Everybody knows that catnip is a feline intoxicant, but most people don’t know much more than that. (Neither do cats, but they only care about how it affects them.) So I thought I’d share a few fun catnip facts that may surprise you.

  1. Cats use a special organ to absorb the smell of catnip’s intoxicating oil. It’s the vomeronasal organ that sits in the roof of their mouths. Yes, the same gland that inspires the Flehmen response, or stink face you sometimes see a cat making.
  2. This oil is called nepetalactone, and is mainly contained in the catnip’s leaves and stems. Cats will chew on the plant to release more of this oil. And of course when they do that, it easily comes into contact with the vomeronasal organ.
  3. Catnip and catmint are two different plants. Sometimes people use the names interchangeably, but they shouldn’t. Catnip grows tall and weedy, and has tiny, lighter colored flowers. Catmint is more busy, grows closer to the ground, and has pretty purple flowers. If you want a plant that looks nice in your garden, choose catmint. If you’re going purely for the affect on your cat, get catnip, as cats are a bit more likely to respond to catnip than catmint.
  4. Only 60–70% of cats respond to catnip. Because it’s so famous as an intoxicant, many people are surprised when their cat doesn’t go crazy over the catnip toy they brought home. Not a lot of research has been done on why, but the attraction to catnip seems to be genetic.

    If your cat doesn’t care for catnip, there are other intoxicants that might appeal to them. This includes silvervine, honeysuckle, and valerian.

  5. Not every cat that responds to catnip does so in the same way. Some become more relaxed and playful, while others become more aggressive. (It’s the same with humans and alcohol!) So if your cat gets mean on catnip, you may want to limit their exposure to it.
  6. Yes, big cats do respond to catnip. Lions, leopards, tigers, you name it. If they’re a cat, they will enjoy catnip…that is, if they are genetically predisposed to it. Just like their domestic counterparts, the appeal is hereditary.
  7. No, catnip won’t get a human high, but it can be relaxing and help aid in digestion. It’s part of the mint family, and has some of the same attributes as mint.
  8. Catnip is a natural insect repellent. Especially mosquitoes, but also roaches, flies, and possibly even ants and fleas. The same chemical that appeals to cats is an irritant to many insects. On the other hand, the flowers of both catnip and catmint are beneficial for pollinators.
  9. A super powerful strain of catnip was developed at Rutgers University. In 2015, Rutgers announced this new breed, called CR9. It’s a more powerful mosquito repellant and cat intoxicant. Unfortunately, it’s grown for commercial use only, and you can’t just go to your local nursery and pick it up.
  10. No, catnip is not addicting, and cats can’t overdose on it.

    Peach cat with a sprig of catnip

    As much as your cat may love it, they won’t experience withdrawals if you suddenly stop letting them have it. On the other hand, they could develop a tolerance to it, if exposed too much. And if they have too much at once, the worst that will happen is maybe they will have an upset tummy.

I hope you enjoyed these catnip facts! Let me know in the comments if you learned anything!

These Wild Facts About Catnip Will Surprise You!


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Journalist specialized in online marketing as Social Media Manager. I help professionals and companies to become more Internet and online reputation, which allows to give life to the Social Media Strategies defined for the Company, and thus immortalize brands, products and services. I have participated as an exhibitor in various forums nationally and internationally, I am the author of several articles in digital magazines and Blogs.


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