Why Do Cats Eat Catnip?

Cats are known for their quirky behavior, and their love for catnip is no exception.

As a cat owner, you’ve probably witnessed your furry friend’s crazy antics after being exposed to this herb. But have you ever wondered why do cats eat catnip, and what makes it so irresistible to them?

Well, the answer lies in a special compound called nepetalactone found in catnip that triggers a euphoric response in your feline’s brain. This reaction is similar to the way humans respond to certain drugs or alcohol.

Interestingly, not all cats are affected by catnip, and those that are may react differently. Some may become more playful and hyperactive while others may become more relaxed and mellow.

Apart from its mood-enhancing properties, another reason why cats love catnip is because it stimulates their senses. With a heightened sense of smell, the strong aroma of the herb can be very appealing to them.

Chewing on its leaves can also provide a satisfying sensory experience for your feline friend. In this blog post, we’ll take an in-depth look at the fascinating world of catnip and explore why do cats eat catnip.

So, let’s start now.

What is Catnip?

Catnip, also known as Nepeta cataria, is a member of the mint family that is native to Europe and Asia.

This perennial plant can grow up to three feet tall, and it is characterized by its heart-shaped leaves with scalloped edges and white or pink flowers that bloom in the summer. The secret behind catnip’s charm lies in its active ingredient, nepetalactone.

This compound is found in the plant’s leaves, stems, and seeds, and it triggers a series of behaviors commonly referred to as the “catnip response” when cats smell or ingest it. The “catnip response” can manifest in a variety of ways, from rolling and rubbing to licking and chewing.

Cats may become more playful and energetic or relaxed and calm when exposed to catnip. However, it’s essential to note that not all cats are affected by catnip.

About 70-80% of cats have a genetic predisposition to respond to catnip, while the remaining percentage shows no reaction at all. Furthermore, kittens under six months old are typically unaffected by catnip.

Why Do Cats Eat Catnip-2

So why do some cats go crazy for catnip while others remain indifferent? The answer lies in their genetics.

Sensitivity to catnip is inherited, so if your cat doesn’t respond to it, they likely lack the necessary genetic traits. But why do cats eat catnip specifically?

Scientists believe that the chemical compounds in the plant have a similar effect to pheromones – substances that animals use to communicate with one another. By eating catnip, cats may be trying to communicate with other cats or even their owners.

While catnip can be a great addition to your cat’s life if they are one of the lucky ones who respond to it, it’s important to remember that moderation is key. Too much catnip can cause overstimulation and even vomiting.

So always keep an eye on your feline friend’s behavior and limit their exposure to catnip accordingly. In conclusion, catnip is a fascinating plant that has a powerful effect on cats.

Whether your kitty goes crazy for it or remains indifferent, it’s always interesting to learn more about our furry friends and what makes them tick.

How Does Catnip Affect Cats?

This herb, which belongs to the mint family, contains a chemical compound called nepetalactone that is responsible for the wild behavior cats exhibit when they come in contact with it.

Some common behaviors include rolling around, rubbing their face and body on the herb, and even vocalizing. However, not all cats are affected by catnip.

Only about 50-70% of felines have a positive response to it. So, how does catnip affect cats?

It’s believed that when the scent of catnip enters a cat’s olfactory system, it triggers a pleasurable response in their brain. This response can lead to playful and relaxing behaviors that are often associated with the herb.

However, some cats may become more aggressive after ingesting or smelling catnip, although this is less common. It’s important to note that the effects of catnip are generally short-lived and usually only last for about 10-15 minutes.

Additionally, while catnip is generally considered safe for cats to ingest, it’s important to monitor your pet’s behavior and ensure that they don’t consume too much of the herb, which could lead to vomiting or diarrhea.

Why Do Cats Eat Catnip?

As an expert, let me share with you the fascinating science behind why cats eat catnip.

Firstly, it’s important to understand that catnip contains a special oil called nepetalactone. This oil is responsible for triggering a unique reaction in cats.

When they smell or ingest catnip, it can make them roll around, rub their faces on the plant, and even drool. But that’s not all – nepetalactone acts as a mild hallucinogen that can make cats feel euphoric and playful.

It’s worth noting that not all cats react to catnip. Estimates suggest that only about two-thirds of cats are sensitive to its effects.

Interestingly, sensitivity to catnip is hereditary, meaning that if a cat’s parents were sensitive to it, they’re likely to be as well. Kittens under six months old are also typically not affected by catnip.

