What Does Catnip Do to a Cat?

This article is written for all the cat owners out there who wish to learn what catnip can do to a cat, why does cat like catnip and learn catnip effects on cat. Having said that, here is a piece of information before you learn the previously mentioned points on catnip.

So there you are sitting on your couch and surfing the internet and all of a sudden you see a topic that really fascinates you that you must read. It is clear by now that you are a pet owner who is extremely caring for your cute little pet and want to grab some information regarding catnip.

That is a sweet gesture, hope your pet will love your efforts. Anyways, moving on with the topic now, let us know what catnip is exactly. Shall we?

A cute tabby cat with head in catnip

What is catnip?



Catnip, catmint, catwort are some names given to the Nepeta cataria.

Nepeta cataria is a species of genus Nepeta. And Nepeta is in the family of Lamiaceae of the kingdom Plantae. The plant is native to Central Asia, the middle-east, eastern and southern Europe and some parts of China.

Nepeta cataria is also naturalized (reproduction of non-native plants) in North America, New Zealand, and Eastern Europe.

The catnip or catmint plant got its name from its property of deriving and attracting cats towards them. It is advisable for you to note that not all the cats get attracted to the catnip plants, however, most of them do. 

Besides entertaining the cats, catnip or catmint plant is used as a herbal tea, and also widely popular and considered for its sedative property.

Nepeta Cataria is an herbaceous plant that lives for 2 to 3 years. It can grow up to 100 cm (40 inches) tall. You can easily find it as it belongs from the mint family of plants that blooms in late spring. Usually, the color of the leaves is brown-green with square stems. Flowers of Nepeta cataria are pink in color and some are white with pale purple in the middle.

Uses of catnip –

The distinct uses of catnip are mentioned below –

  • Catnip plant’s leaves and shoots are used in flavoring soups and sauces.
  • It is also used in patented beverages and liquors and fruit table wines.
  • Catnip has been used since 1735 as an herbal tea.
  • Catnip is also used in the medical field, as it is used in the treatment of diarrhea, common cold, cancer and colic.
  • Leaves of catnip are dried and smoked to relieve respiratory problems.

Side effects

Headaches and uneasiness

There you go, the above-mentioned information is completely on catnip and its uses, but the article isn’t over yet. You will learn in further paragraphs about how catnip affects a cat, and whether it is harmful or not.

Let us now discuss some interesting topics on your cats and understand:

Why does cat like catnip?

Before you find out why a cat is super attracted to catnip, here is an interesting question for you – would you not like to be stress-free and live on your own terms for a few minutes? Just asking.

Now having said that, your cat is a wonderful pet for sure, however, if you blame it for being lazy then you might consider replacing it with another cute pet.

But you know you are not that conservative right so instead of replacing your pet figure out some ways you can help your cat get out of its bed and play around,  enjoy it’s joy and share it with you.

Well, now if you are looking for some creative ideas in your browser, stop right there and consider giving your cat a sniff of catnip. Within a few minutes, you will see your cat rolling on the floor, or doing several crazy moves that you may have not seen before. This is not harmful to your pet, it is just enjoying the moment.

Why does it happen? Catnip is basically a healthy hallucination chemical or in simple language, it acts like a drug (marijuana) which takes your kitty to a whole new different world where it gets happy and playful.

Note that not all cats have the same effects though, it may vary like some cats may get frisky, and some may start growling, meowing, and purring for several minutes.

It is important to note that not all cats react to catnip; kittens and older cats may not react to catnip as the receptors may not be that sensitive. According to research approx. 75 percent of cats get affected by catnip. Plus heredity also plays an important role to determine whether the cat is aroused by catnip or not.

Here is an interesting fact to takeaway – big cats like tigers and lions also get affected by the exposure of catnip, now imagine how they would react.

All this information brings us down to one single question: why does cat like catnip? You might have discovered the answer by now, if not then here it is... Catnip is a happy drug for cats that makes them hallucinate for 5 to 15 minutes and in that time period they do all those activities they like be it playing actively if they sniff it or going into a deep sleep if they eat it.

So did you figure out the answer yet, that was asked at the beginning of the topic? If the answer is yes, then congratulations you are a responsible owner and you will definitely try to help your cat enjoy it’s life as well.

Let us move on to the next topic which will cover what does catnip do to a cat exactly that makes it so hyperactive and in some cases makes it sleep more than normal.

A cute kitten before and after catnip

What does catnip do to a cat?

It is quite clear and understood that cats love catnip because it gives them a pleasure as drugs give to a human. But the question arises how does it altogether work, so in an attempt to help you understand what happens, here is that information...

The catnip plant is coated with small microscopic bulbs that contain a specific chemical called nepetalactone, these bulbs rapture due to physical contacts and gentle breathe and release those chemicals.

The chemical nepetalactone is what draws cat’s attention towards catnip, now when your cute little cat smells the catnip plant, it binds the receptors in their nose and stimulates neurons that are linked with the brain. This results in altering several key areas of the brain including the hypothalamus (small part of brain that releases hormones and regulates emotions).

The main thing to note is that the chemical triggers the reaction where the cat feels euphoric and hyperactive. When catnip is eaten by cats it makes them stimulated and later makes them go to sleep.

Though catnip is safe for cats, eating too much can result in vomiting and diarrhea. But with time it will be okay, just keep them away from the catnip for some time.

Here is another question that may be jumping in your big mind: what will happen if the humans consume catnip? Let us explore what will happen.

Does catnip affect humans?

The question is really fascinating and so is the answer. Let us cut to the chase and know a direct answer from researchers. The answer is it does but in a very mild degree.

Humans have been using catnip for the past 400 years. In the 1600s people brewed tea, and made juice out of it. Some people even smoked and chewed  catnip claiming that it produces mild sedative effects.

In the 1960s, people went further and substituted marijuana, although researchers debunked the fact that it was producing hallucinations and euphoria. This is because our brain structures and receptors are different from those of cats.

However, catnip is not only about hallucination and giving us a hyperactive moment as it can help us in a different way. One of the most useful and common uses is as a natural mosquito repellent. Though the effect wears off quickly it is quite effective compared with other chemical repellents available in the market.

Here are some alternatives to the catnip plant that works too for your cat.

  • Silver vine
  • Tatarian Honeysuckle
  • Valerian Root
  • Play

 Final words

There you have it caring cat owners, all the information regarding catnip including what does catnip do to a cat, why does cat like catnip, etc.

On a personal note, take this as a note – if you are a cat owner make sure you have your cat experience catnip at least once in its lifetime. This is because not only your cat will enjoy the moment but you will also get some entertainment too. Plus it is not harmful to the health of cats so cats can have their own fun without being intensely intoxicated.

Hope the article helped you in clearing your doubts on catnip, especially if you were not planning on buying catnip and watch your cat do some crazy stuff.

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