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Home > Cats > Will Catnip Help a Cat With Pain? Vet Reviewed Properties, Uses & FAQs

Will Catnip Help a Cat With Pain? Vet Reviewed Properties, Uses & FAQs

cat rolling around in catnip

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Dr. Maxbetter Vizelberg

Veterinarian, DVM

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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If you’re familiar with catnip, you may have observed the often entertaining effects it has on our feline brethren. It can transport even the primmest cat into ripples of ecstasy.

A cat in the throes of a catnip pleasure trip certainly appears to be experiencing the exact opposite of pain or discomfort, but could the herb help a cat by treating any pre-existing pain they may be experiencing? Well, it seems there’s no clear “yes” or “no” answer to this question. Though there are indications that it can help with certain kinds of feline pain in certain circumstances, its analgesic effects will probably be short-lived. In short, there’s no harm in trying catnip if your cat is in pain, but the effects may be limited.

To understand more, let’s have a look at what exactly catnip is and how it works.


What is Catnip?

Catnip (botanical name: Nepeta cataria) is a species belonging to the Lamiaceae plant family. This family also contains well-known plants, such as lavender, rosemary, basil, and mint, the latter to which it exhibits a similar morphological appearance. It is also known as catmint, catswort and catwort—names given when cats’ intense attraction for it was first noticed.

The astonishing response that cats exhibit when offered catnip is attributed to a compound that it contains called nepetalactone which appears to mimic feline sex hormones. Once a cat gets a whiff of the catnip, it responds accordingly. Depending on the cat, the response can be pleasure, relaxation, excitement and hyperactivity, or even aggression. They may begin purring, meowing, or even growling. The response period is not long-lived, and generally, the cat returns to normal after about five to ten minutes—albeit a more relaxed version of normal. Consumption of the plant may cause exaggerated versions of these responses.

It is reported that not only domesticated felines respond in this way. Leopards, lynxes, and cougars react similarly, although lions and tigers appear to not react so consistently.

Interestingly, however, due to a specific gene either present or lacking in certain cats, not all of them respond to catnip. Around 30% of all cats do not react to catnip at all. Kittens also don’t respond to catnip until they are around the age of six months to one year old. Additionally, your older cat may not exhibit such an extreme response to the herb.

The good news is that if your feline friend is one of the 30% of cats who do respond, and you’d like to offer him a feel-good fix, there are some alternatives. You could try valerian, silver vine, or Tatarian honeysuckle, which set up a similar response in most cats.

Silvervine janapese catnip
Image Credit: neconion, Shutterstock

Does Catnip Have Analgesic Properties?

So, back to the original question—can catnip help a cat with their pain?

One way in which catnip may assist a kitty in pain is by temporarily masking or distracting from the pain with the overwhelming pleasure response that it provides. Regardless of how it occurs, there are also indications that catnip can physiologically help relieve pain and reduce anxiety in purr-babies.

To best experience the analgesic effects of catnip, it needs to be taken orally, which is best done by making tea from the leaves. For cats, hot water can be substituted for chicken broth which is sure to be gladly received, once cooled. The drawback of this method is that cats are not ardent drinkers, so gauging whether enough of the tea has been consumed to effectively realize the pain-killing properties may be difficult.

Cats tolerate catnip very well, and the worst side effect of an “overdose” could be an upset stomach in extreme cases. However, if your cat is one who responds to catnip with aggression or over-excitement, then it may not be a suitable choice for this purpose. Of course, whenever you are trying a new treatment on your pet, especially if he or she has an existing health condition, it is always a good idea to consult your veterinarian first.

gray cat enjoying fresh catnip
Image Credit: Anna Hoychuk, Shutterstock

What Are the Other Uses for Catnip?

There are indications that catnip can help feline patients with stomach pain and bloat. Additionally, it is great for treating anxiety and stress as it has sedative effects.

Catnip has powerful anti-inflammatory properties and is great as a muscle relaxant when applied topically or in a bath—for both you and your feline. The catnip-laced water will be irresistible to your cat. However, if they are still unwilling to take the plunge, then a catnip brew can be applied topically with a small sponge or cotton swab. This same brew would be excellent for treating skin conditions, as the anti-inflammatory properties will be effective at calming redness and itchiness.

Although there are few documented cases confirming catnip as a good analgesic for cats, surprisingly, it may work very well for their humans! As discussed above, the best way to experience the analgesic effects is to brew the catnip into a tea. Catnip is also a popular addition to kitty toys that make them irresistibly attractive to your cat.

What Can I Give My Cat for Pain?

If your cat is in severe pain associated with traumatic injury or life-threatening disease, you should seek immediate veterinary advice for ways to manage the pain and address the underlying cause thereof.

For milder cases of pain caused by more ordinary and manageable conditions, which do not require veterinary attention, there are a couple of safe and natural home remedies that can be tried. Turmeric is a natural anti-inflammatory that can reduce pain-causing swelling associated with arthritis and even cancer. It can also improve circulation and promote healing. There are various methods and recipes for turmeric paste that are easy to make. The paste can be taken orally or applied topically to be effective.

Chamomile is another herb with anti-inflammatory and sedative effects, and is great for treating stress-related pain in cats. Administer as a tea for your cat to drink or as a powder in their food.

Close-Up Shot of Turmeric Powder
Image Credit; karl-solano, Pexels

Pain Treatments That Are Unsafe for Your Cat

Avoid sharing medications or treatments of your own with your beloved purr-baby, as the results could be disastrous. Cats are significantly smaller in size, and they have different metabolisms than people, therefore human medications should never be used on them unless specifically indicated by a veterinarian to be safe. For example, acetaminophen (or Tylenol) can be fatal in small quantities.

Here is a (non-exhaustive) list of other human medicines that are toxic to cats:

  • Antidepressants
  • Ibuprofen (such as Advil, Motrin)
  • Sleeping tablets
  • Naproxen (such as Anaprox, Aleve)
  • Aspirin
  • Beta-blockers



In conclusion, there is certainly no harm in trying out catnip for your kitty’s pain. Whether it is effective will depend on their level of pain, the amount of catnip ingested, and their individual reaction to the herb.

Even if it does not help with pain, your cat will reap the other rewards of the plant, such as relaxation and pleasure. The net effect will be a lowering of stress levels, which is known to be conducive to overall good health—a win-win all around!

Featured Image Credit: Kassel95, Pixabay

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