Greetings cat lovers everywhere! Skye Blake here, back to tell you what your cat wants you to know about catnip.
Let’s take a closer look…
The information here is for general knowledge… always see your vet with questions about your cat’s individual needs.
Who Is Skye Blake?
Skye Blake, Cat Info Detective, is a curious cat researcher (not a veterinarian) who sniffs out expert, reliable sources about cats, studies their information, then passes it on to you!
Sometimes there’s not enough evidence for easy answers, so Skye gives you all sides, explains the situation as thoroughly and clearly as possible, and links you to experts on each page.
All sources are at the bottom of each page so you can do more snooping…
Most cat owners are familiar with catnip and how cats react to it, but most don’t know how to use it properly.
Catnip, Nepeta cataria, is an herb in the mint family. The substance that we cats react to in catnip is nepetalactone.
It releases something pleasurable in the brain and we rub, roll around, drool, lick, or chew on it.
Not all cats react to it the same way and some barely sniff it. That’s because they didn’t inherit the “catnip-response gene”.
Yes, there actually is a gene that allows cats to respond to catnip’s effects.
About 1/3 of cats don’t have it. Kittens (under one year old) don’t respond to it either.
Frankly, they don’t need it… they’re always bouncing off the walls anyway!
The only way for cats to get the pleasurable effects of catnip is by smelling it.
Those who do react often become kittens again, zooming around for about 15 minutes, then mellowing out for a nap.
Catnip is not addictive and non-toxic, so if they eat it, don’t worry, it won’t hurt them.
Catnip is a tool in your toy arsenal that you can use for giving your cats a special moment.
Use it to help get a couch potato up and active or defuse a behavioral problem.
The mistake people make is tossing a catnip toy on the floor and leaving it there.
Cats can become immune to the effects of catnip, so it’s better to keep it stored in an air-tight container where they can’t get to it.
Then you can let them enjoy it 1-2 times a week or after a stressful situation (like coming home from the vet).
There are many toys that have catnip in them, but you don’t know the quality or if it’s even catnip inside.
The better quality catnip has only leaves and blossoms, while cheaper quality has only stems, which are sharp and uncomfortable for cats to chew or rub on.
Some people prefer to buy loose dried catnip or grow their own and dry it.
They make or buy toys with pouches sewn in for catnip to be added.
You can also use loose catnip to get your cat’s interest with a toy by sprinkling a little on the toy.
A do-it-yourself idea is to take a sock, put some dried catnip in it, and knot the top.
Rub the sock between your hands to release the oils and your cat will respond to it quickly.
Another cool idea is to put a few of the furry toy mice into the catnip container.
Then when you want to give your cat a catnip toy, they’ll be ready to go.
Keep all loose catnip in an airtight container in a place where the cats can’t get to it.
That can be easier said than does for some people since cats are notorious for getting into places you’d never think they could reach.
Fresh vs. Dried
Cats like fresh catnip but it’s milder than dried so their reaction is not as strong.
Even though it’s not as potent as dried nip, fresh is still something a cat’s sensitive nose will detect.
If you’re thinking of growing your own in the yard, be aware that it’ll attract cats in the area… something to consider.
Catnip spreads in the yard, so you’ll either need to keep it pruned back or choose to grow it in pots.
Seeds and seedlings are available at garden centers, home improvement stores, and online.
Don’t use catnip essential oils or tinctures because they contain other things besides catnip and can be too strong for your cat’s sensitive nose.
One word of warning about using catnip…
Some cats, especially males, will become more aggressive when given catnip because they lose their inhibitions.
This is the same idea is when people get drunk… some are barely noticeably while others become violent.
Any cat, whether male or female, who is aggressive or has those tendencies, can have problems with catnip.
Behaviorists recommend testing catnip with a potentially aggressive cat separately from other cats to gauge their reaction safely.
Silver vine, Actinidia Polygama, is another plant attractive to cats.
It’s twigs and leaves are used similarly to catnip and is available as a chew stick or loose.
Some companies mix it with catnip and it’s a possible substitute for cats who don’t respond to catnip.
You can also grow it yourself, outdoors or indoors in pots.
There are claims that the twigs for chewing will help clean teeth because it helps remove tarter and plaque.
This might be the case, but I have not found any studies or feline dental experts that support this definitively.
Does CBD or marijuana affect cats the same as catnip?
No… they’re totally different! In fact, the active ingredient in marijuana is poisonous to cats.
Now that you know a little something about us crazy cats and catnip, go forth and have fun!
Sources used on this website are either primary or secondary.
Primary sources are always preferable and have the most reliable information because they’re original and directly referenced.
Scientific abstracts and data are good examples of primary sources.
Secondary sources are weaker because they usually consist of opinions or articles that give no sources of their own.
However, sometimes they refer to primary sources.
When I use secondary sources, most are those with some authority, such as veterinarian or cat behaviorist books and articles.
List of Sources
“Actinidia Polygama ( Silver Vine )” by Backyard Gardener
“Cat Teeth: 5 Facts You Should Know” by Jodi Helmer, Reviewed by Hanie Elfenbein, DVM, Covetrus Great Pet Care™, on 08/31/2023, Published on 08/20/2021
“Silver Vine for Cats: Benefits and Safety Information” by Katie Woodley, DVM, Covetrus Great Pet Care™, Published on 11/28/2022
The Cat Whisperer by Mieshelle Nagelschneider, Bantam Books, The Random House Publishing Group, New York NY, 2013, www.bantamdell.com
Decoding Your Cat, by Editors, American College of Veterinary Behaviorists, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Co., New York, hmhco.com, pp. 90, 102-8, 155-6, 202, 223, 230-2, 244-6, 284-5
“Does Catnip Make Cats High?” by Matthew Everett Miller, DVM, PetMD, January 3, 2022
“Toys That Say ‘Wow”“, Cat vs. Cat by Pam Johnson-Bennett, Penguin Books, New York, 2004, pp. 78-9
“Think Like a Cat, How to Raise a Well-Adjusted Cat – Not a Sour Puss” by Pam Johnson-Bennett, Certified Animal Behavior Consultant, Penguin Books, Penguin Group (USA) Inc, New York, NY, 2000, 2011
“The Trainable Cat” by John Bradshaw and Dr. Sarah Ellis, Basic Books, Hachette Group, New York, 2016
Updated December 28, 2023