How to use catnip



What is Catnip?

Catnip is an aromatic perennial herb native to central Europe and now naturalized throughout the northeastern US and Canada. This plant grows to approximately 1 m and has dark green, oval-toothed leaves. The medicinal components of the plant are its dried leaves and white flowering tops.

Scientific Name(s)

Nepeta cataria L. Family: Lamiaceae (mints)

Common Name(s)

Catnip also is known as catnep, catmint, catswort, and field balm.

What is it used for?

Traditional/Ethnobotanical uses

Catnip’s leaves and shoots have been used as a flavoring in sauces, soups, and stews, and in several patented beverages, as well as in fruit table wines and liquors. The use of catnip leaves and flowers in herbal teas was documented at least as early as 1735 in the General Irish Herbal. Medicinally, the plant has been used to treat intestinal cramps, for indigestion, to cause sweating, to induce menstruation, as a sedative, and to increase appetite. Additionally, the plant has been used to treat diarrhea, colic, the common cold, and cancer. In Appalachia, nervous conditions, stomach ailments, hives, and the common cold have been treated with catnip tea. The dried leaves have been smoked to relieve respiratory ailments, and a poultice has been used externally to reduce swelling. In the early 1900s, the flowering tops and leaves were used to induce delayed menses. During the 1960s, catnip was reportedly smoked for its euphoric effects.

General uses

There is little clinical data to support any use of catnip in humans, except as an insect repellant.

What is the recommended dosage?

There is no clinical evidence to guide dosage of catnip. Traditional doses for sedation require 4 g of dried herb, usually given as a tea. A 15% lotion of the essential oil has been used as an insect repellant.


None well documented.


Documented adverse effects when consumed (eg, induce menstruation and abortion). Avoid use.


None well documented.

Side Effects

Headache and malaise have been reported.


Information is lacking.

1. Catnip. Review of Natural Products. Facts & Comparisons Online. March 2010. Accessed April 20, 2010.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Medical Disclaimer

More about catnip

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  • Catnip (Advanced Reading)

The Catnip Plant – An Infamous Plant with Magical Effects on Cats!

The catnip plant is the subject of many questions I am asked rather frequently in my feline practice. I have found out that most people do not really know what catnip is or how it performs its magical effect on cats. I also get many questions about the safety of giving catnip to a cat.

To lighten things up a bit around here by talking about something other than cat illnesses and also to provide the answers to the questions about catnip that most people ask me, I am adding this section about the infamous plant loved by most cats that come into contact with it.

Here’s a short video illustrating the effect that catnip has on cats. Meet Pegasus and watch his encounter with a catnip mouse.

I’ll be talking about such things as growing catnip, catnip treats, the catnip plant, catnip oil, catnip seeds, catnip toys, catnip spray, and even catnip tea. We’ll also provide some information on specific brands of catnip, such as Cosmic Catnip, catnip from Fat Cat, Kookamunga catnip, and an explanation of the term organic catnip.

Are you trying to decide if catnip (or cat nip as some people spell it) is safe and fun for your kitty? Well, read on and learn if your favorite feline should be a catnip cat!

What is Catnip?

The scientific name for the catnip plant is Nepeta. The name is believed to have come from the town of Nepete in Italy. There are several different species of Nepeta. There is Nepeta Cataria which is common catnip, the type used most frequently with cats and the one they seem to enjoy the most. The name Cataria is assumed to have originated from the Latin word for cat.

Other varieties include Nepeta Camphorata (Camphor Catnip),Nepeta Parnassica (Greek Catnip), Nepeta Cataria Citriodora (Lemon Catnip), and Nepeta Mussinii (Catmint). All in all, there are roughly 250 known species of the Catnip Plant, flowering plants in the Mint family Lamiaceae, as well as many other hybrids. And yes, it’s true that it is related to the marijuana plant. Giving your cat marijuana, however, will not produce a pleasurable effect. In fact, it will make your cat sick, so DO NOT give your cat marijuana!

Catnip is also known by many other names, most commonly Catmint, Catnep, and Catrup. Of course, just like any other “drug” out there, slang “street names” exist for the catnip plant too, including Cat’s Heal All, Cat’s-play, Cat’s Wort (Catswort or Catwort), Field Balm, Garden Nep, and Nep. And, of course, there’s the foreign language or names with some international flair like Chi Hsueh Tsao, Cataria, Herba Cataria, and Herba Catti.

Whew … a lot of plants and a lot of names for something that seems so simple to your cat!

Basically, the catnip plant is an herb, known for its effect on cats. It is native to Europe, Asia and Africa, however has become naturalized in America & Canada after being introduced.

How does catnip work? Why do cats like catnip?

The Nepeta plants became known as catnip very simply due to the effect of the plants on cats. The ingredient that causes a reaction in cats is called Nepetalactone. It is an essential oil found in the stems and the leaves of the Nepeta plant.

This chemical is thought to mimic the effects of a cat pheromone and causes a variety of behaviors. When a cat encounters catnip, a chain reaction occurs. For instance, when I watch my cat with his newly refilled catnip mouse, he will sniffs it, lick it, and rub against it repeatedly, until he finally undoes the velcro pouch to eat it. He will zip around the house like a maniac, roll around on top of his toy, or even hold it in his front paws while kicking it with his back paws.

While many cat lovers watch their felines do this, thinking that what your cat is trying to do is eat the catnip, it’s actually the sniffing that induces these behavioral changes. The eating of catnip by a cat is thought to be an effort to bruise the catnip leaves & therefore release more of the nepetalactone. Fresh catnip is supposedly more attractive to cats when it is bruised, as in transplanting, rather than growing from seeds. However, I have certainly seen many cats enjoy the leaves from a fresh catnip plant grown from seeds.

