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Indoor Cat: Facts about Catnip

indoor cat enjoying catnip

What is CATNIP?

nepeta cataria cat nip cat mint
Catnip is another name for the herb Nepeta Cataria and is actually a relative of the oregano and spearmint plant family. Catnip is a perennial herb from the mint family Labiatae. It has a square, hairy stalk with typically green/grey coloured heart shaped leaves that have scalloped edges.
Flowers of the catnip plant grow in spikes, reaching 1/2 inch in length. The flowers tend to be white, whereas the Persian version of catmint has purple flowers.
Catnip is best known for its ability to get cats high.

Is Catnip safe for your cat?

Catnip is a ‘cat safe and friendly’ plant. It is not harmful to your cat. About 50% of cats go crazy for it whereas the other 50% don’t respond to it. It is quite alright for cats to smell it, eat it and even roll around in. It can also be used to insert into cat play toys to liven up your cat’s playtime.
And your cat won’t overdose on it. Most cats know when they’ve had enough and will refuse any further offers.

Why does Catnip make your cat high and excited?

cat enjoying catnip
The active essential oil or molecule in Nepeta cataria (catnip) is nepetalactone, which is believed to mimic a cat pheromone. Nepetalactone can be found in the leaves and stems of the plant.
Just sniffing the catnip can produce the high. It is believed that cats eat or nibble catnip to bruise the catnip, thereby releasing more of the nepetalactone.

What are the typical effects that Catnip has on your cat?

The effects of catnip on cats do differ. A typical response to catnip includes sniffing, chewing, licking, head shaking, and chin, cheek, and body rubbing. Additional responses may include stretching, drooling, jumping, licking, aggression, and hyperactivity.
Some cats jump about, some get aroused and some just become a little sedated. All these effects are safe for your cat. The trait of loving catnip doesn’t emerge until a cat is between three and six months old. A kitten will not usually have a response to catnip whatsoever.

How do I introduce my cat to catnip?

indoor cat with a dried catnip stuffed toy
There are a number of ways to give catnip to your cat. If you have an indoor cat, you can grow it in a pot and keep it near a window or in their cat enclosure. They can have a nibble as they see fit. For indoor cats, it’s a good idea to have a few pots growing outdoors so that you can rotate plants regularly.
For outdoor cats, you can grow some in their favourite spot in the garden. If you are planting it in a garden your cat has access to, make sure there is plenty of adjacent space around the plant so that other plants won’t be damaged if your cat rolls in it.
You can also dry catnip out and sprinkle some on the floor for them. You can also buy toys with catnip inside them. Most pet shops sell toy mice filled with catnip.
If you are giving your cat dry catnip, a couple of small pinches will be enough.

How do I grow catnip?

growing catnip in a pot for your indoor cat
Catnip is fairly easy to grow. You should be able to purchase the plant from your local garden centre.
Or you can also grow catnip from seed which you can buy from Amazon or any garden centre. The catnip plant likes light, sandy soil and grows best in full sun. Keep the catnip plant well watered too.
You can dry the leaves of the catnip plant too. Cut off a large amount in a bunch and tie the end up with yarn. Dry the catnip by hanging it upside down in a dry, dark area such as a linen closet. The stems and leaves will shrink as they dry. Drying catnip will take between 4-8 weeks.


Catnip is also a good way to entice your cat to use new cat accessories like beds, scratching posts and activity centres. Usually the effect of catnip will last about 10 minutes, after which your cat loses interest.
If you do find any cat nip growing wild by the roadside it’s well worth avoiding as it may be covered in all manner of chemicals and pesticides. It’s best to grow your own in the garden.
Catnip does lose its potency over time, so to keep yours fresh for you or your cat, store it in the freezer in an airtight container or bag.
When providing your indoor cat with edible cat grass and catnip, also make sure that any other plants within the home are cat safe. Make sure that all your household plants are of the non-toxic variety.
Pop some dried catnip in an old slock and knot the end up. Makes a simple cat nip toy for your indoor cat.
For indoor cats, it’s a good idea to have a few pots growing outdoors so that you can rotate plants regularly.
Check out our article: Indoor Cat: Facts about Cat Grass.
Also take a look at our article ‘Plants that are poisonous to cats’.
Catnip for indoor cats