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Why Do Some Cats Like Catnip & Some Do Not?

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There are few things more adorable than a cat going crazy for catnip!

Available as a plant, dried, in toys, or even as a spray, catnip is a fun way to encourage playful behavior in your cat. It can even be used to direct your cat to play in a certain area or scratch a particular post to keep your furniture safe from scratch marks.

The introduction of catnip can elicit a variety of joyful responses, called the “catnip effect”, including: 

  • Rolling over and rubbing the body over the catnip or toy
  • Aggressive sniffing of the catnip
  • Chewing or licking the catnip, or area it was applied
  • Rubbing chin and cheeks all over the catnip
  • Amorous behavior

While many cats enjoy the effects of catnip, it does not work for all. This is not cause for alarm. Here are some reasons why your cat may not seem interested in your offering of catnip:


The active ingredient in catnip, nepetalactone, is believed to bind to the olfactory receptors of your cat, producing the catnip reaction.

However, genetics play a major role in whether or not your cat will react. Recent studies show that about 50-70% of cats experience a response to catnip. Which means that around one-third of all cats seem completely indifferent to it


Another factor that affects a feline’s response to catnip is their age. 

A cat’s olfactory system (responsible for the sense of smell) is not fully developed until around 3 months. So, if you have a young kitten, they will not be affected. You can try again when they are about 3-6 months old.


In the same way that humans become “nose blind,” cats generally become immune to catnip fragrance after about 10-15 minutes. At this point, your cat may walk away and will probably not experience the effects again for at least an hour, maybe more.

If your cat has reacted to catnip before, but now seems unamused, consider whether they are being exposed too frequently. 

Are you leaving catnip-filled toys around the house all day? If so, try putting the toys away in a sealed container when not in use and bring them out about once a week so it is more of a treat. You will likely discover that your cat will begin to enjoy the catnip again.

Your Cat Does Not React to Catnip? Try One of These!

Nepetalactone and compounds like it are not only found in catnip. Many cats who do not respond to catnip may react to some of these other plants:

  • Silver Vine
  • Tatarian Honeysuckle
  • Valerian Root
  • Catmint

For a mixed cat household where one cat responds and one does not, you can find cat toys on the market with a blend of catnip and one of these other herbs.


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