What’s the big deal with catnip?

Photo of Karen Dell

Karen Dell

Senior Editor • Backyard Cat Enclosures

19 September 2016

Ginger cat sitting in catnipCatnip may be a cousin to mint, but where the one belongs in a tall, frosty mojito, the other one is best placed under your cat’s nose. Which one is which? It’s called catnip for a reason, human!

Should I give catnip to my cat?

Absolutely! Cats that respond to it really love it. It’s completely harmless, non-addictive, and a great way to make that new scratching post or bed more appealing - simply rub some catnip on it and watch your cat fall (madly) in love. However, it is a treat, and like any other treat, you shouldn’t overdo it. We recommend restricting it to once a week at most. Any more than that, and you might find your cat desensitised, and that would be a real shame. There’s few things more entertaining for everyone involved than a cat on catnip.

What does catnip actually do?

To find out, crush some catnip stems or leaves in your hand and sprinkle them where your kitty will find them; or even put some in an old sock or scrunched-up paper bag. Crushed catnip releases a type of oil that makes cats that eat or smell it even more fruity than usual. Your kitty might jump, roll, run, chirp, salivate or do pretty much any of the bizarre things that comes to them in this state of total bliss. It can be a great time for playing with their favourite toys. But the effects are far from predictable - some cats achieve Buddha-like zen while other kitties enter a state of maniacal, borderline aggressive playfulness.

Whatever the case, give it 5 to 15 minutes and your cat will be back to it’s old self, slinking around like nothing ever happened. For 2 hours after that catnip will be totally ineffective, but after that, welcome back to purr-adise!

My cat doesn’t do any of those things!

Don’t worry, your kitty isn’t defective! At least 1 in 3 cats are totally unaffected by catnip and no cat is sensitive to it until sometime between 3 and 6 months old.

Where can I get catnip?

You can buy dried catnip from the pet supplies store, but the best way to get safe, organic catnip is to grow your own! Catnip is an extremely hardy plant that loves sunlight and is extremely easy to cultivate, even indoors. You can then give it to your cat fresh, just make sure that it is in a hard to reach place: there’s no long-term risk of your cat overdosing on catnip, but if they eat too much of it in one sitting they may experiencing some vomiting or diarrhoea. If it could, we’re sure your cat would appreciate it, and we have no doubt you could do without the mess.

While catnip might be great for your kitty, there are plenty of plants that aren’t - make sure the right things are growing around your home with our guide. Or, if your cat isn’t into catnip, take a look at some of our other suggested treats.


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