A fact that I find incredible is that cats can smell 1 part Nepetalactone to a billion parts air!

Cat Behavior Changes and the Catnip Plant

The inhaled chemical sets off the familiar behavioral changes: sniffing, licking and chewing the plant, pawing at it, rubbing against it, head shaking, rolling over it, jumping around, purring, and sometimes even salivating.

Some cats will growl, hiss, meow, scratch, or bite. In some cases, cat aggression may be seen with a particular catnip toy in multi-cat households. One of my boys, for instance, will hold his cat nip toy in his mouth and meow or growl to announce that it is, in fact, his toy… in case anyone was wondering. This aggressive cat behavior happens more often, though, when dried catnip is eaten. However, sometimes when eaten, the cat will appear to be sedated.

Of interest is the fact that most of the behaviors exhibited by cats exposed to catnip fall into one of three categories: (1) activities related to the sexual response, such as rubbing and rolling (2) playlike behavior, such as leaf chasing, batting and tossing, and (3) hunting or feeding behavior.

The “high” cats experience lasts from five to fifteen minutes. A cat most often will not be able to experience the effects again for an hour or longer.

Although I have not personally witnessed this, it is said that even cats who can’t smell can still respond to catnip in one of these ways!

Why do some cats love cat nip while others couldn’t care less?

There does not seem to be any one group of cats that is more or less responsive to the catnip plant. Males and females, neutered or not, appear to be equally affected.

However, kittens younger than 8 weeks old aren’t able to experience the effects of the catnip plant. In fact, they show an aversion to it. Some senior cats as well may lose their ability to respond to catnip.

Also, approximately 33% of the cat population does not respond to catnip at all, at any age. This is due to genetics — reactions to catnip are hereditary. Some cats literally have the “catnip gene”, a genetic marker that makes him “programmed” to respond to catnip. Others, however, without this “catnip gene” will have no reaction to cat nip whatsoever. Some estimate that number to be closer to 50%.

Is Catnip Safe for Cats?

Catnip will not harm your cat. That is, in moderation! If your cat eats a large quantity of fresh catnip, you may see vomiting or diarrhea. While this is very unusual and is also self-limiting, I would recommend that you withhold or at least limit catnip exposure for that cat. I also personally don’t give catnip to my own kitty that has feline cardiomyopathy (enlarged heart).

Usually, cats seem to sense when they have had enough. They are very unlikely to “overdose” on catnip.

What Is Catnip For: Learn About Various Uses For Catnip

What is catnip for other than to please cats? The name says it all, or almost all. Catnip is a common herb that you can cultivate in the garden but that also grows wild. Knowing how to use catnip means you can put this plentiful herb to good use for both you and your feline friends.

Catnip for Cats

Catnip, Nepeta cataria, is an herb from the mint family that has long been known to be attractive to cats. A common myth is that all cats react to it. In fact, only about two-thirds of cats will be drawn to catnip, exhibiting behaviors like licking, rubbing catnip toys, rolling in the herb, and drooling. Even some wild cats react to catnip.

For use with cats, catnip can be provided as a fresh plant indoors in a container or outdoors in a bed. If used in a container, be sure it is large and heavy enough to not get tipped over by an overzealous cat. To limit access, use dried catnip leaves to stuff toys with or roll toys in, and then keep sealed and out of the way when not in use.

Other Uses for Catnip

Catnip is not just for cats. If you grow the herb and have been wondering what to do with catnip that is left over from making cat toys, you have a lot of options. A compound in catnip called nepatalactone, has been found to be insecticidal. You can use it as a natural repellent against mosquitoes, spiders, ticks, cockroaches and other critters in the home.

As a gardener, you may consider planting catnip between rows of vegetables to deter certain pests. A study found that intercropping the herb with collard greens reduced damage from flea beetles. Catnip in the vegetable garden may even repel rabbits and deer.

Catnip may also have some medicinal properties for humans, although before using any herb as a supplement, it is important to speak to your doctor. A tea made from dried catnip leaves and flowers has long been used for stomach upset, fever and other flu symptoms, insomnia, and stress. It is especially helpful for children who are not feeling well as a calming agent and to relieve digestive issues.

In the kitchen, catnip uses expand to include any recipes in which you would use mint. It belongs to the mint family and has a similar flavor but adds a slightly different taste. Whether you grow catnip intentionally in the garden or you find it growing wild, there are many uses for this common herb.

Gigi loved it, but her brother Brandy was indifferent. Crispy loved it, Ethel was unmoved by it, and Mittens definitely enjoys it. There you have it: a quick inventory of my past and present cats’ reaction to the mysterious catnip herb.

Fourteen chemicals of diverse biologic origin, including certain plants, are known to affect the behavior of the cat when their fragrances are inhaled. The most famous of these, of course, is catnip. For centuries, ailurophiles (cat lovers) have marveled at the delight cats seem to get from smelling, nibbling on, and rolling in the stuff.

With the possible exception of man (i.e. eccentrics who claim to get a “buzz” when they smoke the stuff), a behavioral response to catnip is found only in members of the feline family. Lions in particular demonstrate a rather spectacular response, and hunters have used the catnip herb to lure bobcat and lynx. Leopards, jaguars, pumas, ocelots, and several other so-called lesser cats also respond to catnip.

