Why Do Cats Like Catnip?

Why Do Cats Like Catnip?

Cat parents and cat enthusiasts around the world may be wondering: why do cats love catnip? From the moment you bring home a fresh bag of this mysterious herb, your furry buddy will be drawn to it like a magnet, rolling around and rubbing their face on it. But what is it about this aromatic herb that cats find so irresistible? 

What is Catnip?

Catnip is a perennial herb belonging to the mint family (Lamiaceae). It is native to Europe and parts of Asia, though it has spread worldwide and is now found in many other countries. It is also known as catswort, field balm, and catmint. The plant has a long history of use as an herbal remedy, especially for digestive issues. Still, it is most famous for its effects on cats.

When cats sniff or chew the leaves of the catnip plant, they experience a feeling of euphoria, which can cause them to become playful and active. The active ingredient in the plant is nepetalactone, which binds to receptors in the cat’s nose and triggers a response in the brain that causes a pleasurable reaction.

Unlike other recreational drugs, catnip is not addictive, and the effects generally wear off after 10 to 15 minutes. Catnip is usually safe for cats, but it can cause short-term distress if given in large quantities. It is also important to note that not all cats are affected by catnip, as sensitivity is genetic.

Why Do Cats Like Catnip?

How Does Catnip Affect Cats?

So we know cats are highly sensitive to nepetalactone, the active ingredient in catnip. When cats sniff the catnip, nepetalactone binds to specific receptors in their noses, triggering a reaction. Even though this compound activates the same neural pathways in the cat’s brain as pheromones, how these compound works is not linked to pheromones, which are “fragrant” synthetic substances to which we mostly attribute to cats’ shifts in behavior. While pheromones link to a particular set of receptors within the vomeronasal organ located in the upper part of a cat’s mouth (which is why cats sometimes part their mouths to sense pheromones), nepetalactone connects to olfactory receptors in the olfactory epithelium--the tissue that covers the mucous membranes inside a cat’s nose and is linked to smell. 

But why cats go wild from catnip is not entirely understood. “We don’t know the full mechanisms of how the binding of these compounds to the receptors in the nose ultimately changes their behavior,” Bruce Kornreich, associate director of the Cornell Feline Health Center, told Mental Floss.

The exact effects of catnip on cats vary from cat to cat. Some cats may become energized and playful, while others may become relaxed and calm. Cats may also roll around, rub their faces, and purr when exposed to catnip.

Overall, catnip is completely safe for cats. It is non-addictive and harmless, and it can provide cats with hours of fun and entertainment. It can also help reduce anxiety in cats by providing them a sense of calm and relaxation. Some cats may even become more affectionate when exposed to catnip.

Why Do Cats Like Catnip?

Is Catnip Bad for Cats?

Catnip can be given to cats to help them relax, or it can be sprinkled around the house to help them feel more comfortable in their environment. But is it safe for cats?

The good news is that catnip is not considered toxic to cats, nor does it cause addiction. Catnip can help cats relax, ease stress, and even reduce boredom. However, cats can build a tolerance to it, and it can also lead to them becoming over-stimulated or aggressive. Although this is a rare occurrence, it’s something to be aware of. It’s also important to remember that although cats can generally auto-regulate how much catnip they consume, if they happen to overeat cat mint, this can lead to digestive issues.

The safest way to give your fur baby catnip is to give them a few leaves or a toy filled with it. This will help ensure they don’t eat too much and get the right amount of stimulation. It’s also a good idea to limit the amount of catnip you give to your cat and to only give it to them a few times a week. When giving cats catnip, it is essential to do it in moderation. Too much of it could cause excessive drowsiness and even vomiting.

Why Do Cats Like Catnip?

The History of Catnip

Catnip has an interesting history, as it has been used for centuries as a natural remedy for various ailments. Its scientific name, Nepeta cataria, is derived from the ancient Greek city of Nepeti, where the plant was first cultivated. It has been used for centuries to treat digestion problems and asthma and even as an insect repellent. It has often been used in folk medicine as a sedative to help with anxiety, insomnia, and headaches. It was also believed to have magical properties and was used in rituals to create a feeling of euphoria.

Today, catnip is still used as a natural remedy for certain ailments, but it is also used as a recreational drug for cats. It is often sold in pet stores for cats and used in toys such as scratching posts and mats. Catnip is a safe and natural way to provide cats with mental stimulation and enjoyment.

What Does the Catnip Plant Look Like?

The catnip plant is a beautiful addition to any garden, with its fragrant grey-green leaves and white or lavender flowers. It is a perennial plant, meaning it will come back year after year in the same spot. It is easy to grow and is an excellent choice for gardeners looking to attract birds, bees, and butterflies. The plant is also a natural insect repellent and can be used to deter pests in the garden.

Why Do Cats Like Catnip?

Native to Europe and North America, it is an aromatic herb with a distinctive scent and has a square-shaped stem with a height of up to three feet. The leaves of the catnip plant are greyish-green in color and are heart- or lance-shaped with serrated edges. They are arranged opposite each other in pairs along the stem. The Catnip plant also has small white or pinkish-white flowers with five petals each. These flowers appear in clusters at the top of the stem and attract various types of pollinators. 

The catnip plant is an integral part of the herbal remedy industry. It is often used as an ingredient in teas and other medicinal products. It is also a popular garden plant for its attractive foliage and fragrant flowers. It is a hardy plant that grows well in most soil types, in full sun or partial shade, and with regular watering.

How Do You Introduce Catnip to Your Cat?

Catnip is usually given to cats as a treat, either by sprinkling it on their food or in a toy. However, not all cats will react to catnip, as some may be immune to its effects. For example, kittens and older cats may not be as responsive to catnip as adult cats are, as their sense of smell may not be as acute.

If you want to try catnip with your cat, there are a few ways. You can purchase catnip in dried form and sprinkle it on the floor or their bed. You can also buy catnip-infused toys, often stuffed with dried catnip and providing hours of fun for your cat. You can also purchase catnip sprays, which are sprayed onto toys or scratching posts to give cats a more concentrated dose of catnip.

Introducing catnip to your cat can be a great way to add some extra fun to their lives. Catnip is a herb that cats find irresistible, and it can be used to help encourage cats to play, exercise and explore. To introduce your cat to catnip, start by purchasing some high-quality catnip. You can find it in pet stores or online.

Avoid buying catnip that has been treated with chemicals or preservatives, as these can be harmful to your cat’s health. Once you have the catnip, you can either sprinkle a bit on the floor or in your cat’s favorite toy. If introducing catnip to a kitten, start with a small amount and slowly increase the quantity over time. Finally, always supervise your cat when introducing new toys or treats, including catnip, to ensure your pet’s safety.


Although catnip is technically a weed, it has benefits and can be a great addition to any feline’s daily routine. The active ingredient in catnip, nepetalactone, has a calming effect on cats. It has been shown to curb anxiety, create a sense of calmness, and aid digestion. This can be especially beneficial during the transition between seasons and when your cat may be anxious or not feeling well.

Catnip can also help to keep cats entertained. If you’re not lucky enough to have a catnip toy or piece of catnip-infused catnip, you can still get them started with a few leaves sprinkled on their favorite scratching post or in the kitchen. Once they get the idea, you can make the toy more exciting by adding a string to it for extra fun.

It is a wonderful plant that can bring hours of fun to cats and beauty to gardens. It is easy to grow and is a safe and natural way to keep cats entertained.

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