Can We Get The Same Buzz Off Catnip As Our Cats?

Find out why that kitty “good good” makes them crazy and if we can get the same high.

By Justyne Yuen-Lee


Did someone say catnip?

The idea that cats can get high enthralls me. I don’t have a kitty to observe nipping into the catnip, but I can read about it. It seems as if cats are addicted, and will tear down walls, break down cupboard doors, and gnaw open containers to get a whiff of that catnip. Once they attain their prize, they shove and rub their faces into whatever bits they can.

What is catnip anyways?


Nepeta cataria, the scientific name for catnip, is a plant that resembles mint. Nepetalactone, an oil, lies inside tiny bulbs on the leaves and stems of the plant. This oil, after the bulbs break, evaporates and sends nepetalactone into a cat’s nose. The molecules bind with receptors that process scent and send electrical impulses to the brain.


“Just let me rub this all over my face.”

One theory suggests that these molecules are shaped similarly to mating pheromones. This means that when cats sniff catnip, they’re going into sexy mode. Thus they roll around and look a little dopey.


This theory also explains why kittens don’t care for catnip. Kittens reach sexual maturity around 6-8 weeks and don’t have the receptors for the sexy pheromones.

What about humans?


Similar to kittens refusing catnip because they’re not wired with the receptors yet, humans are also not able to appreciate the magic of cat nip because we are wired differently.

However, in the past, Europeans would brew, smoke, and chew on catnip leaves for its sedative effects.


Credit: Imgur / socuteicouldfnpuke

So, if you were hoping you could get the same feeling as your cats with catnip, sorry to disappoint. It’s not happening. But, it might be worth a spot of cat nip tea to help you sleep.