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Compressed Catnip Balls: What They Are & Our Top Picks in 2024

Written by: Chris Dinesen Rogers

Last Updated on March 7, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

cat owner holding catnip ball

Compressed Catnip Balls: What They Are & Our Top Picks in 2024


Dr. Maja Platisa Photo


Dr. Maja Platisa

DVM MRCVS (Veterinarian)

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

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Catnip (Nepeta cataria) and felines go together like peas and carrots. Their unique response to this perennial herb is a spectacle to see, watching your pet roll around the floor and vocalizing. This effect isn’t exclusive to your kitty. Lynxes, leopards, and lions also react to its pungent aroma caused by a chemical called nepetalactone, giving them a “high-like” experience.

Manufacturers produce a broad spectrum of products, and one of the newest additions is compressed catnip balls. They’re a welcome alternative to the loose stuff, which makes a mess. Let’s explore this latest cat toy and the benefits it may offer for your pet.

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Catnip 101

Catnip is a Eurasian plant from the mint family that was introduced to the United States and Canada. Europeans brought the plant from across the pond, motivated by its long use in folklore. People used the plant for various purposes, from wound treatment to fevers to digestive issues. It also makes a pleasant tea. It has a calming effect on people, which prompted some parents to give to restless children.

It didn’t take long for the catnip plant to spread. It is invasive and can crowd out native species. The National Park Service (NPS) recognizes this undesirable trait.1 It’s a hardy plant that can tolerate less-than-ideal conditions, contributing to its wide distribution. It blooms in the spring with white flowers with pale purple or pink spotting.2

Image Credit: snd_nrdc-Pixabay


Cats and Catnip

We mentioned that other felines respond to catnip. However, one notable exception is tigers.3 The majority of these animals seem indifferent to its effects. Curiously, our domestic cats share 95.6% of their DNA with these felines.4 However, catnip doesn’t affect all pets, with the trait being hereditary. Kittens are also less likely to experience its effects. Given their playfulness, it’s probably for the better.

People have long recognized the potency of this plant, writing about its mysterious power over cats. The question remains: Why the attraction? Research has shown that nepetalactone, the essential oil in the plant, also repels mosquitoes 10 times more than DEET without the toxic side effects. It’s worth noting this insect is the most dangerous organism on the planet. It carries various diseases, including malaria.

That makes a cat’s response to catnip a good thing, with the benefit of looking in the evolutionary rearview mirror. Mosquitoes carry the parasite that causes heartworm disease. Being attracted to this plant may provide a ready source of protection against this serious and potentially life-threatening condition in an unexpectedly pleasurable way. Growing it in your garden can help keep these bugs at bay and benefit you.

However, if ingested in large amounts, catnip may lead to mild signs of vomiting and diarrhea. Some cats may experience a level of sedation or calmness as discussed before, while others may become hyperactive.

cat smelling catnip
Image Credit: Kassel95_Pixabay

Catnip Products

Anecdotal and scientific evidence supports the use of catnip on our pets. It’s not harmful to cats. The worst thing we can say is that the dried leaves make a mess on the carpet if your cat rolls in the stuff. The smell is strong, which some may find offensive. Your cat may be excitable if they get a snootful. However, it can also settle your pet if they consume it.

Manufacturers have capitalized on catnip’s effects with a broad spectrum of products. You can use the dried, loose leaves and flowers to make playtime more fun when sprinkled on toys. You can also put catnip on a scratch post or other item you’re trying to persuade your kitty to use. We suggest buying small quantities that your pet will use up quickly to keep it and the effects fresh.

You’re undoubtedly familiar with catnip-filled toys. You’ll find them in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, more meant to attract you than your cat. We can’t help but laugh at the available products, from remotes to mice to tacos. Some are sewn shut whereas others are refillable to increase their usefulness, assuming your kitty doesn’t destroy them before the next fix.

Image Credit: Doug McLean, Shutterstock

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Compressed Catnip Balls

We’ve made a solid case for catnip and its role in olfactory enrichment. Let’s consider the role compressed catnip balls can play when dealing with these issues and extending the benefits of this herb for your kitty, starting with the design.

Even though the domestication process of wild cats in human settlements may have begun around 10,000 to 12,000 years ago, your pet is very much in touch with their wild side. A ball rolling away from them will trigger their prey drive quickly. That makes the introduction of the toy easy since your kitty will naturally be curious about its movement. Then, there’s the catnip and its allure.

The mess is a common complaint cat owners have with catnip, despite its evident enjoyment of their pets. The compressed catnip balls solve that issue. Well-made products won’t flake off but stay intact, allowing your cat to lick and chew them to get the effects of catnip. The design also prolongs the contact and enrichment. Raw Paws Compressed Catnip Balls are a prime example.

cat playing catnip ball
Image Credit: DimaBerlin, Shutterstock

Things to Consider

The main thing we look for in these products is the construction. They should hold up to a modest amount of play. The other concern is the scent. Cats get bored with catnip after short sessions. It’s hardwired into their physiology and not necessarily a fault of a product. However, the smell of the compressed balls should be noticeable to you.

The manufacture of these products makes it a valid consideration. Toys containing catnip are usually packed in airtight packaging that preserves the scent. Refillable toys make it easy. However, the product must retain the smell to keep your cat interested if they don’t play a lot.

How to Use Compressed Catnip Balls

You can extend the life of these toys by bagging them between uses. Remember that they aren’t like other items, and the scent is part of their allure. We also suggest inspecting them occasionally since your kitty will likely chew them and possibly make them unsafe. Remember that the construction may lead to large, indigestible pieces, making this precaution necessary to prevent gastrointestinal obstructions.

You can make the compressed catnip balls more of a treat by limiting playtime. You might consider putting a pinch of dried catnip inside the bag to recharge the scent. We like the idea of the compressed balls, especially if you have a cat that likes to chew. They will redirect this behavior to something more appropriate and safe. It’s an excellent way to get double duty out of your pet’s toys.

cat playing with- catnip toy
Image Credit: Ellie Burnett, Shutterstock

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Final Thoughts

Catnip and most cats are an excellent pairing. Many felines get to enjoy the effects of this plant, although some may develop a mild stomach upset if they eat too much catnip. Some cats may become almost sedated and very relaxed and cuddly, while others could become hyperactive . Pet owners probably get some fun out of watching them, too. Compressed catnip balls are an excellent alternative to loose catnip that is less messy and doesn’t fail to disappoint.

Featured Image Credit: Olga Kazanovskaia, Shutterstock

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