Catnip Effects on Cats: Why Do Cats Get Stoned on Catnip?

why do cats get stoned on catnip

Catnip is a mysterious herb that has captivated cats for generations.

Its active ingredient, nepetalactone, has a powerful effect on the feline brain: it can make your cat appear to be stoned or drunk.

But why?

What is the science behind this phenomenon and why do cats react in such an extreme way?

In this article, we’ll explore the mysteries of catnip and answer all your questions about why cats get stoned on catnip.

The science behind catnip’s effects on cats

At the heart of catnip’s effects lies nepetalactone, a powerful chemical compound found in the plant’s leaves and stems.

This substance has a powerful effect on cats, binding to special receptors in their brain which triggers sensations of pleasure and euphoria.

Through this reaction, cats become highly stimulated by the presence of this compound, often displaying strange behaviors such as rubbing their faces against the catnip or rolling around in it.

While the exact mechanisms of how nepetalactone works are still being studied, we do know that not all cats respond to catnip in the same way.

Some cats may be completely unaffected by it while others can become extremely playful.

We also know that the effects of catnip are temporary and usually last only a few minutes before wearing off.

How does catnip effects on cat’s behaviors and reactions?


There are a few theories on how catnip affects cats’ behaviors and reactions. These include:

Pheromone response

Pheromones are chemical signals that animals use to communicate with each other, and it is possible that cats recognize the scent of catnip as a signal from another cat.

This could explain why cats become so stimulated when they smell catnip as it might make them feel like they are in the presence of another cat.

Neurochemical reaction

It is also possible that the active chemical compound in catnip, nepetalactone, triggers a neurochemical reaction in cats’ brains.

This could be why cats seem to experience a feeling of pleasure or euphoria when they smell catnip.

Mimicking prey

The smell of catnip could also be mimicking the scent of a small animal that cats might typically hunt, such as a field mouse.

This could explain why cats become so stimulated by the scent and act like they are hunting.

What is the benefit of catnip for cats and their owners?


Although cats often appear to be “stoned” when they smell catnip, its effects are actually quite beneficial for both cats and their owners. These include:

Reducing stress

Catnip can have a calming effect on cats and help reduce their anxiety or stress levels.

This is especially helpful for cats that are anxious due to unfamiliar environments, travel, or other stressful situations.

Providing an enjoyable activity

The pleasurable effects of catnip can provide cats with an enjoyable activity and give them something to focus on besides the potential sources of stress in their environment.

Owners can take advantage of this by providing their cats with a catnip toy or scratching post that will help keep them entertained and mentally stimulated.

Promoting healthy behavior

Catnip can also promote healthy behaviors such as scratching and playing.

Cats can use scratch posts or toys filled with catnip to engage in their natural behaviors, helping keep them physically active and mentally engaged.

This can be beneficial for both cats and their owners as it can reduce boredom and help prevent destructive behavior.

Encouraging playtime

Finally, catnip can help cats and their owners bond by encouraging playtime.

Cats love to play and having a toy filled with catnip can make it easier for owners to engage in interactive play with their cats.

This can help strengthen the bond between cats and their owners while providing an enjoyable activity for both of them.

How to safely introduce catnip to your cat?


When introducing catnip to your cat it is important to do so safely. Here are some tips for doing so:

Start small

To ensure that your cat enjoys the catnip experience, start by introducing small amounts of it at a time. This can help prevent your cat from becoming overwhelmed or overstimulated.

Keep the area calm

Try to keep the area where you are introducing the catnip as calm and relaxed as possible.

This will help your cat become more comfortable and familiar with the catnip before they start to experience its effects.

Provide a distraction

Providing a distraction, such as a toy or scratching post, can help keep your cat’s mind occupied while they are introduced to the catnip.

This can help prevent them from becoming overwhelmed and ensure that they stay safe.

Observe your cat’s behavior

When introducing new experiences to cats it is important to observe their behavior and reactions carefully.

This will help you determine if the catnip is having a positive effect on your cat or if they are becoming overstimulated.

If your cat appears to be uncomfortable or overwhelmed, it is best to remove the catnip and try again later.


Catnip is a plant that contains an active ingredient called nepetalactone, which has been found to have a stimulating effect on cats.

It can stimulate their senses, reduce stress and anxiety levels, promote healthy behaviors such as scratching and playing, and encourage playtime between cats and their owners.

When introducing catnip to your cat it is important to do so safely by starting small, keeping the area calm, and providing a distraction.

Lastly, it is important to observe your cat’s behavior to ensure that they are having a positive experience with the catnip.

By following these tips, cats and their owners can both benefit from the pleasant effects of this herb.

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