If you’ve ever given your feline friend a sprinkle of catnip, you know that it drives them wild for a short while. Catnip, Nepeta cataria, is a perennial herb in the mint family that contains the active ingredient and essential oil nepetalactone. It’s just one of thousands of terpene compounds found in plants that are capable of effecting brain chemistry.
Giving your kitty catnip is quite safe and has benefits like elevating mood and relieving boredom. It’s especially great for indoor only cats who don’t get as much daily stimulation as those who get to roam outdoors. When purchasing catnip for your cat, there are wide variety of options, so you need to keep a few things in mind.
“First, it is essential to buy from a reputable source to be confident in the product you are purchasing,” says Jamie Whittenburg, a veterinarian at Kingsgate Animal Hospital in Lubbock, Texas. “Catnip is safe for cats, but many other plants can be toxic, so you want to ensure that the product is pure."
The second most important consideration is which delivery method to pick, says Dr. Whittenburg. Catnip is available as dried flakes, sprays, treats, and contained inside toys. "This aspect is often cat-dependent, and it may take a few tries to decipher what kind of catnip your kitty prefers."
Below are the best catnips and related products available on the market today.
Best Overall: From the Field Ultimate Blend Catnip And Silver Vine
Grown and blended in the U.S.
More intense than catnip alone
Blend may work for cats who don’t usually respond to catnip alone
Not certified organic
This company has had your cat and the environment in mind since its founding in 1999. Protecting the planet has been Field Ultimate's inspiration and is behind each of the decisions behind their products. In addition to catnip grown organically in Washington State, this Ultimate Blend also includes silver vine, a fruit in the kiwi family that has similar effects to catnip but induces even more intense euphoria. Silver vine has been thoroughly tested to ensure that it’s completely safe for cats.
Since this mix is more potent than catnip alone, it may also work for cats who don’t usually react to catnip alone. If you like this blend, you might be interested in catnip in the other forms they offer, including leaf and flower, whole buds, spray, fine ground kitty-safe catnip pellets, and valerian root blend.
Best Budget: Fat Cat Zoom Around the Room 100% Organic Catnip
Grown in the U.S.
Not packaged in the U.S.
Not organic certified
Even if you’re counting your pennies these days, catnip is surprisingly affordable entertainment for your cat. Fat Cat Zoom Around the Room Organic Catnip contains only the most potent parts of the catnip plant—the leaf and the flower. Finely ground, this organic catnip can be used in your cat's favorite toy or sprinkled almost anywhere. It comes in a zip-sealed, re-closable plastic bag to help maintain freshness.
Made in the U.S., you can easily find a 0.5-ounce bag for under $2. With prices like that, you’ll never have to settle for non-organic catnip for your fur baby.
Best Organic: SmartyKat Organic Catnip
USDA certified organic
Only potent leaves
Grown in the U.S.
Overpriced from some online vendors
Choosing USDA certified organic catnip is a good way to ensure your kitty's treat wasn't grown with chemicals and pesticides. That’s especially important if your cat likes to eat the herb directly. Usually, organic catnip is slightly more expensive than non-organic products. However, for many cat owners, the environmental benefits and fewer health worries are worth the price.
SmartyKat Organic Catnip is available in a resealable 0.5-once or 1-ounce bag or a 2-ounce plastic jars. It's grown in the U.S. and certified by the USDA. It has a loose leaf consistency that can be sprinkled on toys or used wherever you want to encourage your cat to play.
Best Spray: Meowijuana Catnip Spray
Organically-grown in the U.S.
Can make old toys more interesting or help train appropriate scratching
Some cats are afraid of the spray noise
Meowijuana Catnip Spray is 100% organic and one of the more potent catnip oil sprays on the market. Made from essential oil extracted from hand-picked plants, it can be sprayed on toys, cat trees, and pet bedding without staining. Available in 1-ounce and 3-ounce plastic bottles, this spray is free of preservatives, fillers, and artificial ingredients.
Just one or two sprays are enough to drive many cats wild. However, some cats are afraid of the spray noise, so you may want to apply it when they are out of sight. Meowijuana also offers a spray of blended catnip and honeysuckle, another plant that's stimulating for cats (view on Chewy).
Best Treats: Feline Greenies Dental Treats Catnip Flavor
Contains vitamins and minerals
High in protein
Can give up to 12 treats per day
Some cats like them so much they swallow them whole
Feline Greenies Catnip Flavored Dental Treats accomplish three goals in a single treat. Not only do cats go nuts for the catnip, they also are unknowingly getting a gentle teeth cleaning from this crunchy treat filled with essential vitamins and nutrients cats need including the amino acids taurine, DL-methionine. Taurine is critical for normal vision, digestion, and heart muscle and immune system function. DL-methionine acidifies cat urine and prevents certain types of kidney stone formations and also reduces litter box odors.
Made for cats over one year old, your cat will love this daily cat treat that is 27 percent protein from chicken meal. These treats are packaged in four sizes, from 2.1 ounces to 21 ounces.
Best Toy for Hiding Catnip: West Coast Pet Products Refillable Catnip Kicker Toy
Comes in a variety of colors and fabrics
Can only be purchased online
Catnip tends to make our feline friends feel feisty, so the West Coast Pet Products Refillable Catnip Kicker Toy is a great two-in-one toy. Cats love to wrap their front paws around the top while bunny kicking the bottom with both back feet, like a pretend fight. If your cat likes to eat the dried herb form of catnip, the sewn pocket of this toy is open at the top so while most catnip stays put, your cat can dig it out and indulge if they like.
