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Is It True That All Cats React to Catnip? Vet-Reviewed Facts & FAQ

Written by: Ashley Bates

Last Updated on June 10, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

cat with green eyes in catnip

Is It True That All Cats React to Catnip? Vet-Reviewed Facts & FAQ


Dr. Marta Vidal-Abarca Photo


Dr. Marta Vidal-Abarca

Veterinarian, BVSc GPCert (Ophthal) MRCVS

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Catnip is one of the most widely marketed products for our feline companions. It might be a thought in your mind that no cat could resist the effects of this herbal wonder. However, is that really true? Does catnip woo all cats into a state of heightened consciousness?

What exactly happens when your cat consumes this product, and what is it comparable to? We have these answers for you, and you might be surprised to find out that no, in fact, not all cats fall for the catnip charm.

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What Is Catnip?

Catnip is an herb in the mint family. It goes by many names. Scientifically, it’s Nepeta cataria, but commonly catswort or catmint. The species is not originally native to the United States but has thrived here. It came from Europe, the Middle East, and parts of Asia.

Lucky for your cat, this is an easy herb to grow indoors or out in the garden. Even though it’s not native here, it has thrived, like many mint plants do, growing easily in many soil types and environments. So, you can have fresh catnip readily available.

When you buy catnip in the stores, it’s the dried version of this herb stuffed into a toy or container. Like any herb, the potency of the dried herb wears off over time, so it’s important to replace the catnip in toys by offering fresh options.

Image Credit: R. E. Beck, Pixabay

What Causes a Feline to React to This Herb?

We’ve all seen cats go hog wild over catnip. But what exactly is in this herb that is so tantalizing to our feline friends? Catnip contains a component called nepetalactone, which produces a euphoric behavior in the cat system.

If your cat is one of those that reacts to catnip, you should notice an apparent behavioral change when your cat is in this state of euphoria. The effects of catnip generally last around 10 to 15 minutes, and interestingly, once the effects disappear, your cat won’t react to it for about an hour or longer. Your cat can reap the benefits of catnip by sniffing it, rubbing their face onto the plant, and possibly by eating it or simply chewing on it.

You might notice an instant attraction in some cats or blank faces in others. It’s one magical plant that evokes different reactions from the feline community.

Why Some Cats Have No Reaction

Only about 60% of cats react to catnip. So, if you’ve introduced your cat to catnip and they don’t seem to change or show any interest, just know that this is normal, too. Also, keep in mind that cats start to react to catnip when they are approximately 6 months of age. Some cats don’t have the genes in their bodies that respond to this type of plant.

If you want to give your cat some green, you could always try cat grass instead. Cat grass has no euphoric effects, but it can be a good thing to have on hand. If your cat is the type to nibble on fresh grass or try to attack your house plants at every turn, cat grass is a very nice alternative that keeps your house plants safe.

You can buy cat grass online or in-store. There’s no complicated mystery magic here. Cat grass is simply grass that you grow in your home, allowing your cat free range when it gets big enough. It’s like having a patch of lawn inside. Your cat will appreciate it, and you don’t have to worry about them being attracted to it only due to its euphoric effects.

How Cats Act on Catnip

For those cats who do react to catnip, how much does their personality change? Generally, you might notice your cat getting crazier and more energetic. They might act a little more erratic than usual, bouncing around from place to place.

However, it can also have the opposite effect. Your cat might get lazier and take a snooze in their favorite napping spot. How a cat reacts just depends on the individual.

Lots of cats go bananas for catnip. If your cat is one of them, we recommend Hepper's durable, engaging Catnip Stick Toy! These sturdy toys come in several fun colors and feature bite-proof double bagging and 100% organic catnip fill. They're also handmade in the USA and designed to look like your cat's natural prey.

Hepper Stick Catnip Cat Kicker Toy
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Hepper Stick Catnip Cat Kicker Toy
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How to Test Catnip Effectiveness

If your cat is attracted to catnip, they might immediately show interest and demonstrate some behavioral changes. If it’s been over an hour and your cat seems to show no reaction whatsoever, there’s a chance that they are part of the 30% that is entirely “immune” to the effects of this tantalizing plant.

If your cat doesn’t show much interest, it might slim your resources when providing a wide range of attractive toys, but otherwise, it causes no issue. If you have a cat that doesn’t respond to catnip’s effects, you’ll have to look for different avenues to keep them entertained in the home.

cat enjoying cat nip
Image Credit: Georgia Evans, Shutterstock

Buying vs. Growing Catnip

How you give your cat catnip depends on how they like it. If your cats love catnip, you might always buy it at the store. You can buy it in a variety of ways. They make it in loose shake form or place it inside of the toy or other device. All of which are entirely safe for your Kitty to enjoy.

When you grow it yourself, you can make sure that there are no pesticides or other negative impurities that could be in the plan itself. You have full control over how healthy the plants are and have the experience of growing something that you and your cat can enjoy.

When you buy catnip, we recommend buying organic only. That way, the plant is free of any pesticides that could potentially bother your cat. Catnip is pretty cheap and readily available, so no matter how you choose to give your cat catnip, they will love this treat regardless.

Is Catnip Like Marijuana?

A common misconception is that catnip is to cats what cannabis is to people. While it is true that catnip does have euphoric effects on our feline friends, it isn’t the same as marijuana consumption in people. Catnip is something that lasts a lot less time and has slightly different effects on the brain. And, furthermore, cats can’t get addicted to catnip.

Marijuana is from the hemp family, which includes other common names you might recognize, like hops and nettles. On the other hand, catnip is part of the mint family that includes other leafy greens like basil, oregano, and thyme.

cat sniffing catnip
Image Credit: CatCrazy, Pixabay

Does Catnip Affect People? What Is It Used For?

It’s quite apparent that our cats really dig catnip. But doesn’t it have any of the same effects on humans? The short answer here is no. Catnip doesn’t have the same effect on humans as on our kitties. However, it is quite helpful medicinally speaking. Catnip has been known to be a natural cure for headaches, vomiting, and nausea.

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Final Thoughts

Catnip is a remarkable plant to have on hand when you have felines. It is easy to grow, simple to dehydrate, and fantastic to have on hand. Most cats feel the effects of catnip. So, if you have a multi-cat household, the chances of one of them enjoying the results are pretty high.

But if you notice that your cat does not react to catnip, there’s nothing wrong with them, either. It simply doesn’t affect some cats like it does others.

Featured Image Credit: Georgia Evans, Shutterstock

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