The typical catnip scenario for the domestic cat initially involves the offering of some catnip leaves, either fresh or dried. Cats will first smell, and then lick or chew the stuff for a few minutes. Cat owners then stand back and watch the fun begin. Some cats show a “like, wow, man” response and just gaze off into space, that being the extent of their reaction. Most “responders” progress to rubbing their cheeks and chin in the catnip source and act a little dizzy. The intense responders will rub their bodies on the ground while rolling from side to side, purring, growling, and perhaps leaping into the air. Some cats get a little frisky and will smack a fellow housemate kitty on the head. Reactions vary, although most cats experience both a relaxing and a stimulating effect. The complete response lasts for five to fifteen minutes, with a type of satiation developing so that a response cannot be evoked again for at least an hour or two. Approximately 30% of adult cats show zero or minimal response to the plant, and nearly all kittens under 2 months of age show no reaction to catnip and often actively avoid it. Animals that are fearful or under stress will have a decreased reaction to catnip. Males and females respond equally, although there’s some evidence that among susceptible cats, males respond a bit more strongly than females. Whether a cat is a responder or not is based on heredity; a recessive gene is involved, so that two cats from the same litter may have different responses to the plant, like my Brandy (bored) and Gigi (thrilled). It’s probably not a good idea to give it to a cat that goes outdoors, since the cat might not be able to care for itself while under its influence.

So what exactly is in this stuff? Catnip (Nepeta cataria) is a member of the mint family. In fact, it has also been referred to as “catmint”. It is related to common kitchen herbs like thyme and sage, and can be easily cultivated as a houseplant. Years ago, in England, dried catnip leaves put in boiling water was a popular tea for humans – it was said to have a calming effect. When the plant is crushed and the oils are distilled, catnip herb extract is obtained. Studies have shown the active ingredient in the oil is nepetalactone. This chemical repels certain leaf-eating insects, providing protection for the plant. It is the smell of this oil that triggers the response in cats. Anesthetizing the nasal passages and obliterating the sense of smell in a cat will abolish the catnip reaction.

Interestingly, the plants that belong to the catnip family are indigenous only to the Old World, and yet, members of the feline family that respond to catnip are found in both the Old World and the New World. So, if you think about the catnip response from an evolutionary standpoint, it seems clear that some species of cats have acquired the ability to display the catnip response even though the natural source of nepetalactone was not present to influence the evolution of this behavioral response. (Yet another fun fact that adds to the overall mystique of the feline).

Why catnip produces the response that it does is not fully understood, but there are several possible explanations. There is an unmistakable similarity between the catnip response and the rolling and squirming of female cats during courtship and just after copulation, leading some investigators to conclude that catnip may be acting like a hormone, activates a neural system in the brain related to female sexual behavior. Another school of thought is that catnip produces a form of pleasurable behavior unrelated to sexuality, and that the rolling and rubbing is simply a manifestation of a pleasure response. In 1972, Canadian researcher R.C. Hatch reported in the American Journal of Veterinary Research that the chemical structure of the active ingredient in catnip is very similar to that of LSD, leading to speculation that the bliss that cats seem to experience is similar to the reaction humans experience to these drugs. In other words, if you’ll pardon my French, the cat is simply stoned out of its mind.

Cat owners who worry about whether they may be indulging their cat too frequently should be told that, like anything special, it should be offered for a little while, then put away for a few days, so that it remains a special treat. Catnip is safe and not addictive, however, because of the altered mental state that it induces in most cats, cat owners should be warned that they should avoid letting their cat drive the car or operate heavy machinery while under the influence.

Updated 4/1/2016

What is Catnip and How Does it Work?

Many cat owners have heard of catnip, but do you know how it works, or why your cat loves it? Have a read here as we take a closer look at catnip, what it is, and how you can use it with your feline friend.

Catnip is a perennial herb of the mint family with over 250 species in existence. While some cats seem uninterested in catnip, many cats are very affected by it! Common Catnip (Nepeta cataria) and Catmint (Nepeta mussinii) are the most readily available varieties, with Common Catnip being the one cats seem to enjoy the most. While catnip species contain multiple aromatic oils, the active organic compound that is responsible for the effects we see on cats is called nepetalactone.

Why Do Cats Love Catnip?

Cats inhale the aromatic oils of catnip, where they come into contact with special receptors in the cat’s nose. These receptors are linked to the brain and affect the cat’s behaviour. Cats will commonly sniff, rub, lick and chew catnip, which releases more of the volatile oil and the active mood-modifying compound nepetalactone. Signs can vary between cats, but frequently catnip induces a state of euphoria or calm. Some of the most common effects on cats are the following:

  • 10-30% of cats show no effect when exposed to catnip
  • Very young kittens and senior cats show little no effect, and may even avoid it
  • Some cats appear “intoxicated” or “in ecstasy” and may drool or roll around on the floor. It is believed that this is a similar reaction these cats have when they are exposed to the “feel good” pheromones released during sexual courtship or activity
  • Some cats become hyperactive with excessive vocalisation, chasing, and hunting behaviours
  • Some cats may display signs of aggression

Cats are usually affected by catnip for 5-10 minutes. The effects then wear off, and are not repeatable for at least 1-2 hours.

How to Best Use Catnip?

If catnip has a positive effect on your cat, you can use it as a training aid or an occasional treat. Some suggested uses for catnip are the following:

  • Rub catnip into your cat’s scratching post to encourage use
  • Place catnip in toys to promote active play and exercise
  • Sprinkle catnip in a new environment to encourage shy cats to be comfortable and help cat-to-cat introductions go smoothly
  • Use catnip in the carrier or crate to reduce anxiety and create a sedative state during car trips

Importantly, cats cannot overdose on catnip. They seem to limit themselves and will refuse any further offers or leave the placed catnip after a while. It is not harmful or addictive for your cat. It is possible that overuse may lead to a decreased response in the future, and is best used occasionally.

