Catnip: Does Your Cat Love It Or Leave It?

Is your cat totally turned on by catnip?  Does he become very mellow when exposed to it, or does it send him into fits of crazy activity?  It has different effects on cats, and some cats (as many as 1/3 of all cats) are not affected by it at all.

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Why Does It Drive Some Cats Crazy And Not Others?

What is it in it that appeals to cats?  It contains an oil that acts as an hallucinogen that reduces cat’s inhibitions and creates a euphoric reaction that usually lasts about 15 minutes.  The attraction is genetic, so those cats without the genetic trait aren’t drawn to it at all.  Kittens do not respond to it, either.

Minnie having fun bunnykicking his catnip toy

How Catnip Can Help Your Cat

Catnip can help a cat in several ways.  If your cat has been under a lot of stress, for example company in the house, change in your schedule, a nip play session can help relieve his stress.

Does your cat tend to be a couch potato?  Giving him a nip infused toy to play with will help get him moving.

If your cat is very timid, catnip play sessions can help draw him out of his shell and be more interactive.

Avoid Overexposure

It’s important, though, not to give your cat too much exposure to catnip.  Constant exposure will eventually make a cat immune to it’s effects.  If you live in a multi-cat household, and you’ve never given catnip to one of the cats,  do so in a separate area since it’s hard to tell how he’ll react. Male cats, in particular, can sometimes become more aggressive “under the influence.”.

Growing Your Own Nip

catnip plant
Catnip plant

You can grow your own, but if you do, be sure the plants aren’t outside where other cats may have access to them.

If growing your own, you’ll need to dry it.  The best way is to hang bunches of it upside down in a dark, dry place.  Once it’s dried, strip off the leaves and blossoms (discard stems) and stow it away in an airtight container.  Be careful not to crush the leaves as this will release the oil prematurely and your crop will be wasted.

What To Look For When Buying Catnip

When buying prepackaged catnip, look for brands that are preferably organic and sell only catnip buds and leaves, no stems.  A high amount of stems signifies lower quality.  If the catnip you purchase comes in a bag, move it into an airtight container.

Some toys contain low quality catnip, or none at all.  I like the YEOWW toys, and cats absolutely love them!  A Yeoww toy is featured in the picture accompanying this post.

Have you noticed your cat loses interest in his catnip toys after initially loving them? Try keeping a few toys “marinating” in fresh nip and pull one out once a week as a special treat for your cat.  He’ll love you for it! Keep it in a safe place your cats cannot access.  Some cats will go to crazy lengths to get to the nip!

Catnip Alternatives

Not every cat reacts to catnip. If your cat is immune to its effects, here are some alternatives he may enjoy.


Containing many of the chemicals as catnip, many cats that don’t care for catnip react to silvervine.  It’s available in powder or stick form, and is now incorporated into many cat toys.

Tatarian Honeysuckle

While not quite as likely to grab your cat’s attention as silvervine, some cats react very well to tatarian honeysuckle.  It is available online and in some cat toys.

Valerian Root

Dried valerian root is available online. It also works as a complementary treatment for humans suffering from anxiety, insomnia, and nervousness, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.

Occasionally, valerian root is used to relieve anxiety in cats since it seems to have a calming effect after the initial excitatory stage.

Does your cat love a good nip session or is he one that’s immune?  If so, what have you found that gets the reaction from him?  Please share, we’d love to hear from you.








Written by Karen


Karen is Publisher of Fully Feline. She also owns a pet care business in Overland Park, KS called Joy of Living.

3 Responses to "Catnip: Does Your Cat Love It Or Leave It?"

  1. I don’t dry catnip during the growing season, my cats love it fresh. In the fall I dry some to have during the winter.

  2. I’ve also had cats that go crazy over Valerian. I generally by powdered that is in gel caps (smells awful). I discovered the attraction when one of my cats would rub his face in the palm (and bite) where I had held the capsules when I would take them. So, whenever I took the Valerian, I would also open a capsule in my cats’ beds or on the scratching posts.

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