What Catnip Really Does To Cats? [Is It A Drug?]

Catnip is a plant that’s in the mint family and it has an aroma that attracts cats. When they come into contact with catnip, they go wild and start rolling around on the ground, rubbing their faces all over it, biting at it, etc. It can take up to 15 minutes for them to calm down after exposure. But what does catnip really do to your pet? Should you be worried about giving your pet something potentially dangerous? Let’s find out!

What Catnip Really Does to Cats?

According to the Humane Society, when smelled or eaten catnip targets the “happy” receptors in felines and causes reactions such as; rubbing, flipping, chewing, biting, or rolling around on the herb. In some cats, it can cause them to become more mellow, tired, or sleepy.

While others may become more aggressive, such as biting, or hissing while protecting the plant. The herb triggers behavior changes similar to a female cat in heat, although it affects both males and females.

Catnip affects cats differently. If you’ve never given your cat the herb before, it’s best to watch them carefully when you first introduce it. Some cats will have no reaction, while others may become a little too frisky.

The herb can trigger effects in your cat similar to narcotic effects on humans, without the poisonous chemicals. Let’s take a closer look at what you need to know before giving it to your feline friend.

Is Catnip Addictive to Cats?

Catnip is not a true toxin and is not an additive. However, if consumed in large amounts, it can trigger a poison-like reaction. According to PetMD, the herb doesn’t have any long-term effects on the brain, or body.

The adverse behaviors a cat displays after consuming the plant last anywhere from 10-15 minutes, depending on how much was consumed.

Can Cats Overdose On Catnip?

The active ingredient in catnip is called nepetalactone. It’s what triggers the behavior changes mentioned above, but it also affects them neurologically by stimulating their olfactory system and causing a release of dopamine in some cats which produces similar effects as narcotic responses on people.

These behaviors are often referred to as the cat “being high” on drugs. However, it’s very different than the effects drugs can have on humans. Cat’s don’t fall into a hallucination, in fact, they are very aware of their surroundings, even if they don’t seem like it.

The plant just makes them happier about everything in their environment.

Unlike narcotics, cats won’t overdose on catnip. However, consuming too much can cause them to experience a tummy ache, diarrhea, and vomiting.

Smelling Vs. Eating

The adverse effects will vary differently when your cat consumes it, as opposed to just smelling it. When they eat it, the catnip will go through their digestive system and make its way into their bloodstream. This can cause them to feel a kind of “high” and have stronger reactions than if they just smelled it.

All cats start out by smelling the herb before deciding to eat it or not. It has a minty, fresh scent that makes some cats want to consume it.

Male cats are more likely to eat catnip than females because it has the same chemical as a female cat’s urine. However, most cats are attracted to it regardless of gender.

Does Catnip Affect All Cats?

Unlike drugs that affect all humans, not all cats are susceptible to it. According to this site, 70-80 percent of cats are affected by the herb and the response is catnip is hereditary.

In addition, kittens under the age of six months old are not affected by it, until they reach sexual maturity. So, while it doesn’t affect kittens. Eating too much can cause them to have the same adverse reactions as an adult cat.

What Happens When You Give A Cat To Much Catnip?

When a cat consumes too much catnip, it can either become overwhelmed and fall into a catnip-induced stupor or behave in an erratically hyperactive way. If your kitty is feeling this way, place them somewhere quiet so they don’t hurt themselves tripping over everything in sight!

Other cats may become aggressive and bite, hiss, run away or appear frightened. If this happens to your cat when they’re around the herb for the first time, it’s best not to give them any more until you know how their body will react.

Knowing how much catnip to give your cat is challenging because most packaging doesn’t offer any type of feeding instructions. And there aren’t any standard guidelines online, that we could find.

Tips On How To Give Catnip to Your Cat

  • Start out slowly: Add a teaspoon of dried catnip or a few leaves to your cat’s food. If they like it, you can give them more the next time.
  • Spread it out: If your cat doesn’t seem interested in eating it, try sprinkling some on their scratching post or favorite toy and see if that gets their attention.
  • Lock it up: If your cat is used to opening cabinets, the refrigerator doors, then it’s best to keep the catnip in a place they can’t get to. Keep the catnip sealed in an airtight container and out of the sun. This will help keep the herb fresh for longer.
  • Careful with kittens: Even though catnip doesn’t affect kittens younger than 6 months of age, it’s perfectly fine to give them some. That said, start out with a smaller dose than an adult cat, in case they consume it. It doesn’t take a lot of catnip for a kitten to suffer from its adverse effects of it.
  • Use it for good: Even if your cat doesn’t have a reaction to the herb, it can be beneficial in other ways. It’s great for their digestion and helps them relax after they’ve had their fill! As long as you’re responsible for how much catnip you give your kitty, then there should be no problem at all.
  • Treat yourself: Catnip is a member of the mint family, meaning it is a herb with natural benefits for people. Medicinally, the plant has been used to treat indigestion, menstrual and intestinal cramps, increase appetite, sleep problems, and the common cold. The best way for humans to benefit from the herb is to steep it in boiling water and drink the mixture, or flavor soups, sauces, and stews. The downside is that many people don’t enjoy its taste too much!

Final Word

Catnip is an aromatic herb that is a member of the mint family and is not a dangerous drug for your kitty. That said, giving them too much can make them a little loopy, and it’s probably not a good idea to give it to them if they’re pregnant or nursing. But for the vast majority of cats, catnip is just plain fun.

Start out with a small amount. Once you know how your cat reacts, you can then determine how much and how often to give it to them.

If your cat isn’t interested at all or becomes ill after eating it. Stop feeding it to them and remove it from their environment.

There is no real danger from giving your kitty some catnip every now and then. Just be sure to observe them for any adverse reactions, and adjust the amount or frequency accordingly.

Related Articles