Catnip Not Working – What’s Wrong?

You've heard so much about this plant and you're so eager to try it on your furball. But when you do, she just ignores it. No reaction at all. Should you be worried? Could something be wrong with your cat? We've asked the cat experts why some felines don't seem to be affected by catnip and here's what they say.

If your cat doesn't react to catnip, there could be 3 possible reasons. She might still be too young and hasn't developed the ability to react to its scent yet. She might have been overexposed to catnip and has become desensitized to it. Or she simply doesn't have the genes and sensitivity to its smell.

Continue reading so that you can further understand what we mean by these things and why it shouldn't be a cause of concern if your pet doesn't react to it. We'll also discuss how fast catnip works, if fresh catnip is stronger than dried, if dry catnip can go bad, and if your cat can ever have too much of this herb.

A cat playing on the small catnip garden, Catnip Not Working - What's Wrong?

Why don't some cats react to catnip?

Nepeta cataria, more commonly known as catnip, is an herb that belongs to the mint family. This fragrant plant seems to work some magic among furballs. Its scent can make cats happy or calm them. Felines drool, roll, or growl once they get a sniff of this plant. Some zone out or fall asleep.

However, not all felines are sensitive to the smell of catnip. Even if you sprinkle catnip all over their bed or spray it on their toy, you won't get any reaction from them. This non-reaction worries some pet parents as they think something might be wrong with their cats.

A cat sleeping on the rock staring at the fresh catnip

But hold on. There's no need to fret. There's nothing wrong with your pet. There are various reasons why your furball doesn't react to catnip.

Genes

Pet experts believe that the ability to react to the scent of this plant is in the cat's genes. It is hereditary and only half of the cat population is sensitive to catnip.

Too young

They say that a cat's sensitivity to catnip doesn't develop until they are 6 months old. Of course, this can vary from one cat to another. One may be able to react to the smell of this herb at 3 months while another might only be affected when she's a year old.

Can cats become immune to catnip?

Another reason why your furball is not responding to catnip could be because of overexposure.

When your cat is exposed to this herb too much, she can develop a tolerance for its scent. She may become desensitized and catnip won't have any effect on her anymore.

When cats get a whiff of its fragrant smell, their brain tells them to be happy or calm and they behave accordingly. But the effects of catnip only last for about 10 minutes and then they'll wear off eventually.

And after this, something amazing happens. They become temporarily immune to the effects of this plant. For a certain period, catnip would not have any effect on them. Their brains need time to reset for 30 minutes or longer before they can become sensitive to the scent of catnip once again.

This is why pet experts say that our cat could never be addicted to catnip. Also, if you want to preserve catnip's magic on your furball, it's best to limit giving her this treat to 2 to 3 times a week.

What are alternatives to catnip?

If your furball doesn't react to catnip, there are alternatives that you can give her that will produce the same effect.

Silver vine and Tatarian honeysuckle are plants that are said to be as potent as catnip. They are also used as a stimulant for cats and elicit the same reaction and behavior among furballs. You can also try Valerian root which has a calming effect on cats.

Or it could also be that your pet is simply not motivated by scents. In this case, you have to find other ways to stimulate them and get them excited. Play with your pet and engage her in different ways. This will give her a natural high.

Can cats eat too much fresh catnip?

A cat eating fresh grass

Catnip is considered 100% safe for our furballs. However, this cat treat should be given in moderation. There have been cases wherein cat owners said that their pets had suffered from vomiting, diarrhea, or an upset stomach after consuming too much catnip.

When this happens, vets usually advise that cats be given lots of water to remove the toxins in their bodies. But if these symptoms persist, it's best to take your pets to the vet for proper diagnosis.

Is fresh catnip stronger than dried?

Catnip can be given in different forms. When you have this plant in your garden, then your pet can get some fresh treats. Meanwhile, there are dried leaves and catnip sprays that you can buy at pet stores.

While some pet parents on a Q&A website say that fresh catnip is more potent than dried leaves, there's really no conclusive evidence regarding this. It would really depend on your cat's sensitivity to this herb and in what form they want to get it.

Simply put, some cats like it fresh while some enjoy the dried ones better. Some are fine when you spray catnip on their toys. So it all depends on your furball's preference.

Can dry catnip go bad?

Dry catnip does not go bad per se but it will lose its influence on your cat when it is left uncovered. Constant exposure to the scent of catnip will significantly decrease its potency over your pet.

To keep your catnip stock in the best condition, put it inside a sealed plastic bag or container. This will ensure that this fragrant herb retains its scent and flavor over time.

How long does it take for catnip to kick in?

Catnip has an essential oil that contains nepetalactone. This is a chemical that binds to the receptors in your cat's olfactory system. When this sense organ is stimulated, it sends signals to the brain. This will lead to feelings of euphoria and causes the cat to behave or react in a certain way.

Cats have a very sensitive sense of smell so once they have a sniff of this fragrant herb, they are easily stimulated. This is why the effects of catnip happen almost in an instant and elicit the expected reactions or behavior among pets that have the ability to react to its scent.

Some observable behavioral changes include drooling, flipping, rolling, growling, or rubbing their faces against the surface where the smell comes from. Some cats tend to lose focus, zone out, or fall asleep. It really depends on how sensitive your cat is to the smell of this plant.

But these effects won't last for long. They usually last for 10 to 15 minutes and then wear off gradually. After this time, the cat's brain also becomes temporarily immune to the smell of catnip so even if you give your cat more catnip, it won't be able to induce the same effects right away.

It would take some 30 minutes or longer for your cat's brain to reset and become sensitive to the scent of catnip once again.

Final Thoughts

A cat smelling catnip in the garden, How Fast Does Catnip Work?

If your pet doesn't react to catnip, don't worry. She may not be sensitive to it because of genetics, she might have yet to develop the ability to react to it, or she has become immune to its scent over time. There are other options that you can try so you can stimulate or calm your pet.

If you want to know more about catnip, you can also read Should You Put Catnip In A Cat Bed? and Should You Put Catnip On Scratching Post?

Leave a Reply