Catnip and Cats: What Does Catnip Actually Do to Cats?

May 02, 2018

Catnip and Cats: What Does Catnip Actually Do to Cats?

We all know that catnip has drug-like effects on our kitties.

But, does it really affect our cats like a normal drug would? Can cats get addicted to catnip? There are a lot of things we don’t know about this popular herb that gets our kitties ‘high.’

In this blog post, I would like to explain the science behind catnip and share what catnip does to cats.

So, without further ado, let’s begin.

A Quick Introduction: What is Catnip?

Catnip, also known as catswort, catmint, and field balm is a member of the mint family with the scientific nameNepeta cataria.

The mint got its name because of the intense attraction that cats have toward it. This includes tigers, panthers, lions, and house cats. The plant is genetically a cousin to basil and oregano and one cat in two develop a sensitivity towards it.

While some cats go completely crazy on catnip, others aren’t bothered so much. This depends on the cat’s genetics and you won’t know until your cat’s at least 4-6 months of age.

The Catnip High: How Does it Happen?

It’s no secret that cats get high due to catnip but, how does it work?

According to some studies, cats react to a volatile oil present in catnip which interacts with the kitty’s nasal tissue. This oil is callednepetalactoneand it works by replicating pheromones that switch the feline receptors on.

This stimulates the neurons in your cat’s brain.

According to other research, catnip works in ways similar to marijuana or LSD. But, it's a good thing that your cat can only get high from catnip for about 10 minutes so, the effects aren’t long-lasting.

It takes about 30 minutes for your cat’s sensors to reset after she has sniffed some catnip.

If your cat decides to bury her face in some catnip and get a good whiff, she’ll probably get a big high and hallucinate all sorts of things.

What Happens When Cats Sniff Catnip?

The effects of catnip are immediate.

The moment your cat gets a whiff of catnip, she will show you a completely different side of herself. Even if your cat’s the laziest you’ve ever seen, she’ll transform into a cheerful and active kitty who’ll rub herself all over the plant.

Some cats get hyperactive while others show signs of aggression.

The aggression is usually because the cat wishes to protect her catnip and doesn’t want anyone else getting near it.

If your kitty eats the catnip, the effects will be different. Your cat will become mellow and may look sleepy, tired, and may even drool. Catnip acts as a sedative if ingested.


The effects of catnip last between 10 to 20 minutes until your cat is herself again.

Is Catnip Addictive?

Wondering if you're basically a drug dealer when you give your kitty some catnip?

Well, the good thing is cat even though catnip works like a drug, it isn’t actually addictive. So, your cat won’t turn into a catnip junkie and go through withdrawals if you never give her the herb again.

Final Words: What Does Catnip Do to Cats?

Catnip is genetically a cousin to oregano and basil.

The herb is popular for the effects it has on cats---including house cats, wild cats, lions, panthers, and tigers. Not all cats are affected by catnip, it affects only three-fourth of the population.

Catnip has effects similar to marijuana and LSD but, isn’t addictive.

How does your cat react when you give her catnip? Let us know in the comments…




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