Where Can I Buy or Grow Catnip?

You can purchase dried catnip from pet shops, as well as cat toys that already have catnip within them. Catnip may also be available in a spray form.

Catnip is easy to grow and readily available for purchase from most nurseries in the herb section. It is available as seedling plants or in seed form, as is best planted in early spring. The plants grow quite large, and prefer sandy soil and full sun.

Are There Other Plants that Act Like Catnip?

A recent study has demonstrated three other plants that have effects on cats similar to catnip, Silver vine (Actinidia polygama), Tatarian honeysuckle (Lonicera tatarica), and Valerian root (Valeriana officinalis). None of these plants contain nepetalactone, but they do contain similar compounds.

The effects of these three plants were observed on 100 cats. Plant matter was rubbed on a sock or piece of carpet and offered to the cats. 79% responded positively to silver vine. About half of the cats responded positively to Tatarian honeysuckle and valerian root. Of the cats that did not respond to catnip, nearly 75% responded to silver vine. This research has opened the door for alternatives to catnip for those cats who are unaffected by it.

Human Uses of Catnip

What is Catnip

Catnip (Nepeta cataria), catmint, catnep, is a hardy perennial herb of the mint family (Labiatae).

Distribution of Catnip

Catnip originated in Europe and parts of Asia, and was planted by settlers in colonial gardens in North America. Catnip escaped to the wild and is common across Canada and the U.S. Catnip is cultivated mainly in the Pacific Northwest and parts of Canada, particularly in Alberta and British Columbia.

Effect on Cats

Most species of the cat family (Felidae) are attracted to catnip. The cats roll in the catnip, rub their face, and eventually eat it.The oil from catnip leaves contains a chemical called trans-neptalactone, which closely resembles a substance present in a female cat’s urine.

Wee kittens do not like catnip until they are about 3 months old. The sensitivity is inherited: A kitten with only one catnip-sensitive parent has a one-in-two chance of inheriting the catnip sensitivity, and a kitten whose parents both exhibit sensitivity has a three-in-four chance. There is no correlation between catnip sensitivity and sex, colour, or breed.

Active Ingredients of Catnip

Nepetalactone is one of several related compounds known to initiate the classic catnip response.

Catnip essential oil containing mostly Nepetalactone, but also citral, geraniol, citronellol, nerol, thymol and limonene, is extracted by steam distillation.

I tried distilling catnip oil and it worked quite well. Here is a link to my Distilling experiment.

Because nepetalactone is volatile catnip will lose it’s effect over time. It should be stored in a closed container preferably in a cool place.

Are any Other Plants Similar to Catnip?

Actinidine, a similar compound is found in valerian and in silver vine (Actinidia polygama). Iridomyrmecin is also found in silver vine. Dihydroactinidiolide occurs naturally in black tea, fenugreek, fire ants, mangos, silver vine. Silver vine is widely sold in Japan where the kitties can enjoy either the fresh plant, or little sticks of silver vine.

What is Catnip used For in Humans?

Medicinal Uses of Catnip

There is very little research available on catnip so there is little formal evidence that it works. But it has been used for an astonishing number of ailments.

One use that everyone agrees on, is it’s mild sedative properties. It is used everywhere catnip is found as a relaxing and soothing tea. This is probably it’s main claim to fame. Valerian which contains similar active ingredients, is often included in herbal sleep potions. Valerian as an ingredient looks a lot more convincing that Catnip because of its rather strong odor and higher price, but the effects are probably just about the same using catnip, and much cheaper.

Because it is soothing and relaxing (antispasmodic) it is also used for digestive upsets (nervous dyspepsia) where the main cause is tension. In that context catnip is recommended for muscular pain, cramps, colic in babies, spasms and tics and stomach pains. It is also helpful in headache where tension is mainly responsible.

Catnip’s soothing effect is also useful in reducing menstrual pain.

It has mild anesthetic properties (try it by chewing a leaf, or just bruising a leaf in your mouth, it will feel mildly numb) and has been used for tooth and gum aches.

Although it is mostly used as tea and poultice, it was sometimes smoked for asthma. There is no evidence that it works. It was also smoked by hopeful hippies as a mild hallucinogenic.

It has been used as a mild antibiotic. As a poultice, it is said to help heal and prevent infection. It also has anti fungal properties. An in vitro (not clinical) research project showed that an extract of catnip was active against Staphylococcus aureus and some fungi.

Recent research has suggested that it does help reduce fever.

It is claimed that it is diuretic, and reduces gas (carminative). Furthermore it has been used to treat colds, upper respiratory affections, particularly where there is a feeling of congestion the airways, sinuses or middle ear.

Catnip in large doses has been observed to be emetic (makes you vomit).

It’s been recommended for a number of “female ailments” helping the onset of late menstruation (used in tincture form). Pregnant women should avoid catnip as a precaution only since there is no evidence that it is harmful

In the folklore, Catnip root is said to have the opposite effect than the stem and leaves. It is supposed to make a normally placid human, aggressive and bloodthirsty.

None of these claims have been demonstrated in formal research except for the mosquito repellent quality, and the anti-fungal anti-staph qualities. There is probably enough experience to accept that it is calming.

Other non Medicinal uses of Catnip

Thymol extracted from catnip has been shown to be fungicide.

