Do All Cats Like Catnip ? – Various Cat Reactions To Catnip

The crazier activities like intensive meowing, growling, purring and drooling shown by your cat after catnip exposure may have made you wonder that do all cats like catnip. However, the answer is not a full yes and various factors are responsible for it. To know more about cat’s reaction to catnip and what all factors are responsible for them, continue to read.


About catnip and the ‘catnip effect’ on cats

The plant of catnip is known to be a member of the family of mints and goes with the scientific name Nepeta cataria and other names like catswort and catmint due to its close association with cats. The catnip plant has been a native of the countries of Asia, Europe, and Africa but is now cultivated in different parts of North America too and there are around 250+ catnip varieties found in the world today.

The fragrance of this plant is the characteristic quality that makes it loved by the cats. This smell mostly reeks from the stems and leaves of this plant due to the presence of oil known as nepetalactone in them. It is said to be containing a set of chemicals that are called pheromones.

‘Catnip effect’

When cats come in contact with the distinctive catnip smell, their special receptors that are sensitive to these pheromones get activated and cause a sort of chemical reaction. This leads to the emergence of a feeling of happiness, calm, and euphoria in cats which is similar to the impact of hallucinogenic drugs seen on humans. This is also sometimes referred to as the ‘catnip effect’.

Aspects of cat’s reaction to catnip

Cats love catnip but the love isn’t shared unanimously by all members of the cat world. Other than this fact, there are many other aspects of the ways cat respond to catnip fragrance, and here are some of the important ones:

  • The most important aspect of the catnip effect is that it isn’t the same on all the cats. The reactions of cats to catnip smell range from normal, intense, and no reaction at all. In some rare cases, you may even find a certain cat reacting negatively to catnip exposure.
  • The above statement becomes more concrete with studies showing that only 50-75% of cats show a response to catnip smell.
  • Another very important thing to note is that the catnip effect has relations with genetics. This means that cats the catnip effect shows up in cats upon inheriting the related gene from the parent breed.
  • The catnip effect can vary due to many factors like breed, gender, age, and social exposure, etc. among cats. Thus, if you ask do kittens like catnip just like other cats, it has been observed that kittens and adult cats don’t respond much to catnip as they don’t need stimulators for being active.
  • Catnip effects don’t last very long but cats can show a similar kind of response to re-exposure after some time only.
  • Caution should be practiced by cat owners while using catnip for their cats if they have observed their cat getting too much excited at the smell usually. Their resultant behavior might get aggravated into turning harmful too, though unintentionally.

Positive responses of cats to catnip

To put it simply, the impact of catnip on cats is equivalent to getting a pleasurable and happy time with scent without any risk and consequence. So if you think that why do all cats like catnip, these impacts of catnip on cats will make you understand:

  • Cats take in the catnip smell deeply and show calmed down reactions mostly.
  • They also try to rub or roll over the catnip object on themselves.
  • The level of activities in the cat has been observed to get visibly increased post-exposure to catnip.
  • Catnip is a form of enrichment and therapy via scent for cats and it improves their overall well-being quotient.

Negligent response to catnip by cats

We have already seen that a considerable portion of the cat population shows no stimulation post catnip exposure and some might even show signs of dislike. Now, these kinds of reactions simply stem from the lack of catnip gene in these cats and the age factor when you think 'do kittens like catnip'.

By no response, we also mean that your cat may show a very weak or soft reaction to catnip exposure that contrasts with the usual ways cats respond to the smell, making you think that they don’t like it. This means that some cats may just get a bit relaxed and soothed with the smell but not show aggravated stirring up. It must be remembered that not liking catnip doesn’t make them cats with poor standards or deficient in any way.

The response of cats to catnip can also possibly weaken when being exposed to it too much. That can become the case if you are using catnip excessively for training your cat or other purposes.

Bonus tips on using catnip

do all cats like catnip

Now that we have cleared the air on’ do all cats like catnip’, here are some tips on the usage of catnip for good:

  • You can use it to calm down your cat before grooming sessions or vet visits.
  • It can be smudged on toys, scratching posts, or other stuff to make it more alluring to the cats.
  • Spreading very little catnip around can help to bring the cat into activity mode sooner.
  • Always begin with little catnip exposure, increasing it slowly to moderate and then accordingly.
  • You can use home-grown catnip for you can trust the quality more and have a ready supply whenever needed.

Alternatives to catnip

Based on cat’s reaction to catnip, you may want to have some alternatives ready if your cat needs stimulation but doesn’t like catnip much. Here are some of the alternative plants you can try:

  • Silverine- It has two attractant compounds for the cats and can be used in combination with other herbs.
  • Chamomile- The flowers can be dried, diffused, or used filled in toys in combination with other smells to relax cats.
  • Valerian root- Unlike its sleeping effect on humans, valerian roots can energize your cat superbly.
  • Lavender- Its oil is therapeutic to cats just like it is for humans.
  • Tartarian honeysuckle- With a similar active ingredient structure to nepetalactone, some of their safe-for-cats varieties are good.

The key to using these alternatives and calming equipments is doing a reaction test with the cats firstly and then going ahead accordingly.


We hope to have cleared about doubts regarding ‘do all cats like catnip’ and related queries. It wouldn’t be wise to force your catnip into liking any enticing smell like that of catnip or substances alike and you can try alternative things to engage and energize them. Wishing the best for your cat and you!

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Luna Tran

My name is Luna and I am a great cat lover and a cat owner of three lovely cats. I have owned many cats till now and have dedicated many years to nurturing and caring cats. Through this blog, I am here to share my knowledge and experience about cats.