Cat on catnpi.

Catnip has a comedic reputation of giving cats a certain kind of high, but what is it, really? Is catnip a drug for cats? Can cats overdose on catnip? The team at Animal Medical Hospital & 24 Hour Urgent Care is here to help you learn the truth about catnip and what it does to your feline friends.

What Is Catnip?

Catnip is a plant that hails from the mint family and is loosely related to other mint plants like sage, rosemary, and oregano. This delicious family tree is known for having distinctive smells that even our weaker human noses can detect. The feline species is so attracted to the catnip plant in particular because it has a compound called nepetalactone, which actually joins with nasal receptors and gives them a feeling that is seemingly euphoric.

The Catnip Experience

When cats encounter catnip, they tend to either get huge bursts of energy and run or roll around excitedly or collapse next to it in a puddle of purrs. Scientists cannot say for sure if catnip is a drug for cats similar to how narcotics or alcohol affect the human brain. Some cats (like kittens) do not seem to be as affected by this special plant, but many scientists believe that catnip affects all cats in some way.

Is There a Thing as Too Much Catnip?

The current consensus is that cats cannot overdose on catnip in the traditional sense of the word, but they can potentially get sick if they have too much of it. Some cats have stomach issues like vomiting or diarrhea after ingesting catnip, and others start to demonstrate aggressive behavior. You know your cat best, so it’s up to you to decide if this treat is a fun benefit for your cat or if it is something you should leave at the nursery.

Cat-ching Up with Catnip

For cats who react positively to catnip, it can be a great addition to their daily routine, and catnip toys can even encourage cats who tend to be a little lazier to be more active. Try out a few catnip toys to see if they get your cat moving. 


The team at Animal Medical Hospital & 24 Hour Urgent Care is here to help you figure out how to keep your cats happy and healthy throughout their lives. To learn more about our vast array of services or to schedule an appointment, call (704) 334-4684.