It can also be used as an aromatic herb in cooking & salads. It was drunk in England as a tea before Chinese tea was available.

Some people have used it as a meat tenderizer.

A light yellow dye can be made from Catnip. There are countless recipes for herbal hair dye and some include catnip.

Catnip has been used as an ingredient of love potions or as part of bonding rituals. It is said that any leaf used during the ceremony must be carefully kept otherwise the spell will break!

Toxicity of Catnip

This is a short entry. There are no reported cases of harm done by ingesting catnip. Occasionally a cat will puke and that’s about it. Large quantities might make some people vomit as well. Catnip oil, like other concentrated essential oil, is much stronger, and while it has not been tested for toxicity, should not be ingested.

How to grow Catnip

There are many varieties of catnip available. Some are prettier and tend to be called cat mint. They all attract cats and have human soothing qualities in varying degrees.

Once established catnip is very hardy and will come back every year. It might in fact spread so if you don’t want a lot of catnip spreading, don’t let it go to seed. Alternatively go on a search and destroy mission occasionally.

Catnip is very forgiving in its requirements. It prefers nice open loam but will grow in just about anything. It is also drought tolerant but prefers regular watering. It is not fond of wet feet though.

Many companies sell seeds and there is no particular difficulty in starting them. You will get better results if you start your seeds inside and away from cats then transplant the seedling. Your main problem will be to keep the cats out of the catnip patch until the little plants have established themselves. Start more than you need and re plant if cats get to them. Often cats don’t disturb the plants until they are bruised but not always.

I sprinkle seeds in a pot of potting soil and just barely cover them with soil. The seeds are quite tiny.

Catnip likes some sunshine and can take full sun. It will tolerate partial shade but can get leggy if it’s too dark.

If you want to dry your catnip for the winter then cut it and dry thoroughly in a spot your cat cannot reach. It takes quite a lot of time to dry properly. If you store it before it’s dry it will go mouldy. Store in an airtight container to retain the volatile oil.

It’s not hard to start outside directly in the ground. Plant as soon as soil can be worked and danger of frost is mostly gone.

As an extra bonus Catnip will attract butterflies and honey bees when it flowers. The seeds will bring goldfinch. After milkweed, it is the most favoured flower of bees and butterflies in my garden. After the flowers have gone you can harvest the plants but don’t dig up the roots and your catnip will come back.

Catnip as Insect and Rat Repellent

There is a long tradition of planting catnip near a house or barn to repel mice and rats and to keep insects away.

Research has shown that both mosquitoes and some biting flies as well as deer ticks are deterred from biting by catnip.

Here is another much older research paper link which talks about the insect repellent qualities of catnip extract. pdf file

Catnip has been used where cat sleep to help keep fleas away. The effect on cats only lasts for a few minutes and the cat is not affected after this time. The catnip needs to be regularly refreshed with new grass to keep it working.

Although catnip essential oil works as a deterrent, it’s highly concentrated and can be slightly toxic to human and animals. Don’t use essential oils on your cat.

More recently, research done at Iowa State Univerty, showed that catnip was 10 times more effective at repelling mosquitoes than DEET.

In the 1960’s, Cornell University naturalist Thomas Eisner reported that catnip oil repels insects (Science 1964, 146, 1318). The paper suggested that nepetalactone defends against plant-eating insects.

It’s interesting that the same chemical produced by catnip, presumably to keep insects from eating it, is also produced by some species of walking stick insects, presumably for the same purpose.

Catnip extract has been shown to be a termite repellant in the lab.

Chemical And Engineering News article on catnip including chemical structure.

Personal experience of Catnip as an insect repellent.

Near the water at our boat club there sometimes are little biting flies. They are devilishly fast and hard to keep away. I was sanding my boat and being bitten to distraction. I found a catnip plant, rubbed the leaves on my legs and exposed arms, and did not get a single bite after this.

This was my first attempt at making catnip insect repellent. After crushing the catnip I soaked it with vodka then strained out the catnip stems and leaves. This is the result. After a few days, it turned brown and the solution cleared and settled. I decanted the juice into a spray bottle and have used it several times. It works. The cats like how I smell too!

I have recently tried to distill essential oils from catnip with good success. Yields are small but the process works. I’ve added the oil to my insect repellent and it is much improved even with the small quantities I managed to distill.

Valerian is Similar to Catnip

Valerian is another herb that has much the same effect on cats as catnip. Valerian has similar chemicals to catnip and many cats will roll around and eat it in the same way as they react to catnip. With my cats it’s a mixed reaction, some like it and react to it but others have not.

Valerian has a long history of use as a calming herb and is often sold as a sleeping aid. It has much the same effect on humans as catnip and is easier to find because it is better known. It has a very characteristic odour and is usually taken as capsules rather than tea. I find it effective in helping me go to sleep when I start tossing and turning. I have a plant in my garden. The flowers smell like sweet cherries.

emails: Christine

This article is provided for information and entertainment only. Most of the reported uses of catnip have not been researched or properly documented. This article is not intended to replace medical or veterinary help. If you or your cat are sick see a doctor or vet.

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Catnip. Catmint. Catswort. Nepeta Cataria. We’ve all heard of it, but how much do you really know about this mysterious plant? Native to Europe, the Middle East, central Asia and regions of China, catnip is so named because of the effect it has on felines. In this post, we’ll take a look at the science of catnip, how it can be used, and how it can benefit your feline friend. Read on to learn more about the history and discover essential catnip facts for your feline friends.

Catnip facts and history for pet owners

What is catnip anyway?

