Why Doesn’t My Cat Like Catnip? – 7 Main Reasons

Written by

Amy Sawy

Veterinarian. DVM


Joseph M. Plummer

Veterinarian, DVM, MVZ

why doesn't my cat like catnip

Catnip is a popular treat for cats, known for its ability to bring out their playful and energetic side. However, it’s not every cat’s favorite.

So, you might ask, why doesn’t my cat like catnip? The cause can be traced back to the cat’s genes, age, the quality of the catnip, or even the cat’s overexposure to the substance.

Whether you’re a new cat owner or simply looking to understand your furry friend better, read on to learn more.

What Causes Such Reactions?

Here are some of the possible reasons why your cat doesn’t like catnip:

1. Genes


When it comes to a cat’s reaction to catnip, genetics play a big role.

In fact, only 50% of cats have the genetic predisposition to respond to catnip. The remaining 50% of cats simply don’t possess the catnip gene and are, therefore, immune to its effects.

If your cat falls into the latter, it’s important to understand that they’re not being indifferent or uninterested – they simply don’t have the necessary gene.

In such cases, you may want to consider offering alternative forms of stimulation, such as toys or interactive play, to help keep your cat entertained and engaged.

2. Age


Cats between the ages of three and six months are considered to be the most responsive to catnip. If you’ve been wondering why catnip doesn’t work on my kitten, then they are probaby too young or too old.

In fact, young kittens or cats below 3 months of age are not likely to respond to catnip. Also, as they get older and reach maturity, they may develop sensitivity to it.

However, it’s also possible for a cat to lose sensitivity to catnip as they age. Most times, older cat isn’t high off catnip. While the exact cause is unknown, hypothesized explanations include brain aging and a general dulling of the cat’s senses.

No matter the reason, if your cat used to appreciate catnip but no longer does, it may be an indication that she is becoming older.

3. The Freshness of the Catnip


Another reason for your cat not liking catnip is due to its freshness.

Similar to other dried herbs, catnip can lose its potency and aroma over time. That bag of catnip you bought a few months ago might not be as enticing to your cat as it was when it was new.

Invest in high-quality, freshly harvested catnip and keep it in a cold, dry place to ensure maximum benefit for your cat.

Alternatively, you can try cultivating your own catnip to guarantee a steady supply of a high-quality herb for your feline friend.

4. Quality of Catnip


Another aspect that can influence whether or not your cat responds to catnip is its quality.

When searching for catnip, opt for a product manufactured from fresh, high-quality leaves and stems and stored in an airtight container to maintain potency.

5. Overexposure to Catnip


Cats can develop an immunity to catnip if exposed to it too frequently.

This means that if you give your cat catnip toys or sprinkle catnip on their scratching post on a daily basis, they may eventually stop responding to it.

If this is the case, try taking a break from using catnip for a few weeks and then reintroducing it to see if your cat responds.

To add to this, don’t just leave catnip toys lying around the house. When not in use, store them in airtight containers and put them away.

6. Gender


According to multicat owners, male cats tend to respond more strongly to catnip compared to female cats. Hormonal differences between the sexes may account for this discrepancy in sensitivity.

This is simply a generalization, and some female cats may respond strongly to catnip while others may not. Keep in mind that every cat is an individual and could react differently to catnip depending on the strain.

Whether your cat is male or female, it’s important to pay attention to their individual response and adjust their exposure to catnip accordingly.

7. Individual temperament


Some cats are naturally more sensitive and responsive to stimuli, while others may be more indifferent or even avoidant.

It’s likely that individual differences in the reaction are attributable to a mix of genetics, environment, and personal experience.

If you’ve noticed that your cat isn’t getting catnip, it may be worth trying other types of cat toys or treats to see what they prefer.

In addition, you should always be on the lookout for indicators of stress or pain and adapt your approach accordingly.

Frequently Asked Questions


What is Catnip? How Does It Work for Cats?

Catnip is an herb that has the Latin name Nepeta cataria. It is a member of the mint family and has been cultivated in both Europe and Asia for centuries.

Nepetalactone is a volatile oil found in catnip’s leaves and stems. It mimics pheromones, also called “feel good” chemicals, and is said to have a mood-altering impact on cats.

When cats get a bit of catnip, they react by exhibiting these behaviors:

  • Rolling over
  • Purring
  • Rubbing themselves on the catnip
  • Sniffing the catnip intensely
  • Chewing or licking the catnip
  • Zoning out

After around 10 minutes, the effects of catnip start to wear off. A cat may be receptive to its effects 30 minutes to 1 hour after it has not been exposed to the smell.

You might be surprised if your cat tends to be calm after being fed catnips. In fact, these nips can soothe and put some cats at ease instead of getting them all riled up. In other words, certain cats experience the reverse effects.

In detail, some cats’ reaction to catnip tends to be calmer. Read on to know the reason why.

Do All Cats Not Like Catnip?

Evidence from studies shows that only roughly two-thirds of cats react well to catnips.

It’s possible that genetics play a major role in this. If a cat does not inherit the genes, then your cat doesn’t react to catnip.

Also, kittens and senior felines won’t respond to catnips. The age requirement ranges from three to six months.

Is Catnip Cruel For Cats?

Catnip is not cruel to cats, according to research. Even if consumed, it is non-toxic. But if they eat too much of it, they risk gastrointestinal problems including nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Also, you should not feed kittens below 3 months old with catnips or feed them with old and dried nips.

How Do I Get My Cat To Like Catnip?

Here are a few tips on what to do if my cat hates catnip:

  1. Make sure your cat is at least 3 months of age.
  2. Ensure that the catnip leaves or stems you use are fresh. Dried leaves lose potency very quickly.
  3. Rub the catnip into your cat’s scratching post to encourage use.
  4. Place catnip in your cat’s toys.
  5. Use catnip alternatives for cats such as silver vine, honeysuckle, valerian root, chamomile, and lavender.

What Are Some Alternatives For Catnip?

  • Silver Vine – Silverine contains nepetalactol, which activates the reward and pleasure center in cat brains. That means it produces a similar reaction in cats as catnip does.

Additionally, silver vine is not addictive to cats and acts as a natural insect repellent as cats rub against it.

  • Tartarian Honeysuckle – The active ingredient is similar in chemical structure to the nepetalactone found in catnip. It can cause an even bigger reaction than catnips.
  • Valerian Root – The active ingredient, actinidine, can be used just like catnip in toys. It serves as a great alternative if catnip doesn’t work on my cat.


“Why doesn’t my cat like catnip?” remains a complex and widely discussed topic on various platforms including Reddit.

Factors such as genetics, age, and individual preferences may play a role in a cat’s response to catnip.

Ultimately, it is up to each cat owner to determine whether or not their feline companion responds to catnip and if it is worth incorporating into their playtime routine.

We hope you have learned from this article and have a better understanding of why your feline friend may not be a fan of this popular treat.

Related: The most common reasons why your cats love catnip.

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