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Why Do Cats Love Catnip? The Effect Of Catnip In Your Cat

Why Do Cats Love Catnip? The Effect Of Catnip In Your Cat

The current relationship that humans have with cats has evolved a lot over time. People give their cats to taste almost everything they consume themselves. Among these foods they give to cats is a psychoactive drug called catnip.

Catnip is a herb that two out of three cats fall in love with. Why does this happen? The truth is that it is unclear what motivates this phenomenon. Some experts believe that cats’ fascination with catnip is related to the environment or genetic reasons. In moderation, catnip is harmless.

What is certain is that it is an herb that makes them change their behavior. The effect of catnip is strange for several reasons. It is a kind of recreational drug that people give to their pets relatively often. Although it is a herb that drives cats crazy, it makes them roll on the floor and rub their faces against the catnip. They have not found that it has adverse effects as long as it is not given in excess.

Let’s Define Catnip

Nepeta cataria, also known as catnip, is a mint-like plant with a pungent odor that attracts cats.

The ancient Romans used catnip to prepare ointments and make cures for people. Today this herb is widely used in hot infusions to help improve people’s digestion. It has a potent odor that does not go unnoticed by cats’ sense of smell.

This plant is from Europe and grows in many abandoned ruins, old houses, or vacant lots. The plant name comes from the Latin “Nepa,” which means scorpion. An animal that long ago, people believed, had healing powers in its stings.


Is Catnip A Drug For Cats? Can Cats Be Drugged With It?

As we have already seen, catnip is irresistible to cats. Cats eat its flowers, smell it, bite it, and rub their whole body on its leaves, and this happens over and over again. They’re always wanting to come back for more of this magical plant.

This plant has aromatic oils that cause the cats that consume it to act very playfully at first. Still, when the effects of these oils increase, the cats’ behavior becomes quite strange. They start to roll over themselves in a kind of pleasure cloud, hunt mice that do not exist, and many other things.

This effect does not happen in all cats in the same way. Experts believe that this plant does not affect a third of all cats. This variation from one cat to another may be due to environmental, genetic, and sexual factors. This plant attracts mainly females and neutered males.

Suppose a cat that seems different when consuming catnip is put in a new environment or is stressed or nervous. In that case, the plant likely has no effect on it, and there will be no change in its behavior. We should also know that there are some breeds of cats that do not react to catnip.

However, a recent study indicates that catnip does have a drug-like effect on cats. Excessive consumption of this plant makes cats high. This study reveals that catnip on cats is very similar to the effects of morphine or cocaine in humans.

Scientists have not deciphered yet the genetic relationship that makes cats so attracted to this plant. Still, they already know that the main active ingredient of catnip is linked to a similar substance found in cat urine.


Why Do People Give Catnip To Their Cats?

We can get catnip in different forms. We can buy it dry, seeds, seedlings in pots, or as a grown plant. There are some cases in which they sell it tucked inside a cat toy.

We already know that it is not dangerous for cats, but it is best not to give it to them all the time. We always have to control its consumption. Because of this, if we buy a catnip plant, we must keep it in a place where the cat does not have access to it and only take it out when it is going to be used with our pet.

It is essential to reaffirm that catnip is not a dangerous plant for cats since the effects it produces are completely natural and only last a few minutes.

Now that we understand all these exciting aspects of catnip, let’s go back to the original question, why do people give catnip to cats? To answer this logical question, let’s look at a list of reasons to give this herb to our pets.

  • To use as a treat. In training, to teach it to do something that interests us, since catnip is a tasty and coveted reward and makes the cat feel very good and stimulated.
  • To use an object. When you want your cat to use a particular thing, for example, new toys, it is best to impregnate the new object with the scent of catnip; this will help the cat get used to the new item faster.
  • To relax the cat. If your cat is hyperactive and has excess energy or is very nervous, use this plant to help it settle down naturally.
  • To scare away mosquitoes. Catnip is a natural pest repellent and helps eliminate mosquitoes. At this point, the plant is beneficial not only for cats but also to us.

Other Benefits Of Giving Catnip To Our Cat

It is common for cats to eat herbs to purge themselves. This causes them to vomit to expel the hairballs they have produced. If it is a cat that lives in the countryside, this action will be an easy task, but eating herbs is more limited for an apartment cat. That is why it would be good to give it catnip from time to time to help it in this regular process. Aside from this, other benefits of ingesting catnip are:

  • It helps improve digestion in cats.
  • It contributes folic acid to the cat’s diet.
  • It is a plant that is a natural laxative.

Can I Give Catnip To My Cat Every Day?


Suppose you give your cat a small daily dose of catnip. In that case, that’s fine, it won’t hurt it, and it will keep it relaxed for a few minutes, but you must be very disciplined in this and not give it more than once a day to avoid any complications. The same happens with toys or objects impregnated with catnip leaves or spray; you should only do this once a day.

Other Precautions To Take Into Account When Your Cat Consumes Catnip

  • Moderate the amount of catnip. The main thing is to consult your veterinarian for the ideal amount and frequency according to your cat’s condition and specific characteristics.
  • Protect windows, balconies, and openings. When the cat is under the effects of catnip, it can be stimulating to a point where it could jump out of any hole it finds. Because of this, we must take all the necessary precautions to take care of our pets.
  • Keep an eye on children and babies. When you have children or babies, all the prevention measures are doubled, even more so if our cat is under the effect of catnip. As they are so excited, they can run, jump from side to side without stopping, and scratch without measuring what or to whom.

A Final Thought On Cats And Catnip

We must remember the importance of consulting a veterinarian and clarifying the doubts about catnip in our cats. Catnip is neither good nor bad; it all depends on how we use it with our pets.

All veterinarians agree that the key to the proper use of this herb is moderation. If we manage it well, we will provide happy moments for our furry friends.

Information, moderation, and prevention are the keys that we have to follow and respect for the well-being of cats.