will light up and the fun will begin. Studies suggest that catnip targets receptors in your cat’s brain responsible for pleasure.

Once the effects set in, you might notice your cat meowing and growling all at once. Some cats can get a little aggressive when they are exposed to it, so keep an eye out and be careful not to get too close if this is how your cat reacts.



Eating catnip could cause the opposite reaction. Some people use catnip to calm their cats. Buying catnip for this purpose is perfectly acceptable and they even make cat treats with catnip.

What do cats feel on catnip?

Researchers say catnip mimics pheromones in a cat’s brain which is why they may show behaviors similar to when they are in heat. The intensely positive reactions also suggest your cat gets a euphoric feeling from it.

Catnip products are going to make your cat incredibly playful and active. They might scratch and paw at it, roll around on the floor, and chase imaginary mice around the room.

Afterward, it produces a feeling of relaxation. You might notice your cat just sitting there looking very relaxed and even a little sleepy. Just remember the difference between catnip treats effects and catnip toys effects.

What in catnip makes cats high?

The main ingredient responsible for producing these intense reactions is called nepetalactone. There are also other ingredients responsible for producing your cat’s high like actinidine and iridomyrmecin.

These ingredients don’t have the same effects on people, but they are frequently used as mild sedatives. It has been chewed and brewed, and some people even smoke it.

These active ingredients have other uses too. Scientists agree it can be used as an effective insect repellent, used for keeping away mosquitoes and other pests.

How long does catnip high last?

A catnip high doesn’t last very long. The effects will usually last anywhere from 10-15 minutes. After the effects wear off, your cat will lose interest and will be virtually immune from its effects.

After the initial stimulating effects are gone, your cat will still have a small “buzz”. It can take up to two hours for your cat to be susceptible to catnip again.

Catnip itself doesn’t last very long. Because it is a dried herb and much of its effects are due to it’ scent, it is a good idea to keep it in an airtight container inside away from direct sunlight.

What happens if you give a cat too much catnip?

The good news about catnip is that it is generally considered very safe. It is non-addictive and can be used to encourage healthy behaviors like exercise.

It is possible to give your cat too much catnip, but is very unlikely because it will tend to lose interest in the catnip long before this happens. After the initial effects wear off, they will probably just ignore it and walk away.

If your cat eats too much of it, there can be some negative side effects. They may become lethargic and it may upset their stomachs. But if catnip is used in moderation, it is considered safe and non-toxic.


If you were wondering if you should give your cat some catnip, then the answer is yes! They will have a great time playing with it and you’ll have an even better time watching them. Just make sure to test how your cat will react, and if you should seek out alternatives if they don’t like it.

It’s a great way to encourage them to move around and play. Just sit back, open up some catnip, and watch your kitty have a blast.

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