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What Is Catnip?

Catnip, a perennial herb from the mint family, is famed for its euphoric effect on felines. Containing nepetalactone, it triggers a state of bliss in many cats, leading to playful behaviors. While not all cats are susceptible, those who are can exhibit a truly joyous response. Curious about how catnip could delight your furry friend? Let's explore its mysterious allure.
Jane Harmon
Jane Harmon

Catnip is an herb that is, as its name suggests, very attractive to cats. It is a member of the mint family, and it's leaves and stems are fuzzy, like sage.

Easy to cultivate, catnip will spread rapidly, like any mint. If the leaves are crushed or bruised, an aromatic volatile oil will be released, and it will quickly attract any cat in the vicinity, who will eat the bruised plant. People who grow this herb in the garden may need to protect it with wire mesh.

Catnip can help treat colic in babies.
Catnip can help treat colic in babies.

Catnip has long been a specific remedy for colds, bronchitis and insomnia. An infusion of the herb can be prepared by steeping the leaves in water that has been boiled. The active ingredients of catnip are quickly dissipated, so the leaves should not be boiled in the water, and the pot should be covered to retain the steam. Catnip has an antispasmodic effect, and is therefore useful against diarrhea, cramps and colic. It is mild enough to give to children.

Catnip can remedy insomnia.
Catnip can remedy insomnia.

This herb can also be added to salads as a savory green. If it is grown to be dried for home use, the top of the plant should be collected when it is in full flower, and it can be dried by hanging it in bunches, out of the reach of any household cats. Certain properties in catnip have been shown to be effective at repelling insects, another reason why people might like to have some growing in the garden. There is even recent research that shows that wood treated with the essential oil will not be bothered by termites, although the effects are so far short lived, due to the volatile nature of the oil.

Most cats have interesting reactions to catnip.
Most cats have interesting reactions to catnip.

If purchasing dried catnip, consumers will want to store it in the refrigerator or even the freezer if they have cats. Cats can smell it through the stoutest of plastic, and have been known to climb onto shelves, open cabinets and even open drawers to get to it. They can be given a bit of it in the form of a few spoonfuls in the end of an old sock that has been tied closed. The cats will have the sock in shreds in no time, and it can be quite hilarious to watch.

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Discussion Comments


Where can I buy organic catnip?

I try to feed my cat an entirely organic diet, and I want her catnip to be the same.

I have looked in a lot of the pet stores around here but never been able to find any.


You can use catnip oil as a tool to train cats. If you want to encourage them to go to something, a particular chair or a new toy, you can put a tiny dab of catnip oil on it. But be sure not to use too much. The goal is not for the cat to feel the effects of the catnip, just to encourage a certain behavior.


I remember one summer my mom grew catnip in a pot in out backyard. Our cat Sally spent the entire summer laying lazily next to that pot. Cats are already pretty lazy, but Sally did little more than eat and sleep and roll around idly.


How does catnip affect dogs? If they get a hold of a cat's catnip toy, could the catnip affect their stomach?


Where do i get catnip? Can i buy it off Sainsbury etc e.g. the seed they sell for the herbs/flowers, etc.?


It seems from the foregoing that catnip, with respect to humans, has an MJ similar mental, emotional and 'feeling good' characteristic. The small amount tested in my laboratory resulted in a conclusion that the nip was a positive contribution to human serenity.


Will my cat get hooked on catnip and have a $200 a week habit where she has to go sell herself to any stray cat that comes along just to support her habit?


if you put just a little in your cat's food, it is also good for their digestive system.


my cat's mad without catnip.


it's a chemical reaction in their brain that happens from them smelling it. it gives them a burst of energy and makes them happy for a few minutes but then they can grow acclimated to it. but if they are away from it for a couple of hours then they will have the reaction again. also it's hereditary for cats to have the reaction and not all cats have it. but even big cats like tigers can have a reaction to catnip. but it doesn't make them high.


my cat loves this crap.


Commenter #3, it makes your cat happy and less bored. As someone who owns a very active cat, let me tell you: Having anything he enjoys doing around is helpful. Also, glass jars work to store it as well. He knows it's there, because he sees us get it out of there, but he can't get it.


No catnip will not make your cat "sick" or "high." It would not be more harmful than a person eating a mint leaf.


what does catnip do to cats?


no it will not make cats sick if they eat catnip.


On catnip, my cat saw God!


What is it for? Why do i want my cat to get "high" with this?


No, it won't make him sick.


will it make my cat sick if he eats it?

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    • Catnip can help treat colic in babies.
      By: kmrep
      Catnip can help treat colic in babies.
    • Catnip can remedy insomnia.
      By: Dan Race
      Catnip can remedy insomnia.
    • Most cats have interesting reactions to catnip.
      By: Klaus Eppele
      Most cats have interesting reactions to catnip.