What is Catnip and how does it affect your Cat?

by James Cook

Catnip is a perennial herb that can be found growing wild in many areas of North America and Europe. It's also known as Nepeta cataria, and the scientific name comes from the Greek word nepeios, which means "to creep."1 The plant grows up to 2 feet tall with grayish-green leaves that are divided into three leaflets or lobes. Catnip has been used as an herbal remedy for human ailments such as headaches and fevers since ancient times;2 however, cat owners should not give their pets any form of human medication without consulting with a veterinarian first.

As far back as 1809, scientists had noticed the effects of catnip on cats when they observed how much time felines spent rolling around on it when given access to both catnip and tobacco plants at the same time. In 1952, researchers published an article called "Pharmacology of Catnip Oil" which described how nepetalactone was responsible for causing changes in behavior among some cats when exposed to freshly dried leaves of Nepeta cataria or its essential oil extracted from those same leaves.3 One particular study has shown that 50% of domestic cats are sensitive to this chemical compound while other studies have found that domesticated animals like dogs may also respond positively after being exposed to varying concentrations of nepetalactone over time."

Cats typically eat catnip by rolling in it, pawing at it, rubbing their cheeks against it, biting and chewing it, or lying on it in a drowsy or euphoric state.

The most common way cats react to catnip is by pawing it, chewing it, rolling around in it and rubbing their cheeks on it. Interestingly enough, not all cats are affected by catnip—it's estimated that about 70% of all cats have this reaction. Studies have shown that the chemical nepetalactone found in catnip is what causes this euphoric feeling in cats.

Catnip may seem like a drug, but it’s not.

Catnip is not a drug. It’s a herb that can be used to make preparations for use in humans and animals, including cats. While it may seem like catnip works like a drug (and can be used as an alternative to one), it isn’t addictive or harmful when consumed by your cat.

Catnip does have some positive side effects, though: it helps make cats calmer and more relaxed, which is why many people choose to include it in their pets' diets.

Not all cats are affected by catnip; about 50% of cats are not sensitive to the herb’s volatile oils.

Catnip is not a drug, but rather an herb. It's also not addictive to cats—if you’ve ever seen your cat act out of control after getting some nip, it probably means that they are sensitive to its volatile oils.

If your cat is not sensitive to catnip, they may still enjoy playing with the leaves or stems just like they would with any other toy. But if you do notice that your non-sensitive feline acts like he's been hit by a thunderbolt when he smells it (or worse yet, eats it!), try finding another toy that will keep him entertained in its place.

Dried catnip leaves can be given to a cat by sprinkling them on scratch pads or toys.

If you plan to give your cat dried catnip leaves, there are a few things you should know:

  • How much? Most cats need about 1/4 teaspoon of dried catnip per day, but it's better to start with less and work up if your pet seems unresponsive. It's also important to make sure that any children in the household don't have access to this product; young children have been known to become ill after eating too much of it.
  • Where can I get some? You can find it at most pet stores or online (but stay away from some cheap brands that use artificial ingredients). You'll want something made with 100% natural herbs because they're higher quality than products made with chemical additives or flavorings like chocolate or mint!

Sprigs of catnip may be given to a cat to chew on or play with.

Sprigs of catnip may be given to a cat to chew on or play with. Cats enjoy chewing on catnip as it makes them feel relaxed and happy. They will roll around in it, rub their cheeks against the leaves, bite and chew the plant, and even suck its juices from leaves.

Catnip may be grown at home from seed or from cuttings from other plants.

You can grow catnip indoors or outdoors, in a sunny or shady area and either in a pot or directly in the ground. Catnip should be planted in late spring or early summer when the weather is warm. Catnip seeds are easy to grow because they don't require much care; just be sure to keep them moist until they germinate, which happens quickly once they surface.

If you'd like to have fresh catnip available year-round, you can propagate it by taking cuttings from an established plant and replanting them outdoors (or inside).

Giving your cat an occasional dose of fresh catnip will bring out the playful side of your pet and provide enjoyment for both you and your kitty!

Catnip is a safe, natural herb that can be given to cats of all ages. Giving your cat an occasional dose of fresh catnip will bring out the playful side of your pet and provide enjoyment for both you and your kitty!

In moderation, however, it's perfectly safe for our feline friends. Catnip has been used as a medicinal herb for thousands of years by humans and felines alike. It's currently being studied by veterinarians as an alternative treatment for some common health problems in cats—so what do we know about this magical flower?


We hope you learned a little bit about catnip and how it can be used to create a happy, playful environment for your kitty. If your cat is not sensitive to the herb, then we recommend giving them a small amount of dried leaves or stems. Sprigs of fresh catnip may also be given as toys for your pet to chew on or play with for hours on end!