Another intriguing aspect of catnip is that not all cats respond to it in the same way. Some may become hyperactive and playful, while others may become more mellow and relaxed.

Regardless of how your cat reacts to catnip, it’s important to offer it in moderation. Eating too much catnip can cause vomiting and diarrhea in cats.

In conclusion, while the exact reasons why cats eat catnip aren’t fully understood, we do know that the euphoric effects of the nepetalactone oil play a significant role. So if your furry friend is sensitive to its effects, offering them some catnip can be a great way to keep them entertained and happy.

Just remember to offer it in moderation and always keep an eye on your pet’s reaction to it.

Who is Affected by Catnip and Who Isn’t?

Firstly, it’s important to know that cats can have different reactions to catnip based on factors such as age, genetics, and gender. While kittens under three months old typically don’t respond to catnip, older cats may show varying levels of excitement or relaxation.

But here’s the fascinating part: only about half to two-thirds of cats actually react to catnip at all. This is because the gene that triggers the response is not present in all felines.

Even within a breed, some cats may be more sensitive to catnip than others. Interestingly, female cats tend to have a stronger reaction to catnip than males do.

Hormone levels likely play a role here, though spaying or neutering can reduce a cat’s sensitivity to the herb. It’s also important to note that not all feline species are affected by catnip.

Is Eating Catnip Safe for Cats?

The good news is that, in small amounts, catnip is perfectly safe for cats to eat. Many cats actually enjoy nibbling on catnip leaves or stems.

However, just like with any treat or food, too much of a good thing can have negative consequences. If your kitty eats too much catnip, they may experience digestive upset, such as vomiting or diarrhea.

Additionally, some cats may become lethargic or disoriented after consuming large amounts of catnip. So, it’s essential to keep an eye on your cat’s intake and symptoms.

To keep your furry friend safe and happy, we recommend limiting their consumption of catnip to small amounts. You can offer fresh or dried leaves as a treat, or sprinkle a small amount of crushed leaves on their food.

But remember, not all cats are interested in catnip – some may be more sensitive to it than others or not affected by it at all. If you notice any unusual behavior or discomfort after your cat has consumed catnip, we recommend consulting with your veterinarian.

They can advise you on the best course of action to ensure your kitty stays healthy and happy. To sum it up – while eating catnip is generally safe for cats, moderation is key.

How Can You Give Your Cat Catnip?

This natural herb is a safe and non-addictive treat that can provide your cat with hours of entertainment. But how should you give it to them?

Here are some safe and easy methods to try:

Fresh Catnip Leaves

If you’re the gardening type, growing fresh catnip in your own backyard can be a great way to provide your cat with a natural source of the herb. Simply pluck a few leaves and let your cat sniff or chew on them.

You can also sprinkle the leaves on your cat’s food to add some flavor.

Dried Catnip

For those who don’t have a green thumb, dried leaves or flakes can be found at most pet stores. Sprinkle them on your cat’s bedding, toys, scratching posts, or even directly on the floor for an added treat.

Catnip Toys

Try purchasing catnip-infused toys like stuffed animals, balls, or scratch pads. These toys are specially made with dried catnip and can provide your cat with hours of excitement.

Catnip Spray

If you want to take things up a notch, try using a catnip spray.

Simply spray it on your cat’s toys or bedding and let them enjoy the stimulating effects of the herb. It’s important to remember that not all cats may respond to catnip, as sensitivity can vary from cat to cat.

Additionally, it’s crucial to monitor their intake carefully and only give them small amounts at a time to avoid overstimulation or an upset stomach. In conclusion, giving your feline friend some catnip can be an enjoyable experience for both you and your furry companion.


In conclusion, catnip is a captivating herb that elicits a euphoric response in feline friends.

Nepetalactone, the compound responsible for this reaction, can make cats feel playful and relaxed. However, not all cats are affected by catnip, and those that are may display different behaviors.

Although the exact reasons why cats eat catnip remain unclear, scientists hypothesize that the chemical compounds in the plant mimic pheromones – substances animals use to communicate with each other. By consuming catnip, cats may be trying to communicate with their feline companions or even their human owners.

It’s essential to remember that moderation is key when offering your cat catnip. Too much of it can lead to overstimulation and even vomiting.

Additionally, some cats may not respond well to it or may not be affected by it at all. If your furry friend enjoys catnip, providing them with small amounts of fresh or dried leaves or using toys infused with the herb can offer hours of entertainment and relaxation.

Just keep an eye on their behavior and intake to ensure they remain happy and healthy.