Catnip and other Cat Attractants

Filed Under: Cats, Behavioral & Training, General Care

Natural cat attractants include more than 100 plant species that produce terpenoid-based organic chemicals that elicit responses from domestic cats. Of these plant species, a herb known as catnip is the most appealing attractant to most cats. Catnip or catmint (Nepeta cataria) is a perennial herb in the mint family Labiateae. Approximately 70 to 90% of all cats possess the genetic ability to respond to the active ingredients in catnip. The scent is the primary attractant.

Cats react to catnip in a variety of ways. Some cats will roll in it, others will consume it, and often it will make them hyper or reversely, mellow. Some cats will just act goofy while others may become aggressive. Still, others will show no response at all. Any reaction will last for only a few minutes before the cat will lose interest. It is believed that a cat needs approximately two hours to reset their pheromone receptors, after which the catnip will have the same response as before.

Catnip may be used as a training tool with cats. Owners can use catnip to elicit certain behaviors from their cats. Catnip can be used as a bait to attract the cat to a certain area such as the litter box. Cat Attract® is a specific product made of various herbs and is marketed specifically for encouraging elimination in a litter box. Catnip can be used to promote exercise in older, possibly overweight animals. When trying to change foods on a finicky cat, catnip may be added to the new diet to encourage interest and aid in digestion. When trying to attract a cat to a bed or scratching post, catnip may be sprinkled in and on the items, or they may be sprayed with catnip oil.

The effect of catnip may be intensified by rubbing or crushing the leaves to bring out the scented oils which are located in the glandular hairs on the stems and leaves. It is believed that catnip affects the cat’s hormones and does not intoxicate a cat.

Some cats will not respond to catnip. These cats are usually less than six months of age and cats that originate from decedents of Southeast Asia and east of the Ural Mountains, such as the Siamese and Burmese breeds.

Other natural cat attractants include Alyssum, cat thyme, heather, lemongrass, rosemary and Valerian root. Some cats will also respond to honeysuckle. Many products are commercially available that combine a blend of these ingredients to ensure a cat will respond to the product. These products have a definite shelf life, and response is better in a fresh product. These products should be stored in a cool, dry place away from sunlight to prevent a decrease in potency.


Luechtefeld, Lori. “Rules of Attraction, Natural Attractants Provide Cats and Owners with many Benefits.” Pet Product News International. October 2007. Pp. 102-103.

Fowler, Murray, DVM. Plant Poisoning in Small Companion Animals. Ralston Purina Company. 1981. p.45.

Nepeta. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Topics: plants

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