Is Catnip Good For Cats With Asthma?

Sparrow Catnip Carrot - Catnip For Cats

It does weird things to cats, but is catnip good for cats with asthma? These are the things I think about, maybe I need a hobby. Sparrow, he has more than enough problems for a young feline and I’m always looking out for interesting ways to keep him happy, so yesterday when we were visiting the vet (again) I asked her ‘is catnip good for cats with asthma?’. I’ve asked her a lot of questions about a lot of different things and usually, she looks at me like I’m a hippy weirdo (which I kinda am), but this time she just grinned at me and said: “I can’t see why not”.

Great, let’s go.


What is Catnip?

The scientific name for catnip is Nepeta Cataria, it’s a perennial herb from the mint family and is sometimes known as catmint. The catnip plant is native to Europe, Asia and Africa, it was imported into the USA and now grows throughout North America. The plants can grow up to three feet tall with heart-shaped leaves and pink, blue or lavender flowers. There are over 250 varieties of the catnip plant, it’s Catnip - Is Catnip Good For Cats With Asthma?popular in many herb gardens and grows widely as a weed. The active ingredient is nepetalactone, an oil found in the leaves of the plant.

Catnip is good for many things other than sending cats loopy – it’s widely used by humans, but does not produce the same effects as it does in cats. A nice warm catnip tea or infusion can give a mild sedative effect and is also good for relieving nausea, headaches and even insomnia. Nepetalactone has been found to be an effective insect repellent against flies, mosquitoes and cockroaches. It’s 10 times more effective than DEET but unfortunately, loses its insect repelling magic when applied to the skin.


Why Does Catnip Affect Cats?

The catnip plant contains volatile oils, the most potent for cats being Nepetalactone. Why this affects cats so much remains largely a mystery, but it is known that nepetalactone is quite similar to a sexual pheromone found in male cat urine. Experts estimate that only about 50-75% of cats respond to catnip and this sensitivity is likely to be inherited. Interestingly, most cats in Australia are not sensitive to catnip…most cats in Australia are also not freaking asthmatic, yet here we are. Young kittens and senior cats do not respond to catnip, which leads scientists to believe the response is partially sexual and maybe something like an aphrodisiac.


Sparrow on Catnip - Is Catnip Bad For Cats?


What Happens to Cats High on Catnip?

It varies from cat to cat, of course, but the typical response is euphoria, similar to what happens to humans on hallucinogenic drugs. There’s nothing harmful or addictive in catnip, so there’s no need to worry about kitty becoming a lazy, good for nothing stoner who will never get a job. The typical response for a sensitive cat is to sniff at catnip, roll around in it, paw at it and generally go a bit loopy for a few minutes. There’s often a lot of purring, meowing, sometimes even drooling. A bit like me when I’ve had a few too many martinis. The effects (of the catnip, not the martinis) generally last up to 15 minutes, at which time your cat will simply walk away and be completely disinterested for a few hours or even a few days. However, if a cat eats the catnip instead of just sniffing, it has a sedative effect.


How to Give Your Cat Catnip

I’m a big fan of natural, organic products so I’m obviously looking for that kind of quality when I’m shopping for Sparrow things. The best way to ensure the quality and freshness of your cat’s nip is to grow your own – there are plenty of kits available in pet stores if you want to grow from scratch, but it’s much easier to buy an established plant and try not to kill it like I do with every plant that comes into my home. If you’re like me in the green thumb department, you’re better off buying high quality, organic catnip and keeping it in the freezer to ensure its freshness.

You can buy catnip in many different forms, all are safe and effective so just find the one that works best for your cat. Catnip stuffed toys are the most popular, the only drawback being that you can’t guarantee the freshness of the herb inside. If this is a concern, your best bet is to look for refillable catnip toys. Cats will go mad over these toys and then ignore them completely, so be sure to put them out of sight until kitty is ready to fly again.Catnip Pile - Is Catnip Good For Cats?

Dried catnip and catnip sprays are also available – these are great for getting kitty to fall in love with his new bed, scratching post, or friend. Simply sprinkle or spray where you want your cat to feel at home and watch for the hilarity to begin. Your cat really isn’t fussy – just leave a pile of catnip on the ground and the games will soon begin. Crushing or ‘bruising’ the leaves will release more nepetalactone and make for even more fun times.