Catnip, or Nepeta Cataria, is a herbaceous plant of the mint family. The name Nepeta derives from the Italian town of Nepete (known today as Nepi), where the plant was first cultivated. Catnip looks like a typical mint plant, with small tooth-edged leaves that are brown-green in color, and it blooms from late spring through to Autumn, with a colorful display of pinky-white flowers.

The cultivation and use of catnip goes back a long way. Though there is no hard evidence, it is likely that the Ancient Egyptians cultivated the plant, since we know that they kept domesticated cats. The Romans are known to have used the herb in medicines, and it remains in the history books throughout the Middle Ages before being introduced to America around the 18th century. Voyagers to the New World took cuttings of the plant with them, and a recipe from Massachusetts in 1712 even states “He boiled tansy, sage, hysop and cat-nip in some of ye best wort.”

What does it do?

The effect of catnip on cats is often described as similar to that of some mind-altering drugs. However, unlike other drugs, the effect comes from the smell of the substance. Since cats rely heavily on their sense of scent, the effects can be powerful! Most cats who sniff the plant will experience ecstasy, hyperactivity, and generally be very happy indeed. They might rub it, roll around on it, and go quite mad for it. Not all cats will enjoy catnip and some may just walk away, but around 70% to 80% will be affected.

Catnip facts: how does it work?

While we don’t understand the exact physiology of how catnip works, it is known that nepetalactone is the active ingredient. Catnip contains a volatile oil which, when the plant is touched or agitated, is readily released into the air. The nepetalactone found in this oil is what excites cats. Reaction to the chemical is inherited genetically, so your pet may or may not be interested. Kittens are unaffected by catnip until the age of about 6 months, when they reach sexual maturity.

The triggering chemicals in catnip do their work through the animal’s sense of smell, entering the brain via the specialized scent organ in the roof of the mouth. The vomeronasal or Jacobson’s organs are connected to a cat’s mouth via tiny canals behind the teeth. For this reason, cats enjoying the effects may seem to grimace or pull odd facial expressions around the plant. In fact, they are trying to expose the Jacobson’s organ and maximize the effects.

The ‘high’ of catnip will usually last for around ten minutes, after which the cat will become immune to the effects for roughly half an hour. They might then take interest again.


Catnip doesn’t only affect domestic cats. Some lions, tigers and other big cats will react too!

Catnip facts: how is it used?

Catnip has various uses, but most commonly it’s employed as a training tool or a sedative. Misbehaving cats can be taught better patterns of behavior by using catnip as a reward, in place of a traditional food treat. Like all pet treats, associating positive behavior with a pleasant outcome is a straightforward psychological method for discouraging naughtiness!

As a sedative or distraction, catnip can be used to calm hyperactive cats, soften the terror of a car journey, or make an introduction to a new feline more friendly.

Catnip can be bought in its pure herb form, or pre-embedded in toys and playthings. These toys are a convenient way to introduce your cat to the experience through a concept they are already familiar with – playtime! But beware, overexposure to catnip can dull or even kill off your cat’s sensitivity to the chemical, so use sparingly.

The big question: is catnip safe?

In short, yes.

There has been some debate in the past about the safety and ethical questions of catnip’s use, but today veterinarians are almost unanimously agreed that the herb is entirely harmless. Catnip is completely non-toxic to cats. Another concern for some pet owners is addiction, but studies have shown that the substance is not chemically addictive either.

This being said, as pet owners we should always keep an eye on our pets’ reactions to any new experience. For example, catnip might make a male cat aggressive due to its connection to mating behavior. It is unlikely, but if this happens, you should stop using catnip. The best approach is to try a small amount of catnip with your pet to see how they react, before using it longer-term. Unfortunately, our animals can’t talk to us and tell us how they feel, so it is our responsibility to look out for signs of unhappiness or discomfort.


  • Only 80% of cats react to catnip, and the response is genetically inherited
  • Catnip can be kept fresh by storing it in the freezer
  • Harmlessly adding catnip to food can encourage a cat to eat if reluctant
  • Catnip has little or no effect on humans, as we lack the sensitive receptors of cats
  • Catnip is entirely safe to use if your cat reacts well to it

Can bunnies have CATNIP?

Rabbits need to be occupied and they love playing with toys. This can include manufactured toys for human babies, birds, cats, dogs, hamsters etc. But rabbits will equally get hours of enjoyment from some very cheap, readily available items in the household, blocks of wood, planks, plastic flower pots.

Rabbits can get exercise by taking them out on a harness and lead, but the problem with this is that rabbits can pick up diseases and fleas left on the grass by other rabbits, if their vaccinations are up to date they should not get any of the diseases but they will still pick up fleas.

Rabbits left to run around the home while the householder is out will chew wires, electric leads and furniture, these pets should be put in a pen or hutch while the householders are not at home.


It is recommend that you get your rabbit covered by Pet Insurance as veterinary fees can mount up. Never leave a rabbit in the sole care of a child. As an adult you will have to assume sole responsibility for the health and welfare of your rabbit.

To prevent territorial behaviour of both bucks (males) and does (females), it is suggested that pet rabbits are neutered, if they are not neutered then it should be one rabbit per cage. Never put intact cavies / guinea-pigs in with intact rabbits as they will both sexually abuse each other, cavies / guinea- pigs should be housed with others of the same species. Males can be neutered at around 3-4 months, and does at 6 months. Females over 2-3 years old that are not being regularly bred from are at high risk of developing uterine cancer unless neutered.

