Why Do Cats Like Catnip So Much?

Last updated on February 1st, 2023 at 01:51 am

Why do cats like catnip so much? Scientists hypothesize that cats effectively apply nepetalactone as an insect repellant.
Image Credit: Eric Han/Unsplash

If you own a cat, and I’m sure you do, then you know how much they like catnips. Cats will go crazy over the scent of catnip, and for some reason, they love anything that has catnip on it. But what is it with catnip that Cat loves so much? Does it contain any substances that make cats crazy about it? Or is it just the smell? I’m sure you’re curious about it too. Don’t worry; you’ll figure out the answer in this article.

As bad as it sounds, we can compare catnip to cannabis and its effect on people. Of course, excluding the harmful effects of cannabis on people. Catnip releases a chemical substance that makes cats react as they do; jumping, rolling, and constant rubbing. It makes them feel relaxed, so don’t worry; it usually won’t harm your Cat. This article will tell you everything you need to know about this fantastic herb and what makes it irresistible to your feline companions.

What are Catnips?

Let’s explain it in the simplest way possible. Catnips are herbs that are usually found in Europe, Central Asia and the Middle East. They can grow up to 3ft and typically bloom from late spring to early autumn. Catnips are commonly used inside cat toys, as they interest cats. Catnip toys will surely attract your Cat’s attention for hours, but it’s important to note that not all cats are attracted to it, and some are more interested in silvervine than catnips.

Now, I’m sure you are asking, “why are cats attracted to it?”. Let’s explain it scientifically first! We don’t want to be too technical, so let’s keep it simpler. Catnip contains a chemical substance called nepetalactone, which is why your Cat reacts to catnip the way they do. Nepetalactone is a microscopic bulb found on all parts of the catnip plants, and when it bursts, it releases a scent that goes straight through your Cat’s nose. The smell coming from the catnip gives your Cat a euphoric feeling, like when people are taking substances that can make them high.

This euphoric feeling helps your Cat to relax and react like a playful animal. As the Cat’s brain reads catnip like how it reads the sex hormones of cats, your Cat may behave like it is in heat. That explains the rolling and rubbing response to catnips. Don’t worry; it’s normal and safe. Surprisingly, not all cats react to catnip as they say that the genes that make Cat respond to catnip are inherited, and not all Cat has that. 

Typically, if your Cat is destined to have the genes that love catnip, it will start showing between 3-6 months. If it doesn’t show any signs or interest at all, you can try giving your Cat some silvervine to see if he/she will react to it. Most of the time, they will respond to catnip, but this is just in case they won’t. 

Why do Cats Like Catnip So Much?

We all know catnips are commonly used on cat toys, but what are the reasons for that? Why do manufacturers love using catnips on cat toys and stuff? Well, the reason is simple, because CATS LOVE IT! That’s it. But, of course, that raises more questions than it answers. Why do cats like catnip so much? What makes it a powerful tool for calming your Cat?

As we said earlier in this article, catnips give cats the euphoric feeling of being high and calm. It makes them feel relaxed and happy at the same time. Usually, the effects will last for a minimum of 10 minutes and can go on for at least 30 minutes. Imagine if you are using some drug, like a painkiller. The feeling you get from those substances is also the same feeling your Cat gets from catnips. The fun thing about it is that it is not only effective for small cats. Leopards, cougars, and other big cats are also a fan of catnips.

Catnips can also serve as proof of how intelligent cats are. In the wild, cats use catnips to repel insects, especially mosquitos. Catnips are said to be more effective than any insect repellant on the market, and scientists believe that animals are using them as their very own natural insect repellant. Amazing, right? However, they also believe that the main reason why cats are attracted to it isn’t the repellant factor; they love it because they feel satisfied and happy.

As a fur parent, it’s okay to be curious and ask many questions about what manufacturers put into our Cat’s toys or food. But let us assure you, catnip is really good for cats. They act as a natural stress remedy for them, and like we always say in almost all our articles, it’s important that cats are happy and stress-free. Catnip can easily give that stress-free sensation without hurting your feline companion.

Are Catnips Safe for Cats?

If you are also worried about whether your Cat will overdose on catnips, don’t worry, as cats know their limits. That’s how intelligent they are. They know when to stop and if it is time to let go of their catnip. It doesn’t matter if cats are rolling around with dry catnips or eating them, it is very safe, and cats will surely know when it’s time to stop. If a rare case happens when cats overdose on this herb, they will experience a bit of belly discomfort and diarrhea. Again, this is very rare because cats tend to develop immunization after 10-30 minutes, thus, making them stop using it.

The only risk you have to look out for is when catnips are inserted inside toys, as toys can be a choking hazard to your feline companions. Some cats are aggressive in getting the catnip inside; when that happens, the toy might break and be a choking hazard. It’s also important to note that cats may show some aggressive behaviors like scratching or biting, so be extra careful when handling your Cat during the time that they are high in catnips. All in all, it’s a safe way to destress your Cat.

Do Catnips Affect Humans The Way it Affects Cat?

People use catnips as well, but cats use them differently. Catnip has different impacts and benefits, like when Native Americans use catnips to cure and help babies with colic. Some people use it as tea, claiming that it is beneficial in assisting them in keeping calm and helps them with their migraines. Don’t worry, it is safe for people too! So if you are worried that you inhaled or, in rare cases, ate a catnip, it won’t kill you. It is safe, but you can check with your doctor to ease your anxiety.


To sum it up, catnips are safe for cats and humans. The only reason cats love this special treat is that it gives them a euphoric feeling of calm and happiness and helps repel insects. If you want to keep your cats happy, provide them with catnip toys, but be sure to choose the one with the best quality.

Overdosing is possible, but it is very rare, as cats can control their catnip consumption. I hope this article gave you information about catnips and why cats like catnips so much. It’s an easy explanation, but it can change how you see catnip from now on. You can also use it as tea and be calm and relaxed like your Cat.