Cats like catnip because it contains a compound called nepetalactone, which acts as a natural stimulant for them. When cats smell or ingest catnip, it can trigger a temporary response that includes excitement, playfulness, and rolling around. Not all cats are affected by catnip. Its effects are influenced by genetics, and kittens usually don’t respond until they reach around 3 to 6 months of age.
Catnip usually doesn’t make cats aggressive. However, individual reactions to catnip can vary, and some cats may exhibit more intense behaviors during playtime, such as swatting or biting. These behaviors are typically not meant to be aggressive in the sense of intending harm, but the heightened intensity of playfulness could cause a cat to be more intense than they typically would during play. For this reason, never give your cat catnip before a stressful event or vet visit.
It is essential to monitor your cat’s behavior when using catnip and don’t overdo it. A small pinch of catnip is sufficient. Be sure to provide your cat with something to play with, and make sure you’re going to be with them for a couple of hours, so they don’t become overstimulated alone.
In general, catnip is considered safe for cats, and it usually doesn’t cause stomach issues like vomiting or diarrhea when ingested in tiny amounts. However, like any plant material, large amounts can cause inflammation that leads to vomiting or diarrhea. Be sure to purchase catnip in its dried form; the live plants you can grow or purchase from a pet store are more irritating to your cat’s digestive system. Your cat’s behavior should return to normal within an hour or so after eating it, so if you notice any unusual effects, don’t give it to your cat until you’ve checked with their veterinarian.