What is Catnip, its Effects and Benefits?

Do you know what catnip is? This herb is enjoyed by cats the world over and for good reason! Catnip can provide a range of benefits for your feline friend, from reducing stress to helping them fight off sickness. In this article, we will explore everything you need to know about catnip, including what it is, the benefits it provides, and whether or not it is dangerous for cats. We will also take a look at some of the different types of catnip toys available on the market and how to use them to keep your kitty entertained!

What Is Catnip?

The catnip plant, also known as Nepeta cataria, is an herb that belongs to the mint family. It is a perennial plant that can grow up to three feet tall and has clusters of small, white flowers. The leaves and stems of the catnip plant are covered in fine hairs that contain a substance called nepetalactone. But what does catnip do to cats? When cats smell this essential oil, it triggers a response in their brain.  The response varies from cat to cat.  Some become mellow and calm and others  become excited and playful. In some cases cats may become quite aggressive.  People often wonder, do cats smell or eat catnip and the answer is, both. Interestingly, when it is eaten, it has the opposite effect and the cats seem to relax. Some people even use  catnip tea as an herbal remedy for themselves.

In some places, catnip does grow naturally, but not in Australia. You can purchase catnip plants to put in your garden or a catnip spray to use around the house. However, catnip is most usually found as a dried herb and sold in small packets to give to your cat at home.

Studies on the effects of catnip show that around 50-70% of cats are sensitive  to it, but the rest are not affected at all. This sensitivity is inherited and shows itself between 3-6 months of age.  Don't worry if your cat doesn't seem to be affected by catnip, it doesn't mean that there is something wrong. It simply means that they have slightly different genes to cats that react to catnip.

What Are The Benefits Of Catnip?

There are a number of benefits that catnip can provide for cats. These include:

Reducing stress and anxiety: Catnip can be soothing for cats and help to reduce their stress levels. This is especially beneficial if your cat is prone to anxiety or nervousness.

Providing stimulation: When cats smell the nepetalactone in catnip, it triggers activity in their brain which causes them to become playful and active. This can be great for cats who become bored easily.

Help with training: Catnip can be sprinkled on new beds to make them more appealing, scratching toys when they are first introduced to your cat and in cat carriers the night before a visit to the vet or a trip in the car. Catnip can also be used as a treat or reward for a positive behaviour (but beware- they will be distracted for the next little while after their treat).

Is Catnip Bad For Cats?

The active ingredient in catnip, nepetalactone, is non-toxic to cats and does not cause them any harm. In fact, it is actually a beneficial herb that can provide a range of benefits. Occasionally, some cats may exhibit negative behaviours such as aggression or hyperactivity after consuming it. If your cat has never tried catnip before, start by giving them a small amount and watch their reaction carefully. If they seem to dislike it or show any signs of distress, stop giving it to them.

How Much Catnip To Give Your Cat?

When it comes to giving your cat catnip, a little goes a long way! You only need to give them a small amount, no more than a teaspoon. Sprinkle the catnip on the ground or on their toys and watch them go for it. There are toys that have special pouches in them for you to refill with catnip or alternatively you can spray toys with catnip spray.  This is particularly useful when introducing a new toy.  The effects of catnip last for about 10-15 mins and then your cat is unlikely to react again for the next two hours.

Is Catnip The Same As Cat Grass?

No, catnip is not the same as cat grass. Catnip is a herb that you can grow in your garden for cats to interact with, however cat grass is a type of plant that is grown specifically for cats to eat. Cat grass contains nutrients that are beneficial for their health. Catnip is not a substitute  for cat grass, and cat grass provides none of the calming effects of catnip.  That said, many cats do love to eat cat grass!

Does Catnip Work On Dogs?

Yes, catnip does have an effect on dogs and it is safe for them. Catnip tends to have a sedating effect in dogs, rather than the stimulating effect you can see in cats. 

Why Are Toys Important For Your Cat?

Cats are natural hunters and need plenty of mental stimulation in order to keep them healthy and happy. Toys provide an essential outlet for your cat's hunting instincts and can help to prevent them from becoming bored, restless or stressed. Cats can also become depressed or sad when they are unwell or if there are changes to their environment.  Toys can help ease them through these transitions. When a cat doesn't have enough mental  stimulation  they can start acting out and scratching things around the house such as your furniture and carpet. By giving them lots of toys to play with, you can keep them fit and healthy, both mentally and physically.

Why It's Crucial To Have Toys For Your Indoor Cat

If you have an indoor cat, it's vital that you give them lots of toys to play with. Usually, an outdoor cat gets a lot of mental and physical stimulation when they are out and about exploring  and interacting with nature. But an indoor cat lacks this stimulation and if you are out of work all day, it's easy for them to become bored and get lazy.

So, giving them toys to imitate hunting and get them running around is important. You also need toys to keep their mind active too. Catnip toys are excellent for this.

What Should You Avoid In A Cat Toy?

