The magical power of catnip. Why do cats go crazy over it?

Cats on catnip are a true internet sensation. Their comical reactions to the magical plant were an inspiration not only for many funny videos, but photographers as well – Andrew Marttila (@iamthecatphotograper) released an entire book, Cats on Catnip, with pictures of, well, cats being high on catnip. Dried or fresh, catnip is used in various toys, kickers, pillows, cat fishing rods, even in their food. Fun guaranteed. Why do cats have such a strong reaction to catnip and are ready to make a fool of themselves in front of a camera for a few minutes of out-of-this-earth fun? 

What is catnip? 

Catnip, or nepeta in latin, is a simple garden plant with blue-ish, violet or pink flowers, which from a distance make it resemble lavender shrubs. Even though hoomans use it in herbology, in their kitchens and as a natural mosquito repellent, catnip owes its global fame to our furry friends. Cats react to nepetalactone contained in some catnip species – it’s a natural kitty lure, as if it was a potent cat pheromone. 

Check which plants are safe for cats: 

Cats with access to catnip can react to it two different ways or not react at all – depending on which studies you trust, it is said that up to ⅓ of all cats can be completely indifferent to the magic of catnip. Others, well… if they smell catnip, they can start rolling around in it, lick and eat it off the floor, bite, kick and throw around cat toys with catnip inside, or rub against toys and purr softly to calm themselves down. You can actually pot catnip and create your own, unlimited stash of good fun, or simply buy it dried or in spray form, inside cat toys, and even find it in cat food and snacks. Be careful though – in our experience, catnip in spray is not always as potent and some cats may not react to it at all. In fact, between our team we had three cats that had no reaction to spray catnip. 

Why does catnip work on cats? 

If you often see a wild cat hiding inside your domestic cat, imagine that those big cats, lions and tigers alike, also react to catnip and can get crazy funny just like your furry ball of happiness sleeping on the couch! Most feline species are highly susceptible to the catnip smell, getting euphoric over the littlest amount of catnip stimulation. 

Pssst. Did you know that here at myKotty we have the best stuff in town and, just for you, fabCats, we stuffed it into our KungFu Cat Toys

The two faces of cats on catnip

Catnip is used in cat toys for a reason – one of the most common reactions to this magical stinker is a spike of energy and a need to have fun, which is why catnip toys are a great idea if you want to get your uninterested and lazy cat going. Using catnip, you can refresh some of your older toys that your cat stopped being interested in a long time ago or get them into a new cat bed or scratcher, if they give it no attention. Our scratchers LUI, VIGO and TOBI are made out of high quality corrugated cardboard and, thanks to the natural grooves and waves, you can easily sprinkle some catnip in to get your kitty interested. You must know, however, that catnip can have an opposite effect on your cat and instead of making them go crazy, it can get the kitty relaxed and calm. This is good if you need to go to the vet or calm your cat down after a stressful journey. 

Cat in a catnip trance: fun and playtime usually lasts about 10 minutes and your cats will most definitely try to rub into themselves as much catnip as they can. If you give them some dried up catnip and sprinkle it on the floor, kitties will start rolling around, lick the good stuff off the floor and rub against everything in their surroundings. They can also start running, meow, purr, or, if you give them a cat toy, toss it around, bite and have the best time. After 10 minutes of being high, the catnip effects get weaker and cats go into a rest mode. This is why it’s so important to hide all catnip toys after the fun time and store them in ziplock bags, to keep the smell fresh for longer. Do this to our KungFu Cat Toy as well, fabCats. Make the fun last! 

Cat relaxing on catnip: some kitties’ reaction to catnip is completely different from the crazy fun image we see online – they relax, calm down and have a chill session in complete bliss. They usually stick to rubbing themselves against the toy, laying on it and sniffing ocasionally. Catnip can also work that way if your cats decide to eat it – they love licking it off the floor, but catnip is often added to snacks, wet and dried food as well. 

Catnip and cat aggression: catnip can get some kitties overstimulated and somewhat aggressive, which is particularly visible if you have multiple cats at home. If that’s the case, always use catnip toys carefully, checking your cats’ reactions while they’re alone before introducing it to the group. You don’t want a nice playtime session to turn into an unpleasant, fluff-flying cat fight. 

My cat won’t play with catnip

You’re watching funny cat videos, checking out all the kitty accounts on Instagram and then look at your cat and say: you need some catnip magic in your life too. We have to warn you that despite your best intentions, not all cats react to catnip – it’s estimated that only around ⅔ of the cat population is susceptible to catnip magic and the reaction is not always as strong and funny, as you might see online. It may all depend on your kitty’s age (kittens and senior cats may not smell the magic) as well as your cat’s individual preferences. 

Your meowing friend has catnip written into his or her DNA – if they don’t react to catnip after they grew out of their kitten phase, they may never like it or only have some mild interest that ends with their rubbing once or twice on the toy before leaving it alone. You might even wonder if they are reactive to the catnip or just particularly like that one toy. No worries – the “no-catnip-allowed” cats can still have fun with some other natural smells. 

Because of all that, we were clever enough to add to our kickers not only catnip, but some valerian as well. Rest assured, the KungFu Cat Toy is the best stuff in town 🙂 Plus, you have twice the chance of giving your cat the best playtime.

What, if not catnip?

Catnip is the most basic and well known stinker in the cat world, but it’s not the only source of stimulation for our furry friends. In the wonderful world of cat toys, the second best thing is valerian (a stinker loved by many cats) or silver vine sticks, which can be effective on cats who don’t react to catnip. Silver vine is a dried up stick from an asian plant that contains cat attractants, making them happy and stimulated or relaxed, just as catnip does. All you need is one silver vine stick – gently peel the outer bark layer off and it’s read to go. We have to mention, of course, that we know from our fabCats some stories of cats who don’t react to any of the stinkers mentioned here – it’s a completely individual case for every cat and you won’t know until you try. 

Now we turn to you, fabCats. What stinky toys do your cats like? Is every catnip toy able to get them into that perfect funny state, or do they require only the best quality catnip served on special occasions? 🙂 Feel free to leave a comment while we go back to packing up our KungFu Cat Toy orders – it gets kitties going and even the most fussy connoisseurs of the magic plant love it to pieces!

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