All About Catnip: How Do I Use It?

Use these tips to help have your feline friend the best 'nip experience!

What is catnip and how do I use it? Call it cat weed, cat mint, or catnip, it’s the stuff that makes some cats wacky. And as with any herb, freshness matters.

What does catnip do to a cat? I’m asked this all the time, usually by spouses who tolerate a partner’s cat (or rather, the cat tolerates them). I even had a vet ask me this question. (Gaahhh! Don’t they cover catnip in vet-med schools?) Here’s what we tell them…

Ten Tips About Catnip 

Catnip is an herb related to mint. It’s safe and natural. Catnip works in both dried and fresh forms.

1. Catnip stimulates the pleasure-seeking pheromones in a cat’s brain. Result: Rolling, rubbing, purring, wild-eyes, racing, friskiness and frolicking – for about ten minutes, before the cat abandons the catnip. (Some cats get aggressive, so watch your fingers.) The crazy-session is followed by a crash: sedentary zoning or naptime ­– which can be handy if you want your cat to be tranquil for a spell.

2. Most cats, but not all, respond to catnip. Experts say 70-75 percent of cats inherit a “catnip gene” which makes them responsive to catnip. Kittens and cats younger than six months don’t respond to catnip. (Perhaps, like kids, they’re naturally high.)

3. Let your cat inhale! Cats get their kicks by inhaling the vapor from the catnip oil. Chewing, pawing and slobbering on a catnip toy helps release the oil’s vapor. (With our Catnip Joints, we recommend running the joint under the cat’s nose, like a fine cigar, to get them engaged, before tossing the joint in the air like prey.)

4. Stale catnip won’t work. Which is why cat toys that have been on the shelves for months lose their potency; mass-market brands often start off with cheap, inferior catnip. No wonder kitty won’t play! Don’t waste your money.

5. Smell the freshness. Catnip’s essential oil “nepetalactone” makes the magic happen, and it’s found mainly in the leaves and buds. When the oil dries out, no more magic. It’s just like the herbs in your kitchen cabinet. If your herbs or catnip don’t have aromas, throw them out. They’re duds.

6. Quality matters. Again, as with all herbs, there are weak strains of catnip and stronger ones. Soil, sun and growing conditions make a difference between “premium catnip” and inferior catnip.

7. Freeze dried catnip airtight to keep it fresh. This includes catnip toys. (If you buy a multi-pack of our Catnip Joints, freeze a few for later use.)

8. If a catnip toy needs reviving, roll it in dried catnip (stuff that’s not stale). Don’t just sprinkle the catnip: crumble it on scratching posts or toys to release the potent oil.

9. Is catnip safe to eat? Yes, but best in small amounts. It acts like a sedative, making cats more sleepy than frisky. Large quantities may cause digestive issues. Don’t set out a platter of catnip (I’ve seen this happen on the Interweb; the cat was passed out for days.)

10. Desensitization happens. Problem: My cat stopped playing with her catnip toy. Solution: Remove catnip toys after playtime. Cats’ noses get desensitized when they’re always around catnip. Bring the toys out again in a day or so. To revive an old toy, rub loose catnip on the outside to refresh the aroma.

Used with permission from and our thanks to the greatest catnip company around -- Meowijuana - A Catnip Company!