This toy is handmade in the U.S. and is available in a number of fabric and color options including denim, flannel, canvas, and cotton duck fabrics with polyester fill. Each purchase comes with a generous supply of Canadian catnip so your cat will get many hours of enjoyment. The 15-inch length is perfect for their cats who also use it as a pillow during their post-catnip nap.
We like From the Field Ultimate Blend Catnip and Silver Vine (view at Chewy) because it’s even more potent than catnip alone and even cats who don’t usually respond to catnip love it. You can also feel good knowing it’s organically grown and that From the Field has sustainability in mind while making it. For added fun sprinkle a little in the pocket of the machine-washable West Coast Pet Products Refillable Catnip Kicker Toy (view at Amazon). Your cat can go wild and get some exercise at the same time.
What to Look for in Catnips
If you’re going to drive your cat wild with catnip, you want to make sure that the product you’re giving them is free from pesticides, additives, and other contaminants. Thankfully organically-grown catnip is readily available and affordable from a variety of brands so opt for organic whenever you can. Check packaging for third party organic certification, although many brands haven’t chosen to go through the expensive and time intensive process.
In general, Europe and the U.S. have the highest standards for pet products, so avoid catnip sourced outside of those areas.
In general, the flowers and leaves have the highest concentrations of the effective ingredient, nepetalactone oil, while stems and roots have less. So, look for a product that sorts out and removes the less effective ruffage, leaving only the most potent parts for your cat.
Manufacturers have found a wide variety of ways to offer catnip. Your cat may prefer one method over another so you may want to try a variety to see which form is the most exciting (or calming) for your cat. "Many owners are drawn to toys or treats containing catnip as they tend to be less messy than the dried flakes and sprays," says Dr. Jamie Whittenburg. "Freshness matters as well, as a bit of catnip goes a long way."
It’s relatively easy to grow a catnip plant, either indoors in a pot or outdoors in mild climates. It is a perennial, so expect it to go to seed and then die back in the winter, sprouting new from the base each spring. Adult plant sprigs can be cut and hung upside down to dry and then crushed and stored in air tight containers in your freezer.
But for ease, you may prefer the convenience of a spray. Just be sure to check the label for the percent of catnip oil as some manufacturers dilute them with water to save on costs. The essential oil should be a relatively high percentage, such as 75 percent blended with water.
Generally, the amount of catnip included in treats is lower than fresh dried catnip given directly. So you may need to give your cat more treats to get the desired effect. Check package dosing directions carefully to make sure you’re giving the ideal amount recommended.
For all catnip products, carefully store them in tightly sealed containers to preserve freshness and ensure your cat isn’t becoming a cat burglar. Refrigerating or freezing catnip products can help preserve freshness for longer periods.
How long does catnip last?
The effects of a single dose of catnip, either in a spray or as a fresh or dried herb, will generally only last about 10 to 15 minutes. Its impact also decreases over time if given to your cat often so consider offering it no more than a few times a week.
Ingesting catnip in treats or as the fresh or dried herb can actually be healthy for your cat’s digestive tract. But the effects will be less wild and will instead cause your cat to be mellow for longer because the natural oils are released, absorbed and metabolized more slowly.
Those essential oils can degrade over time, especially when exposed to the open air. So store your catnip in tightly sealed containers in the refrigerator or freezer. Consider using it up or replacing it annually to ensure maximum freshness.
Is it possible to give your cat too much catnip?
“Unlike dogs who tend to overindulge, cats will usually self-limit their play with catnip,” explains Dr. Whittenburg. “The only exception to this is typically catnip found in treats, which some cats will eat too many of if given a chance. With overindulgence of oral catnip, a cat may experience gastrointestinal issues such as vomiting or diarrhea.” You should seek veterinary help if vomiting lasts more than 12 hours or diarrhea lasts more than 24 hours.
Are fresh catnip leaves safe for cats?
“Cats can eat fresh catnip leaves, and many cats prefer this form,” notes Dr. Whittenburg. “Though cats are true carnivores, many kitties enjoy munching on greens from time to time, and catnip can provide a fun way to allow them to do so. Offer fresh catnip in moderation and only as an occasional treat.”
The only real hazard of catnip may be the risk of injury while they are feeling wild. “Catnip of all forms is generally considered safe. Aside from mild gastrointestinal upset, the only reported issues come from kitties being injured while getting a little too crazy playing,” adds Dr. Whittenburg. “Catnip has varying effects on cats, hardly affecting some while making others go nutty with the zoomies. Cats playing with catnip should be in a safe environment and always be supervised.”
Why Trust The Spruce Pets?
This piece was written by Lorraine Wilde who has had at least two cat companions in her home for the past 35 years including some special needs kitties. Two of her cats lived happily and healthily into their early 20s.
When researching these brands, Lorraine evaluated the type and quality of each product, customer reviews, the company’s research and development, and their business ethics. She also consulted with a licensed veterinarian.
Lorraine also holds a Bachelor’s degree in Biology and a Master’s degree in environmental science. She is a firm believer that consumers can make healthy, informed, and environmentally-conscious choices to protect their pets.
Dr. Jamie Whittenburg, DVM graduated from Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine and opened Kingsgate Animal Hospital in her hometown of Lubbock, Texas in 2013. She is also a veterinarian writer for www.SeniorTailWaggers.com.