Rabbits have little ability to regulate their body temperature and die very easily from heat stroke. Ensure adequate shade is provided at all times. Handle your rabbit daily, and it will generally enjoy your company. Never pick a rabbit up by its ears, and always support your rabbits back and hind quarters when handling. Rabbits can easily experience spinal injuries. Rabbits nails need clipping every 6-8 weeks and teeth should be checked weekly to ensure they are correctly aligned. Rabbits moult 2-4 times a year, only one of these will be heavy (usually late Spring/early Summer).

Seek veterinary advice if your rabbit develops discharges from the eye, nose or mouth, has scabs inside its ears, is passing diarrhoea or mucous, or stops eating and/or drinking. Any ill rabbit must always be given drinking water in a bowl. Water bottles are a clean, hygienic way of providing water if you rabbit is fit and well, but ill rabbits often become listless and will be unlikely to be bothered to lift their heads up to the spout of a bottle and will dehydrate and die very quickly. If at all worried about your rabbit seek Veterinary Advice as sick or injured rabbits die very quickly

Healthy rabbits kept in clean conditions should not need bathing, if you think your rabbit needs a bath, first sort out why you think so and what you have done wrong in the first place.

Male Rabbit-BUCK (Sire) Female Rabbit-DOE (Dam) Young rabbit- KIT (offspring)


All rabbits should have their first litter before they reach 12 months old, if this is left until latter complications can set in and 95% of all older female rabbits die. Males can father a litter anytime from 9 months old up to 12 years old. When breeding each doe should have her own cage to have her litter in, that way she will feel safe and in wild rabbits the pregnant doe leaves all the other rabbits and makes a stop (small burrow) where only she knows the litter can be found and it is not until the kits are ready to leave the stop that they return to the larger warren and all the other rabbits.

Pregnant rabbits can be handled until she starts pulling out her belly fur, at this point she should not be handled as the stress of the forthcoming litter and being handled may cause her to abort the litter

The doe must be put in with the buck who has to be housed separately and the matting only take a couple of seconds, then for the next three weeks she can be treated just as if she had not be mated only with a slight increase of food, by the 21 st day you should be starting to prepare for the birth by putting lots of hay or straw in the bedding area so that the doe can start to build her nest. Longhaired rabbits such as Angora’s, Cashmeres and Lionheads need a lot of grooming and short hair rabbits require less grooming

My experience

I have bred, exhibited and owned rabbits since the early 70’s, all of my rabbits are healthy and well cared for, they live up to 12 years.


The Hobby of Breeding & Exhibiting Rabbits is called ‘The Fancy’. Every weekend, all over the country, rabbit shows are taking place. Many are Local Rabbit Clubs holding their single-day shows in places such as Village Halls and Scout Huts. Others are two-day Championship Shows held in Sports Centres and School Halls.

Contact me if you need any more help.

Cats and Rabbits

A cat and a rabbit really can be friends. Yes, really. What seems an unlikely combination, given the predator-prey context that first comes to mind, is in fact a common and often rewarding match. The key is to remove that stereotype from your mind and, more importantly, from the environment. In an earlier issue we described some of the friendships that have developed between these two. Now we offer ideas on introducing cats and rabbits in ways that minimize stress for all concerned.


A cat who lives with a house rabbit might still stalk and chase a rabbit he met outdoors. The environmental cues would set the instinct in motion. In fact, he might even pursue his own rabbit-friend if they encountered each other outdoors. There are two lessons here. The first is to make sure you set up a situation where Felix is unlikely to feel predatory. The second is that even if Daphne has a feline friend, she could still be terrorized by an unfamiliar cat.

Many people report a total reversal of the expected roles between house-rabbit and house-cat. Daphne takes charge, bossing Felix, chasing him and generally throwing her weight around. Rabbits tend to be much more confrontational in social situations than are cats. I believe this is because, at a very basic level, rabbits are group animals and cats are solitary. Daphne’s instincts tell her, “Here’s someone in my territory. We need to figure out who’s who in the social hierarchy.” Felix, on the other hand, is thinking, “Hmm. A large furry creature who isn’t running away from me. Why look for trouble?” Fundamentally social or pack animals such as rabbits, dogs, and humans are much more concerned with hierarchy-with who’s in charge, who’s top dog-than animals who are programmed to live on their own. Domestication has modified these instincts in the cat to the point that most domestic cats prefer to live with at least one feline companion. And of course there is a great deal of individual variation within species, from the human hermit to the gregarious cat. There are also animals who seem to prefer the companionship of species other than their own. Many rabbits who lack the social skills necessary for living with another rabbit do much better with a feline companion.


But what happens if the rabbit does run from the cat? Here’s where environmental manipulation (the human’s job) comes in. If Daphne runs, then the cat’s instincts tell him something very different than the laid-back, confrontation-avoiding stance he generally takes to social situations. Cats play only one game, and it’s called hunting. All that adorable behavior with the catnip mouse and the feather-at-the-end-of-a-string is basically Stalk, Capture, and Deliver the Fatal Bite.Probably the most difficult cat/rabbit introduction is between a shy and/or small rabbit and an adolescent cat whose claws haven’t been trimmed recently. In this or any situation where the cat chases, the initial acquaintance should take place with Daphne safely in her cage. Make sure that the wire is small enough that Felix can’t stick his foot through it. Also give Daphne a hiding place within the cage, such as a cardboard box (this is a good general policy for all rabbits, especially shy ones, even in catless homes). Actually, any cat who interacts with a rabbit, regardless of how friendly they are, should have his claws kept trimmed. Clip off the curved, sharp tip about once a month. Your veterinarian can show you how to do this. A mild swat from an untrimmed claw can give your bunny an undetected scratch that may later blossom into an abscess.

