Is Catnip Safe For Cats?

If you are relatively new to owning a cat, or you have never experimented with catnip before, you are bound to be a little dubious about the prospect. Catnip is well known as the being the feline equivalent of illegal drugs, causing even the oldest and most chilled out cats to behave significantly out of character. But how much of this is true and how much of it is hearsay? Is catnip really something that can make your cat crazy or have the stories been blown out of proportion? And most important, is catnip safe for cats? Let’s find out!

What is catnip?

Catnip, official name Nepeta Cataria, is a perennial herb that belongs to the same family as regular mint. It is something that can be grown fairly easily, meaning that those owners who like to provide catnip for their felines can grow their own steady supply at little to no cost.

Why does catnip cause cats to behave strangely?

The catnip plant contains a chemical compound known as nepetalactone. When your kitty sniffs this, as she naturally will be inclined to do, the chemical acts as a stimulant and causes your cat to experience a reaction that is akin to the sort of high a human taking a human stimulant such as LSD might also experience.

Are all cats susceptible to catnip?

This is where it gets interesting. The reaction that your cat has to catnip might be completely different to that of another feline, and some felines might not react at all. Experts believe that this is because sensitivity to nepetalactone is primarily an inherited trait. If your cat’s parents did not react to catnip, there is a good chance that your feline won’t either.

It is also important to recognize that kittens rarely react to catnip either. His is because their sense of smell is not fully developed until they are around 6 months old, and if your kitty is hypersensitive to nepetalactone, it may not be obvious at this stage.

What behaviors might my cat exhibit when she has been exposed to catnip?

While some cats go absolutely crazy when exposed to catnip, others appear to ‘zone out’ and simply go into a state of uninterruptable relaxation. Typical behaviors seen in cats on catnip include:

- Roiling around

- Flipping over

- Chasing her tail

- Chasing random items

- Climbing with no purpose

- Running around for the sake of it

- Staring

- Laying immobile


The main difference in the behaviors seems to be dependent on how your kitty comes into contact with catnip. Sniffing it tends to induce hyperactive behaviors where as if you cat decides to eat it, which is extremely likely, the herb causes most cats to become very still and calm. This is because it has a slightly sedative effect when eaten.

Is catnip safe for my cats?

Catnip has proven to be neither toxic not addictive, so is generally considered safe for cats and a great way to add some occasional mental stimulation into your kitty’s day. Nevertheless, as with any drug, excessive amounts could cause your feline furbaby to experience a short spell of diarrhea. You should also monitor your cat carefully the first few times she has catnip, just in case she should experience an adverse reaction.


Ultimately, catnip is generally considered fairly beneficial and can be used in training, such as spraying a catnip solution against your cat’s scratching post to encourage her to use it. Utilized properly, catnip can be both a fun and functional part of caring for your cat.


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