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Does Catnip Expire? What You Need to Know!

Nicole Cosgrove

Catnip doesn’t expire or go bad, but it does lose its potency over time. You can maintain the shelf life of your catnip by keeping it in a sealed plastic bag or container when your cat isn’t enjoying it. Catnip is a herb, so it’s best used fresh, dried, and new. It might work if it’s been sitting in your cupboard for ages, but your cat likely won’t enjoy it as much.

Cats are huge fans of catnip. They love to roll in it, rub their whiskers in it, and they don’t like it to be taken away. What is it about catnip that makes it so attractive to cats? Is it like a drug for cats? What exactly is it? This article will give you everything you need to know about catnip.divider-cat

What Is Catnip?

catnip
Image Credit: R. E. Beck, Pixabay

Catnip is derived from the Nepeta cataria plant, which closely resembles mint. This is why it’s sometimes referred to as catmint. The plant is native to Europe and Asia but now grows wild in North America along roads and highways. It’s a grayish-green plant with jagged heart-shaped leaves and thick stems covered in fuzzy hairs.

Why Does Catnip Drive Cats Crazy?

Gray Cat Enjoying Fresh Catnip
Image Credit: Anna Hoychuk, Shutterstock

There is a psychoactive chemical compound contained in catnip called nepetalactone. This chemical binds to the receptors inside a cat’s nose and triggers a neurological response similar to what happens when they’re exposed to pheromones. The area of the brain that responds to catnip is the area responsible for controlling behavior and emotions, which is why your cat can behave oddly when exposed to catnip.

Unfortunately, scientists don’t know exactly what it is about nepetalactone that causes a strong reaction.

How Long Is a Catnip “High”?

The effects of catnip last anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour. It will vary depending on the cat.

Not all cats are receptive to catnip or even affected by it. 70% of felines enjoy catnip, and it can affect wild species like tigers. The ability to react to catnip seems to be genetically inherited. If your cat’s parents weren’t affected by catnip, they wouldn’t be either.

What’s interesting about catnip is that it has no effect on cats prior to 3 to 6 months of age, so something happens during development that allows their brain to react when they’re older.

How To Use Catnip

cat rolling around in catnip
Image Credit: Kassel95, Pixabay

The most common reason for using catnip is to encourage cats to play and explore their environment, but you can also use it as a training aid. Placing a small amount of catnip on a scratching post can encourage your cat to scratch, or you can place some inside a carrier to encourage them to enter it.

If your cat is prone to anxiety or experiencing a stressful situation, you can use catnip to help them relax. There is some evidence that shows mild pain relief can be obtained from catnip as well.

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Can Catnip Harm Cats?

While catnip is nontoxic for cats, in rare cases, they can overindulge. This causes vomiting and diarrhea, which can lead to dehydration. If you find that your cat is overly interested in catnip, you may want to limit her exposure.

For cats with feline asthma, check with your veterinarian prior to giving them catnip. Dried catnip has been shown to cause breathing issues in cats with this condition.


Featured Image Credit: Badon Hill Studio, Shutterstock

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.