Words of Warning

Some cats can become aggressive rather than pleasantly crazy when exposed to catnip, so it’s best to tread carefully the first time you try it. Don’t try to interact with your cat while he’s nipping, especially if Sparrow Catnip Carrot - Catnip For Catsyou’re not sure how he will react. Cats with asthma should be watched extra carefully when around loose, dried catnip as it could become an irritant to the airways. Just because your cat didn’t respond to catnip the first time around, doesn’t mean he won’t ever – it’s fine to try again later once more, but don’t force it on your cat if he’s not into it. Nobody likes a pushy dealer.


Does your cat go bonkers over catnip? Share the fun in the comments below…

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  1. Catnip stuffed toys sound the real deal especially the refillable ones then you’re confident of the freshness regarding the herb inside.

    I’m always in favor of naturally grown products like this perennial herb, Nepeta Cateria rather than the plethora of manufactured foods containing additives.
    Catnip sounds a bit like an aphrodisiac to me affecting certain cats in different ways.

    Would you suggest cats with asthma should stay away from Catnip or carefully introduce it to them? Last thing you want to do is irritate their airwaves.

    I do like the sound of catnip spraying a new bed or cat post, great idea.
    Thanks for your post,

    1. Hi Simon, thanks for your comment.

      I haven’t been able to find an official, definite opinion from a professional regarding catnip and asthma cats, so my best guess is to only use it when kitty’s asthma symptoms are under control and preferably contained within a toy. I just think that seems like the best way to let the cat enjoy without risking any dust irritating the airways.

  2. What an interesting site! I’m asthmatic myself, and have only ever thought of cats as a potential magnifier of asthmatic and allergic symptoms, but not that some cats may have those issues themselves. Of course they do!

    Though I’ve largely outgrown my asthmatic symptoms, I always found that relaxed breathing was a great state to be in, and good for my lungs. When I’d be uptight and anxious, it would just make all the other symptoms worse.

    I wonder if, for cats that find catnip relaxing, if it might actually help the ones with asthma to be able let go of some tension and breathe more deeply? Maybe that’s silly. I don’t know. It’s just a thought.

    Keep up your great work!


    1. Thanks Kevin! I always laugh to myself at the thought that my cat is probably allergic to himself…or to me…

  3. Hi Shirley

    Great site,very funny in places and very educational too. When I was younger I had a cat named Rachal and used to joke it had asthma but now I know it actually did. Live and learn eh. This was well before the internet existed. My new family love animals too we recently had a cat that was the soppiest cat you have ever met. My little girl had it doing all sorts and it loved her to bits.
    Really nice site

    1. Cats get a bad rap, I reckon. They’re actually really affectionate and loving, they just need a bit more alone time than other pets. I can totally relate to that. I still laugh at the thought of asthmatic cats…especially when I see how funny Sparrow looks with a little mask attached to his face. Thanks for your comment, Mark.

  4. I didn’t know that catnip was more effective than DEET when dealing with mosquitoes. Where I come from, our summer is typically plagued by these blood suckers. Do you keep them growing on the deck/porch to keep them away?

    1. Hi Joshua,

      I’ve read a fair bit about this, I have a mosquito problem as well. Some people report that having a couple of well established plants will deter the bugs, but I’m guessing this would be more effective if you bruised the leaves to let the scent out a bit. Apparently the catnip oil loses its insect repelling qualities when rubbed on the skin, so spraying it on your fly screens and outdoor furniture would probably be your best bet. Just be careful though – you might get rid of the mosquitoes and end up with a plague of cats instead!

  5. Thanks so much for your very informative article on catnip!

    My cat loves catnip and turns into a wild beast when exposed to it. He rolls around in it and just totally covers his fur in while in a state of sheer ecstasy! Man, what I wouldn’t give to feel just 10% or what he feels!!! LOL

    I find it interesting that the Australian cats don’t react to catnip at all. That is so weird. Are there any explanations for that?

    1. There is an explanation, but I’m not sure how true it is, because my Australian cat seems to love the stuff. The response to catnip is believed to be inherited – the Australian domestic cat population was bred from a small number of cats who were not sensitive to catnip, so their offspring did not inherit a love of the good stuff. I’ve read a bit of stuff that suggests it may also have something to do with where the catnip was grown, so I might have to experiment with a new supplier. Thanks for your question!

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