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Cats Try Catnip For The First Time

cat in catnip
Black cat rolling in catnip. Image generated by Amy using Midjourney

Cats are elegant, poised, and graceful. However, a pinch of catnip seems to make all of their distinguished “cattitude” vanish in seconds.


From tabby cats to tigers, felines often go bonkers for catnip, shaking, licking, and rolling in it. But why do they do this? 

“Cats Try Catnip For The First Time,” Source: YouTube, Uploaded: The Pet Outlet

Why Do Cats Roll Around in Catnip? 

Perfume was invented because humans used to like rubbing nice-smelling plants on their skin. In a similar way, cats indulge in catnip, attracted to the euphoric rush from the plant’s natural compounds.

cat catnip
Persian cat sniffing dried catnip. Image via Depositphotos

One of the compounds, called nepetalactol, has been found to increase the endorphins (“happy” hormones associated with pleasure) in cats.  

In addition, a recent study found that nepetalactol is an effective natural insect repellent, and the mechanism of rolling around in plants that contain this compound may be a functional behavior that cats evolved. It would make sense that cats, who rely on stealth and slow movements to ambush prey, needed something to keep the annoying bugs away from them and to mask their scent. 

Is Catnip Dr*gs? 

cat catnip plant
Tabby white cat smelling a blossoming catnip plant (Nepeta nepetella). Image via Depositphotos

The reaction cats often have in response to catnip is often received negatively because it mimics the “high” behavior of a human indulging in something like marijuana. However, neither catnip nor any other “cat-attracting” plants, like silver vine, are related to the cannabis plant, coca plant (used to make cocaine), or opium poppy (heroin).  

Catnip and its active compounds are safe and offer a great source of environmental enrichment for cats.

Why Don’t All Cats Like Catnip? 

You may have a cat that has never seemed too bothered with catnip. Some cats are more genetically inclined to respond to catnip than others, and some might respond, but don’t have the personality to indulge in it.   

catnip plant
Catnip (Nepeta cataria) is a member of the mint family. Image via Depositphotos


Much is still unknown about catnip, like why felines are the only animals that are affected by it, and why they behave so strangely under its influence. 

Do your cats like catnip? Get involved in the conversation here!

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