When Daphne is in her cage, the two have a chance to get used to each other’s smell, sounds, movements, etc. A cage that’s large enough for the rabbit to do some dashing is ideal, as Felix will be able to observe rabbit aerobics and become accustomed to it.

This phase may take days, weeks, or even months, depending on the animals’ personalities. Don’t rush things. It’s much better to go too slowly and succeed than to push it and stress Daphne or have to scold Felix. Scolding is the least effective method of feline education. It usually teaches the cat (a) wait till the humans are away and then torment the rabbit to your heart’s content or (b) rabbit=scolding, which is not a good way to begin a friendship.

When you feel ready to move on, the next step is to give Daphne and Felix supervised access to each other. That means, hang out with them in a room where you can intervene if necessary, but don’t intervene unless absolutely necessary. Give them a chance to work things out in their own way. If Felix is mostly respectful and curious, let him sniff and investigate. If he’s rambunctious, squirt him with water a few times. Try not to let him know that it’s you doing the squirting, or he will associate it with you instead of with the behavior. The water should come as an unpleasant surprise, or, more technically, an environmental reprimand. If you find you’re resorting to the water-pistol frequently, that means you’ve moved ahead too soon. Go back to the cage phase. Eventually, most rabbits and cats get used to each other. It’s just a matter of time and, in some cases, supervision.


This is by far the most common scenario. Cat and rabbit meet, indoors. Rabbit charges up to cat. Cat, non-plussed, backs off. The cat may even run from the rabbit. Most rabbits will chase only till they feel they’ve made their point. These two guys require no human intervention. Once Daphne feels she’s asserted herself to her satisfaction, she and Felix can become roommates, friends, or soulmates.

If you’re introducing a new rabbit to a resident cat, you may need to give the rabbit time to establish a sense of territory in your home before she takes on Felix. It’s generally a good idea to confine a new animal, whether cat or rabbit, to a small area at first, either a cage or a single room. Change is stressful for rabbits as it is for humans. Arrival in a new home is more than enough stress for a rabbit. Don’t put her in the position of having to get used to new territory, new humans, and new cat all at once. Wait till she’s confident and comfortable.


At our foster home we rescue both cats and rabbits. Over the years we have had the opportunity to observe many cat/rabbit introductions. By far the most important element you can contribute to this process is your intuition. Get to know your own cat and rabbit. Listen to what they tell you about their level of stress, when they’re ready for changes, whether they’re lonely, and so on. Let them set the timetable. This is the information that will allow you to shape the general guidelines given here to suit your situation.

Creating a place where cats and rabbits can live together peaceably is a satisfying endeavor. It makes you think, if this predator can snuggle with this prey animal, maybe there’s hope for a compassionate world, after all. It’s a start, anyway.

Amy Shapiro

House Rabbit Journal Volume II, Number 11

When 4 Cats and 2 Rabbits Are Roommates: Catnip and Carrots

I once fed a friend’s indoor cat and rabbit while they were out of town.

It was a nightmare.

Despite the animals themselves appearing to live together quite happily, dealing with a rabbit is not the same as caring for a cat. As soon as I opened the door to the room it was in, the rabbit bolted out and took refuge under the bed in another room. There was no getting the bunny out, and that was that.

Still, it was an eye-opener into the way cats and rabbits are seemingly happy to cohabitate. That’s certainly the case over at the Catnip and Carrots Instagram account, which details the adventures of four cats and two rabbits living in a New York City apartment.

Let’s start with the formal introductions.

Cat number one

Image via Instagram

First up, this is Clive. I like to think of him as the unofficial leader of the Catnip and Carrots clowder. Who wouldn’t want to be led by such a stately looking feline, right?

Cat number two

Image via Instagram

Next up we have the descriptively named Panda Kitty. This snap was taken during the most recent Christmas season and, as you can see, with this cat it’s all about those distinctive panda-esque black and white face markings. A fine and versatile birthday suit, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Cat number three

Image via Instagram

Now we come to Roger, the all-black gentleman cat of the bunch. Here he smartly poses with one of the bunny rabbits (named Siouxsie from what I can discern) and pulling off a very striking black-and-white contrast vibe. Artsy kitty.

Cat number four

Image via Instagram

Finally, we come to cat number four. He’s the brother of Clive and he is definitely a feline, despite picking up the name of Bunny. Don’t try to figure out the rationale — just enjoy the pictures.

Squad goals

Image via Instagram

The whole gang seems to get along swimmingly. I guess a shared love of feasting followed by napping can do wonders for any peace process.

Deep concentration

Image via Instagram

Weekends are a highbrow time at the Catnip and Carrots compound. As you can see, Panda Kitty and Siouxsie take their brainiac board games very seriously.

Incumbent rights

Image via Instagram

Here’s a dilemma for the ages: What happens when you end up with four cats but only one box? Clearly, you make like Bunny here and hop in the coveted real estate quick sharp. Remember, possession of the box is nine-tenths of the law when it comes to all feline property disputes.

Fruits and vegetables

Image via Instagram

Can you guess which members of the traveling picnic party are not exactly enamored with the food choices on offer? Stay strong, Clive!

Hop, skip, or strut over to the Catnip and Carrots Instagram page for more feline and rabbit action.

About the author: Phillip Mlynar writes about cats, music, food, and sometimes a mix of all three. He considers himself the world’s foremost expert on rappers’ cats.

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