Do you have a cat? If you do, then you must have bought your cat a catnip stuffed toy mouse at some point. This causes the cat to exhibit some weird behaviors. If you were wondering why do cats like catnip, what is the reason it causes them to react that way, if it is safe for cats, then you are in the right place. We will take a detailed look at what catnip is, why it affects cats, and how cats are triggered by being exposed to it.

What Is Catnip?

Catnip is a plant whose origin lies in Europe. Catnip (scientifically known as Nepeta Cataria) is a perennial herb in the mint family Labiatae. The term catnip was introduced after noticing how cats reacted when they came into contact with this plant.

Why Do Cats Like Catnip

Why Do Cats React to Catnip?

Catnip contains an organic molecule which is called nepetalactone. Nepetalactone is an organic compound made of two connected rings that are mostly carbon. The plant uses it to repel insects like mosquitoes and mites. But most cats are attracted to this compound. So, when cats are reacting to catnip, they are actually reacting to nepetalactone. When they come into contact with catnip, it stimulates their pheromones. This is why cats get a sense of euphoria or great happiness when they are stimulated by catnip. Nepetalactone is the answer to why do cats like catnip.

How Do Cats React to Catnip?

Cats will react differently to catnip depending on how it comes into contact with them. If it is used as a stimulant, they will rub themselves against it, drool over and show other behaviors that will express them enjoying themselves. The catnip triggers the olfactory bulb, amygdala, and hypothalamus of the cat. Hypothalamus is responsible for triggering sexual desire and since catnip affects this part, this explains why cats would roll over like a female cat in heat when they are high on catnip. This also explains why kittens under six months of age don’t respond to catnips. That is because they don’t reach sexual maturity until they are six months old. Some big cats like lion and jaguar also respond to catnip. If you were wondering how long does it take for catnip to kick in, then the answer is almost immediately. These effects last only for a period of 10 to 15 minutes and then things become normal again. Remember that these effects take place when they are stimulated by it, but it is a different story when they actually end up eating the catnip.

When catnip is eaten, it has the opposite effect on cats. The most common reaction to eating catnip is that cats will roll, flip, and eventually zone out. They could meow or growl during this period. Some cats may also become aggressive as a reaction to catnip. Don’t approach your cat if it is aggressive when it consumes catnip. The effect will wear off in 10 to 15 minutes. So, sniffing the catnip will get them to a stage of feline ecstasy where they will be playful and hyperactive. On the other hand, eating it will act as a sedative and make them fall asleep. That is truly killing two birds with one stone. Now, you should have a clear answer to what does catnip do to cats.

Does It Affect All Cats?

The short answer is no. It doesn’t affect all cats. So, if you have read this far along and you were thinking that hold on, my cat doesn’t react that way at all, then there is no reason to worry. Your cat simply doesn’t have the catnip gene. Only about 50-70% of cats would react to catnip. So, if your cat doesn’t react strangely when it comes into contact with catnip, it belongs in the other 30-50%. There is no need to worry if this is the case for your cat.

Is It Safe?

Yes, catnip is completely safe for cats. Not only is it safe there are also some notable benefits of catnip for cats. It is good for cats if it is given its once in a while. It can encourage cats to play and exercise. If your cat is anxious, it can help in reducing its stress. It is even safe for humans to consume and catnips could be used to treat some human ailments as well. So, as long as you are giving it to your cat, in small doses, there will be no problem.

Now, let’s talk about why you don’t want to overdose your cat with catnip. Some cats may have allergies to catnip. So, if you start in small doses, you can determine early if your cat is allergic. Another reason is that if you overexpose your cat with catnip, it will develop immunity to its effects. This is not an issue about the safety of the cats but this will be at the very purpose of giving catnip to your cats. Finally, there have been some rare cases where overexposure to catnips has made cats ill. But even then, the effects were mild and only led to vomiting and diarrhea. So, we can conclude that catnip is, for the most part, safe for cats.

Is It Addictive?

No, catnip is not addictive to cats. It may come as a surprise because the behavior of the cat suggests that it is addictive. When you pull the nip, you may see them getting aggressive and not wanting to let go. But the primary emotion driving this behavior is excitement, not addiction. This is how you would react if someone tried to take away your favorite toy when you were a child.

How and How Often Should You Give It?

Since we already talked about the potential damages of overexposing your cat to catnip, it is advised that you do it in moderation. Doing it once every two to three weeks is a great timeline to keep them interested and reactive to catnip. The most common way of giving it to your cat is through catnip toys. You can also have dried catnip that you can sprinkle on toys or scratching posts. So, now you know why do cats like catnip and how to use that liking for the benefit of your beloved cat.

Related: What Does Catnip Do to Cats? The Facts Each Cat Owner Must Know

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