When choosing toys for your cat, there are a few things you should avoid. Firstly, don't get anything that is too small and easy to swallow. Cats will chew on their toys, so it's important that they are safe to eat. Avoid getting any toy with strings or ribbons attached either, as these can be dangerous if swallowed by your cat.

Also, avoid any toy that is made from toxic material. Fabric toys are great but if they are very brightly coloured, they could be made using a strong chemical dye. Be careful with solid plastic and wooden toys too, as they can damage your cat's teeth and sometimes cause splinters.

Are Catnip Toys Good For Your Cat?

Yes, catnip toys are great for your cat. We already know that having toys is important and we also know that catnip helps to reduce stress and keep your cat's mind active. Combining the two means that your cat will be happy and playful and they will have all of the stimulation that they need.

The Different Types Of Catnip Products

There are so many great catnip products that you can use with your cat. These range from simple bags of catnip to toys that have it infused in them. These are some of the different types of catnip products. 

Dried Catnip

This is the most common type of catnip and it's just dried leaves from the plant. It's easy to store and you can keep it for a long time. Your cat will absolutely love it if you just sprinkle a load of it on the floor for them to roll around in. You can also put it on their toys and even onto a scratching post to encourage them to scratch there instead of elsewhere around the house. The KONG Natural Premium Catnip is a great dried catnip product that is harvested at the perfect time for maximum colour and aroma, meaning that your cat gets far more enjoyment out of it. There are many cheap catnip products on the market, so it is important to look for quality.  TIP: store your catnip in the freezer for maximum longevity. 

Catnip Spray

If you don't want to get your hands dirty, then a catnip spray is perfect for you. You just need to give it a quick spritz on their favourite toy and they will be good to go. The Aristopet Catnip Spray is perfect for infusing catnip into anything you like. As mentioned above, it's good for scratching posts and you can spray it onto their bedding to help calm them too. Catnip spray is particularly good for young cats if you want to encourage them to explore and get to know their surroundings. The same is true if you are moving into a new home. Simply spray it around the place and your cat will have fun exploring without being anxious.  Sprays tend to be less potent that the dried herb - but are not as messy to clean up. 

Crinkle Toys

These are a great way to keep your cat entertained for hours on end. They usually have a crinkly material inside them which makes a noise when your cat plays with it. This noise mimics the  to the sound of some prey and will really get their attention. The KONG Softies Patchwork Bear is a great example of a crinkle toy with a catnip pouch inside too, to get your cat more interested in it. Finding toys that your cat can engage with and play with on their own is important as they are often at home on their own and they need to stay active. 

Wands & Teasers

Wands and teasers are a great way to get your cat moving and a provide an opportunity for you  to play with your cat by ‘operating’ the wand. Having a small toy on the end of a stick with an elasticated cord imitates prey jumping around and your cat will get a lot of exercise trying to catch it. If you want to get them even more excited, you can try toys like the Trouble And Trix Bliss Fluffy Wand With Mouse Teaser which are stuffed with catnip. It's even made from recycled materials, so if you're concerned about the environmental impact of plastic cat toys, it's perfect.

Teasers are also a good toy for your cat when you are out and they are feeling bored. You can get some great ones like the KONG Window Teaser Toy that you just stick to the window and leave, so your cat can play whenever they like. Once they smell the catnip inside, they won't leave it alone. 


Balls are a classic toy for cats and they love nothing more than to bat around a ball. It's a good way to have a back and forth with them and get them running around. Although toys that allow independent play are good, it is also important that you bond with your cat through shared play, and balls are a perfect choice for this. The Catit Design Senses Motion Activated Illuminated Ball has lots of bright flashing lights to catch your cat's attention, and even lazy cats will get up and play with it. There is a small bag of catnip inside to keep them engaged, and the tiny holes for their claws make for a lot of fun trying to get inside the ball. 

Interactive Toys

As the name suggests, interactive toys are perfect for when cats are on their own. They have some kind of game or puzzle for the cat to play and the toy will respond in some way to keep the cat entertained and continue the playtime. This is great for keeping them mentally stimulated and it's also good exercise. The KONG Active Eight Track toy uses an enclosed track and balls that your cat can bat around and play with. They can enjoy putting their paws in through the small holes and trying to grab the balls as they whizz past. The addition of some catnip makes it even more engaging for them. 

Soft Toys

Soft toys are the perfect catnip toys and they can be very comforting to cats. Toys like the KONG Refillables Feather Top Carrot Cuddly have a small pouch inside that you can fill with catnip. When the smell is gone and the cat is no longer obsessed with the toy, just fill it up with some fresh catnip and watch them go crazy for it all over again!

Wrap Up

As you can see, there are lots of different types of catnip toys to keep your cat entertained. All cats react differently to catnip, so it's important to try a few out and see which ones they prefer. You can buy fresh catnip plants from your local nursery and with such a wide variety of toys using dried catnip on the market, there is something for everyone. So browse the range today and treat your cat to some catnip!

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