What Does Catnip Do to Cats? We Have All the Answers!

You’ve probably heard of catnip toys, but you might not know what it is exactly. Is it a drug? Why do they like it? Can it be dangerous for our feline friends? If you want to see answers to these questions and more, keep scrolling!

What Does Catnip Do to Cats

The typical response to inhaling catnip involves sniffling, licking, chewing, body rolling and rubbing, head shaking, spontaneous vocalization as a response to hallucinations, and finally zoning out. 

Some cats may become hyperactive, but don’t worry, as all of this normally passes after ten minutes or so. A full “reset” takes about two hours.

It might sound a bit scary to you, but cats love this sensation. Scientists believe that nepetalactone, the essential oil found within the leaves, targets their “happy” brain receptors and basically gets them high. 

On the other hand, catnip effects on cats are totally different if the plant is eaten. In that case, it has sedative properties, calming cats down.

What Is Catnip Used For in Cats

Considering the previous answer, you may already guess what the herb could be used for. 

  • Encouraging cats to play, exercise, and explore
  • Lowering stress levels
  • Providing an extra training aid or occasional treat

What Else Should I Know About Catnip

We all love our little companions, but let’s be honest, having a pet isn’t exactly cheap. Some stats show that the annual costs of owning a cat can exceed $1,000, so we don’t blame you for wanting to get thoroughly informed before purchasing pet products.

For that reason, we present you with additional info about catnip.


Catnip comes in different forms, most notably:

  • Fresh catnip
  • Dried leaves and stems
  • Sprays
  • Catnip-infused toys
  • Chew treats
  • Scratching posts

Basically, you can grow the plant yourself or buy products that contain it. Catnip toys are the most popular. Spray products are a good option for kittens that get upset stomachs if they eat catnip (for example, you can spray their scratcher). 

However, you should know that sprays usually won’t get your cat as high, because they have less nepetalactone.


Unlike in the case of CBD oil for cats, finding dosing info for catnip is pretty difficult — even when you buy catnip products, the packaging typically doesn’t state it. The reason for this might be that a cat is extremely unlikely to overdose. 

It’s a non-toxic substance, so even large quantities won’t lead to dangerous catnip effects. At worst, if your cat eats too much of it, it may cause diarrhea and/or vomiting. The safest thing you can do is start with a small dose and see your pet’s response.


There’s no definitive answer regarding this point either, but most experts recommend exposure to catnip once every 1–3 weeks for 15 minutes or so. 

That’s because very frequent and consistent use can lead to habituation (i.e., with too much catnip, the cat will gradually become less sensitive to it).


Catnip is not harmful to young cats, but they don’t respond to it. This sensitivity starts only when a kitten is several months old (usually 3–6 months). In the beginning, the scent might even repel them, but they’ll grow to like it with time.

Similarly, when cats reach old age, they tend to become less interested in catnip. 


It’s very important to note that pregnant cats shouldn’t be given the catnip herb in any form! First of all, catnip can stimulate uterine contractions, resulting in premature labor. Additionally, playfulness exhibited when catnip is inhaled could lead a pregnant pet to injure itself. 

Storing Catnip

If you have dried catnip, it must be stored in a container that’ll keep the moisture out (glass containers or zip bags, for example). Catnip won’t expire if you keep it in a dry, cool place away from sunlight and heat, since those would affect the potency.

Key Takeaways

Taking proper care of a cat is essential and not always easy, but pets deserve nothing but the best for all their unconditional love. 

We have now answered the question “What does catnip do to cats?” so don’t hesitate to buy some for your four-legged friend — just remember our tips and warnings.


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