As the proud cat owners we are, we love it when our furry friends meow, curl up next to us on the couch and run through the house with their favorite toy in their mouth. We adore watching them play, jumping and tossing toys in the air. And is there anything cuter than watching your cat scratch on their scratching post?
Playful kitty behavior is a bit of reassurance (to us humans) that our pets are happy. It also makes us feel as if they love us as much as we love them!
And while most cat lovers take special pains to feed their kitties the best food and reward them with their favorite tasty treats, there's one thing that a lot of cat owners are unsure of:
Despite the myths, catnip is neither addictive nor will it make your cats hallucinate. But what is actually in it? How does it make cats react? Is it safe? Should you give your cats toys with catnip inside?
If you're unsure if you should give your kitty catnip, keep reading. Here's what catnip actually is (plus a rundown of some of the best catnip toys for your cutie cat).
What Exactly Is Catnip?
Catnip, sometimes called catwort or catmint, is a perennial herb and a member of the mint family. The technical name for it is nepeta cataria, and it has one active ingredient – an essential oil called nepetalactone.
Nepeta cataria grows in Europe, the Middle East, and certain parts of Asia. Its plants can grow as high as three feet and produces little flower blooms, but we're not used to seeing it in that form. It's the ground oregano-looking leaves that most of us are familiar with.
What Does Catnip Do To Cats?
Because the ingredient that affects cats is an essential oil, it works directly on their olfactory system. The inside of your cat's nose is full of receptors. The scent of catnip binds to those receptors, creating (for reasons that aren't entirely known) a brief sense of euphoria in cats.
Not all cats are affected by catnip, but many domestic cats, as well as some big cats like lions and tigers, do respond.
However, the response is not the same in all cats. Most get energetic and excited, while some become calmer and tend to drool. Most cats don't react to catnip at all until they've reached the age of sexual maturity, which is usually around six months.
Is Catnip Beneficial to House Cats?
Most of the cats we know enjoy a burst of excitement after playing with a toy filled with catnip. This can be quite beneficial to older cats, lazy cats, or overweight cats that need a bit of exercise.
But before we get into our list of favorite catnip toys, let us just say this:
Cats can be very particular about their toys.
Some cats prefer playing with crinkle balls and toys they can bat around. Others like soft, plush toys that they can chew and carry in their mouth. Almost all cat owners will admit that their kitty has a favorite toy or two, so you may have to try a few different options to find a toy that your cat loves.
Okay, so the Scratch Lounge isn't a toy per se … but it is something that your cats can play on. It serves as a place for them to lie down and relax, and it's also a great alternative to a traditional scratching post.
The Scratch Lounge is a three-sided lounger so your cat can curl up and nest inside in total comfort. The pads are made from reversible honeycomb material, and it comes with a small bag of catnip that you can put inside.
It's fully recyclable and made from 100% recycled materials, making it an eco-friendly option for the kitty that needs a deterrent from scratching your favorite chair or couch.
Pet owners know that KONG makes some of the best toys for cats and dogs – and the KONG Refillable Beaver is no exception!
The shape of this plush toy looks like a cat's natural prey, but it's the catnip inside that'll really get them going. It's soft and washable, has a texture that cats love and it comes with a tube of North American catnip.
You can store the catnip in the freezer to keep it fresh. When the scent dissipates from the beaver, just add some fresh catnip into the little compartment inside.
If you love to play with your cat, the Frisco Bird Teaser with Feathers is ideal. This colorful little birdie features a teaser wand, dangling strings, soft feathers and crinkly details to entice your cat with its sound.
Canadian catnip on the inside will give your cat a bit of excitement and stimulation, making it perfect for kitties who need to get some exercise!
There's no question that cats love to chase mice. But mice with catnip inside are impossible to resist!
The SmartyKat Critter Catnip Toy features a set of three small, furry mice infused with Canadian catnip to make your cat go wild. They can kick it and bat it around, toss it into the air, and carry it in their mouth.
It's a must-have that'll allow your cat to enjoy its natural instincts to prey upon small critters and creatures.
Lovingly named Jean-Michel, this Fish Teaser from Cat Person makes an adorable and exciting addition to your kitty's toy box. This teaser toy features a narrow wand and a colorful plush fish or bull that dangles at the end of a string.
It's detailed with a small bell for added stimulation as well as catnip to keep your cat coming back for more.
With feathers and a crinkle sound, the KONG Naturals Crinkle Ball with Feathers is sure to entice your cat to want to play for hours on end.
Made from natural and renewable resources, this toy includes North American catnip and features tail feathers and a soft round fish, so your cat can bat it all over the house.
If your kitty likes a good chase, this is one toy he's sure to love!
Shaped and sized like a real banana, this toy features a soft texture, a curved shape that cats love to grip and hold onto and organic catnip on the inside.
While we can't guarantee it, there's a really good chance that this yellow banana will become your kitty's new favorite toy.
Frisco makes great, affordable cat toys, and the Sparkle Fish with Catnip is one of the cutest and most enticing ones you can buy.
These little fish come in a set of two and feature shiny scale print bodies, colorful feathers and catnip on the inside. The fish shape makes it easy for cats to bat and toss around the house and carry in their mouths.
They're perfect for the excitable little kitty who's always looking for stimulation.
These little fish are so cute there's almost no way your cat won't want to play with them!
The SmartyKat Fish Flop Catnip Toy features a set of three fish in different colors with catnip on the inside to lure your cat into playing.
The simple shape and soft fabric make them comfortable for cats to bat and carry. They're also made with crinkle material to get your cat even more excited for playtime!
We've yet to meet a cat who didn't enjoy playing with the Chips & Guac Silly Snacks Catnip Toy. Shaped like some of our favorite human snacks, this cat toy includes two individual plush toys with premium, pure catnip inside.
The different shapes are perfect for batting, tossing, and stalking. With their soft exterior, your cat can pounce on them one minute and then cuddle up with them the next.
Soft and cuddly in textured fabric, the Frisco Plush Orange Fox Kicker is ideal for cats that love to wrestle and bunny kick with their hind legs. It's infused with Canadian catnip and features a wagging tail that makes it look like actual prey.
Kitties love to bat and toss this little fox around, but it's also soft and cozy enough for them to cuddle up with for naps.
Is Catnip Safe for Cats?
Catnip is safe for cats. After playing with a catnip toy, your cat's response is likely to be a playful one where they're initially more energetic and excited.
But the effects of catnip don't last long. Your feline friend will most likely be ready for a nice long nap after getting the catnip "high."
Toys with catnip contain minimal amounts. If you have dry catnip lying around the house, just be sure to store it in an airtight container that your cat can't break into. Too much catnip can cause vomiting or diarrhea, so it's always best to control how much your cat has access to.
You might also be interested in: What Is Pretty Litter And Does Your Stinky Kitty Need It?
Best Catnip Toys for Cats:
- The Scratch Lounge
- KONG Refillable Beaver Toy
- Frisco Bird Teaser with Feathers
- SmartyKat Critter Catnip Toy
- Cat Person Jean-Michel Fish Teaser
- KONG Naturals Crinkle Ball with Feathers
- Yeowww! Yellow Banana
- Frisco Sparkle Fish with Catnip
- SmartyKat Fish Flop Catnip Toy
- Pet Craft Supply Co. Silly Snacks Crinkle Toy
- Frisco Plush Orange Fox Kicker