Cats Nip and How it Affects Cats – A Guide

Updated on February 19, 2021

Have you ever had catnip around your feline and noticed that he or she began to exhibit certain behaviors that are only common to female cats when they are in heat? If yours is a male cat, then you may have been confused or surprised, and rightly so. 

So, what is it with this plant and why does it have this kind of effect on felines?  If you are curious to learn about this plant and how it affects the behavior and mood of your cat, then keep reading to find out.

What Is Catnip?

Catnip is a popular perennial herb that belongs to the same family as the mint plant and grows easily in the North American region. In terms of appearance, it has lightweight green leaves and attractive lavender flowers. 

Because of the effect that it has on cats, some people think it belongs in the same category as marijuana. But it doesn’t. Unlike marijuana, catnip is neither psychoactive nor addictive. 

Long before it became associated with cats, people made tea with catnip leaves while the flower was used for medicinal purposes like cough treatment. It is also being used today as an active ingredient in natural insect repellents. 

How Cats Nip Affects Cats

There is an extra organ of smell in cats’ mouths that allows scents to pass through the mouth and nose into the cat’s brain. So, whenever a feline is exposed to catnip and it perceives the scent of the nepetalactone oil in the plant, the scent organ will send the scent to the part of the brain that is responsible for all kinds of emotions. 

Because this herb has similar effects on a cat as its sex hormones, the feline will display behaviors that female cats exhibit when they are in heat. Such behaviors include an excessive display of affection, rolling or jumping, loud meows or growling, aggression, drooling, or relaxing.

These behaviors will, however, vary with cats. Some felines become hyperactive while others may become docile. 

Cats nip may also relieve pain and reduce anxiety in felines that react positively to it. 

Studies also show that beyond the hyperactive effect that this plant may have on felines, its bug-repellent properties also keeps mosquitoes and other insects away from the felines. Visit to learn more about the benefit of having this plant around your fur baby. 

How Long Catnip Reactions Last

It is not possible to tell how long the effect of this herb will last seeing that cats react to it differently. However, on average, the effect of catnip on a cat may last for approximately 10 minutes then the cat will become immune to it for close to 30 minutes. 

Catnip reactions are hereditary. So a kitten will likely exhibit the same behaviors as its parents. However, this plant will not affect the little fur babies until they are 6 months old. By then they will be sexually mature and may react to the plant. 

That said, this herb tends to lose potency after a while. This is why it is advisable to store it properly in an airtight bag or container to preserve its freshness.


Does Catnip Affect All Felines?

Not only does it affect domestic felines, but it also affects the bigger ones like tigers and lions. But not all cats react to this plant. 

A study showed that only about 6 out of 10 cats react behaviourally to catnip. It is also said that a feline’s response or the absence of it is highly hereditary. 

Can Catnip Kill Cats?

Catnip is safe for the most part. You may be curious to know if it can kill a cat is because you also want to know if felines can overdose on it. 

Yes, cats can overdose on the catnip plant and too much of it can lead to problems like diarrhea, dizziness, and vomiting. However, it can’t kill the cat. 

So, ensure that you consult your vet before you give this herb to the feline. 

How to Use Catnip

How you give this plant to your feline is entirely up to you. But you may also want to consider how your animal loves to enjoy it.

Here are a few ways to give this herbaceous plant to your cat:

  • Freshly-cut out of the garden.
  • In a dried form
  • Stuffing cat toys with some dried catnip.
  • Liquid form in spray bottles or as bubbles.

The sprays are recommended for situations when you are worried that the cat may eat too much of the plant and develop stomach upset.

Never seen a cat under the influence of catnip? Click here for a funny compilation of cats’ reaction to this herb.

Bottom Line 

Catnip is an herbaceous plant that has a history of being used for making tea and as a bug repellent. However, the effect this plant has on the behavior of felines has left cat parents curious about the science behind it. 

We hope that by reading this article you now understand the science and can attest to the safety of this plant while taking note of the precaution required in storing and giving it to your felines. We also showed you different forms to consider when giving this herb to your feline. You can make a choice based on your convenience or your cat’s preference.

Finally, remember that felines respond to this plant differently and while 6 out of 10 cats will show temporary behavioral changes others won’t.  

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