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What Are The Effects of Catnip? (Harmful or Harmless?)

If you are interested in catnip for your cat, or just curious about its effects, keep reading…

What are the effects of catnip?

Catnip is an aphrodisiac that can cause various effects on the brain when consumed by cats. The effects of consuming catnip vary from lounging to behaving chaotically. The reactions to catnip typically vary depending on the cat and the amount of catnip they consume.

When feeding your cat their catnip, be prepared for many potential reactions. Do not go in with a single expectation, or you might end up disappointed by the results.

What Is Catnip?

A catnip plant with water droplets on it.

A catnip plant with water droplets on it.

Catnip is a safe plant commonly given to cats as a treat. You can grow catnip at home or purchase it at the store. It is safe to feed your pets fresh or dried, both of which will yield the same euphoric benefits for your feline friends.

You can also give your cat catnip extract, which is safe and yields the same benefits.

The green plant is considered a weed by many people. However, the herb is essential for providing housecats with their nepetalactone.

Initially, people used catnip for medicinal purposes. Now it is more popularly marketed as an aphrodisiac for cats.

How long do the effects of catnip last?

The effects of catnip last around ten minutes; therefore, you should use it as a treat. For these ten minutes, your cat will experience either one or more effects of catnip. They may become hyperactive, which can be problematic in the household.

If you feed your feline catnip too often, you may increase their tolerance for the treat. Go without giving your cat catnip for a few weeks, and then see if their tolerance has decreased.

Is Catnip Safe or Dangerous?

Catnip is safe for your cat to ingest or consume in moderation. Feeding your cat too much catnip can be dangerous because of the mischief your cat causes around the house. They can damage items around the house and hurt themselves.

Clear away all breakable items and any items that may harm your cat. You may want to move away from furniture and give them toys to expel their energy.

Should catnip be used as a treat?

Catnip is a good treat many owners give their cats during playtime as an additional stimulant. Give your cat a small pinch of catnip as a treat when they behave well. Since less is more when it comes to catnip, only give your cat small doses of the plant.

Sprinkle catnip in designated areas like their bed, scratching post, or play area for the best experience. This way, you can set up a treat ritual.

History of Catnip

Catnip (Nepeta cataria) is a member of the mint family brought to America in the 1800s as clippings for medicinal purposes, then later popularized as a cat aphrodisiac. The organic aphrodisiac compound in catnip, nepetalactone, was discovered in 1941 by professor Samuel McElvian of Wisconsin University.

You may purchase catnip from the store fresh or preserved. It is considered a microgreen that does not require gardening skills to grow. So, managing the plant or growing it yourself is easy.

Can catnip repel mosquitos?

Catnip is a great insect repellent for mosquitos and several other bugs. You can plant catnip in your garden to repel mosquitos and other insects. You can also scatter catnip around the area as a repellent to keep insects away.

Some people prefer sprinkling catnip. However, it would help if you continued to scatter catnip in the area frequently, so it does not lose its repellent effects. No matter what type of catnip you use to repel mosquitos, you will make your cat happy.

How can you give catnip to your cat?

You can give your catnip their catnip in several ways, like a catnip toy, dried catnip, or fresh clippings. All of these ways are safe ways to let your cat enjoy catnip.

Give catnip to your cat in the following ways:

  • Clippings
  • Toy
  • Bubbles
  • Treats
  • Fresh plants
  • Spray

In many cases, cats will enjoy live plants because of the fresh aroma. However, every cat has their preference. Mostly, you can stimulate desensitized cats by giving them fresh, homegrown catnip.

How long is dried catnip or catnip toys good for?

All catnip has different shelf lives. Popular catnip includes dried, extracted, and catnip toys. These have different shelf lives because of how the catnip is prepared and stored.

Dried Catnip

The most common shelf life for dried catnip is roughly six months. However, dried catnip can have varying shelf lives depending on the brand, type of catnip, and storage method. Catnip brands stored in air-tight containers are more likely to stay good for longer.

Feeding or scattering outdated catnip for your cat to enjoy is pointless. The helpful components evaporate, causing the catnip to become pointless.

Catnip Toys

Catnip toys typically expire around six months after using them. You should maintain fresh toys and only bring them out occasionally to ensure that you do not desensitize your cat to catnip.

Leaving catnip-filled toys out can subject your cat to become desensitized by the catnip inside the toys. Becoming desensitized to the catnip in these toys will also make them lose the effects of loose catnip.

Why do cats like catnip?

A black and white cat lying on a brown textile.

A black and white cat lying on a brown textile.

The main reason cats like catnip are because of nepetalactone, a natural chemical in catnip. However, there are a few other things in catnip that interest cats.


Cats like catnip because of the nepetalactone inside of the bright green plant. Nepetalactone is an organic chemical known for activating nerve receptors in the cat’s brain, which increases the cat’s energy level.

The nepetalactone acts as an aphrodisiac, increasing their activity level for short bursts at a time. However, the effects will vary. Cats can consume, inhale, or roll in catnip, and they will feel the symptoms of it. The amount you give your cat will not extend the time or increase the severity of their reaction.

It can desensitize them to catnip and cause severe discomfort.

Catnip helps digestion 

Catnip is a great digestion aid for cats because it soothes inflammation in the cat’s intestinal tract, making it one of the most common reasons they eat this plant.

The inflammation soothing effects of catnip during consumption means cats also pass hairballs quicker. Their quick digestion of hairballs is because they break them down in their stomach and process them rather than throwing them up. Preventing vomiting alleviates your cat’s throat and stomach pain.

It also prevents dental issues later on.

Does catnip work on all cats?

Catnip does not work on all cats, so you should not set the expectation that it will work on yours. Around 60 percent of cats respond to nepetalactone in catnip. This is because they have been desensitized to catnip over time.

Luckily, you may be able to bring back their senses by limiting their exposure to catnip.

If catnip does not work with your cat, do not try and force it on them. Your cat might grow resentful of your behavior which can cause permanent damage to you and your cat’s relationship.

Should you give your cat only small doses?

You should only give your cat their catnip in small doses, or they can get overstimulated. If you feed your cat too much catnip, they will eventually become desensitized to it, meaning they will no longer find joy in it. Giving them small doses only once per week is a good way to ensure they do not ingest too much catnip.

Is catnip spray quite intensive?

Catnip spray is an intensive form of catnip, lasting from ten to twenty minutes or more. The average varies based on your cat and brand. The area you spray may also impact the effects of catnip spray on your cat.

The spray version of catnip has a longer shelf life than regular catnip by roughly six months. This is because of the added preservatives or other ingredients mixed with the catnip extract.

How often can I let my cat have catnip?

You should only let your cat have catnip once a week. Letting your cat have catnip once per week lets your cat experience the full effects of catnip. If you give catnip to your cat more than once a week, your cat might lose the herb’s effects.

You want to treat this plant like a treat rather than a fun past-time for yourself.

Only feed your cat a small amount of catnip each day. Giving them a little catnip ensures that they will not get sick from eating or smelling too much at once.

Can cats eat catnip?

Cats will frequently eat catnip, which is good for their digestive tract. Letting your cat eat a small amount of catnip is good for their health, and you can encourage it in moderation. Consuming too much catnip can make their stomachs upset and lead to vomiting, diarrhea, and more.

So, avoid upsetting their stomachs by giving them catnip in small amounts. If you notice a pattern of this behavior, avoid giving your cat any catnip.

Lindsey Browlingdon