Do cats eat Catnip

Do cats eat catnip, and why do they like it so much?

After I mentioned that our first cat tried to nibble at every plant she could reach, a friend suggested I give her some catnip.  I had never even heard about it, let alone buy any, but I decided to get some from our pet supplies store.   After she ate some of the stuff, I noticed her doing things which weren’t quite usual for her, like she was a different cat…verging on the euphoric.  So, the question “Do cats eat catnip” was an affirmative in her case, in every sense of the word.

It came as a complete surprise as she wasn’t the type to do much all day, apart from sleep.  And there she was, playing away and quite vocal.  If she ate a lot of it, she would vomit, so I controlled just how much she was allowed to have.

Playful Cat
Playful Cat

When I gave some to our second cat, he just walked past it, ignoring it completely.

I was a bit curious about all this, so I researched the plant.  It turned out that the majority of cats like it, and “like it” seemed to be quite an understatement.

Many cat really seem to go crazy over catnip

Our first cat certainly did.  She went bananas!   She would smell it, lick it, jump and roll around it, chew it, and then, yes, she’ll actually eat it.  Thank goodness it is considered to be harmless.  The big question is… WHY does it have the out-of-this-world effect on them?

If you have green fingers, you might want to have a crack at growing some catnip.  It won’t take long, so if you’re the impatient type, you should be OK.

On the other hand, if you aren’t really bothered, have no time, or short on gardening space, you can always buy it in the form of toys.  There is a huge variety to choose from, depending what your kitty enjoys to play with.

If your cat isn’t into toys, you can always get him some catnip spray, and squirt some on its favorite toys, or where it usually enjoys staying.  Catnip gel is also available, which gives you a choice of what you can use.

Information about Catnip

The technical name for Catnip, or catswort and catmint, is Nepeta Cataria.   Actually, catnip and catmint are called so because of the uncanny attraction cats tend to have towards the plant.

This perennial part of the mint family is a short-lived plant or herb and only grows to a maximum height of about 100 cm.  It blooms from late spring to autumn.

Cat toy manufacturers have twigged about its appeal to cats, and are treating things, like scratching posts and other related toys, with it.  You might think this is a form of cheating to generate sales.  Perhaps it is the case, but cats love it and since it doesn’t hurt our feline friends, there is really no harm in it.

As powerful a stimulant as this ‘drug’ is, which causes some cats to become over-active, it doesn’t seem to move all cats in quite the same way.  Young kittens, however, tend to keep their distance from it.  Perhaps they aren’t of age to be aroused yet, and since catnip has an aphrodisiac effect, kittens under a certain age will be totally unaffected.  This can’t be scientifically proven yet as there haven’t been enough studies made in this field so far.

The active ingredient found in catnip is nepetalactone.  This essential oil is similar, chemically, to many hallucinogens.   This ingredient doesn’t affect other animals or humans; just cats, and still not all of them.

If you think that all this is just some old wives tale, take a look at what Scientific American has to say about it.

The Pros and Cons of Catnip


  1. It is safe to use on a daily basis, and your cat won’t overdose on it. He will simply ignore it when he’s had enough.  This brings about the question if your cat has become ‘high’ on it.  Unfortunately, this is another question that science hasn’t got an answer for.
  2. It will act as a stimulant when sniffed. When eaten, it acts as a sedative.  Should your cat not be very active, in other words, quite lazy, and tends to put on weight, catnip can be introduced to his diet.  The stimulation would get him to exercise, which works wonders as he’ll be less fat, and much healthier.
  3. You can train your cat to scratch specially allocated areas and not your expensive furniture. This is done by rubbing some catnip gel where you wish your cat to ‘attack’.  You can also use spray instead.  This action will lure your cat to this dedicated zone, and if the process is repeated enough times, your expensive furniture will be spared.
  4. The effect of catnip lasts for minutes, and won’t be triggered again before a considerable amount of time has elapsed. This could be an hour or more.

Cat after eating catnip
Cat after eating catnip


  1. If your cat is already ‘touchy’ or ‘upset’ about something, giving him catnip might have an adverse reaction. By an adverse reaction, I mean that your cat can become violent.  This has been compared to us humans after having one too many to drink.  Our inhibitions tend to float out of the window, and we do things we don’t normally do.  Being violent can be one of them, and the other one can be classed as, stupid.
  2. If cats are over exposed to catnip, they might become quite inactive. For this reason, it is recommended that you only give them it once every few days, if desired.  The other side of the coin here would be a calming effect if you need to go for a visit to the vets.

Catnip, apart from being a mild stimulant, is irresistible to many cats.  Their behavior, after having been introduced to this plant, can be summed up as being ‘happy’.  However, as with everything else, good things come in small doses, and a little can go a long way.  Ideally, if you do decide to go for it, introduce it to your cat slowly, and depending on their reaction to it, this will prompt you to make the next move.

To further treat your cat, always if it deserves it, which I’m pretty sure it does, you can also buy catnip in the form of treats, believe it or not, Catnip Treats Salmon.  Whatever next?  One thing’s for sure, and that is that our cats will always have an endless supplies of goodies coming their way, some of it in the form of their beloved catnip, even pillows.



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