What is Catnip and What You Should Know

I grew up with many dogs and constantly asked my parents to foster any dog I found until the dogs had forever homes. My exposure to cats were limited to those I saw at the shelters. This all changed when I was given the honor of cat sitting when my friend left for Christmas vacation for a few weeks. I had to learn the basics of cat care fast to ensure that my friend would return to a happy home. I tried several cat toys and treats and finally came across catnip.

What is Catnip?

Catnip is an herb from the mint family. The active ingredient in the stems and leaves of catnip is called nepetalactone. When a cat sniffs catnip, it acts as a stimulant and the cat will seem “high”. When a cat eats catnip, it acts as a sedative. The effects of nepetalactone lasts for about 10 minutes.

Is Catnip Safe?

Catnip is safe. If too much catnip is consumed, the cat will vomit and have diarrhea. However, they will return to normal within a few days. For years, humans have also used catnip as a mosquito repellent.

What Happens to a Cat After Eating Catnip?

Not all cats are affected by catnip. Some cats roll around and are hyperactive while some are unaffected by catnip at all. The inherited sensitivity to catnip emerges when cats are several months old.

How Often Should Cats Have Catnip?

To maintain sensitivity to catnip, cats should not be given catnip more than once every 2-3 weeks. The limited exposure will prevent habituation.


What the cats taught me quickly was that they are extremely self-sufficient. They knew when they had too much to eat. They stopped eating the catnip and treats when they had enough. They are the lone cowboys of the pet kingdom who likes to roam around on their own and return when they need something. Cat sitting allowed me to find a deep respect for our intelligent and sassy feline friends.