Dogs Facts

Does Catnip Affect Dogs?

Cats and dogs are two of the most popular pets around the world. They each have their unique characteristics and respond differently to various stimuli. Catnip is a herb that has a well-known effect on cats, but have you ever wondered if it affects dogs in a similar manner? In this article, we will explore the topic of catnip’s influence on dogs and provide valuable insights into its effects and safety considerations.


When it comes to catnip, most people associate it with feline fascination. The aromatic herb has a profound impact on many cats, eliciting behaviors ranging from playfulness to relaxation. However, catnip’s effects on dogs are quite different. Let’s dive deeper into the subject to understand how catnip affects our canine companions.

What is Catnip in Dogs?

Catnip, scientifically known as Nepeta cataria, is a member of the mint family. It contains a compound called nepetalactone, which is responsible for its unique effects on cats. The scent of catnip can trigger a range of behaviors in cats, including excitement, rolling, and rubbing against objects. This reaction is believed to be an inherited sensitivity to nepetalactone.

Chemical Composition

Nepetalactone, the main active compound in catnip, is similar in structure to certain feline pheromones. It acts as a stimulant when cats inhale or ingest it. However, dogs have a different biological makeup, which leads to a distinct response when exposed to catnip.

Effects on Cats

Catnip is known to produce various reactions in cats. Some may become hyperactive and exhibit playful behavior, while others may experience a calming effect. Additionally, catnip can act as a natural stress reliever for felines. It provides environmental enrichment and can be used to encourage exercise and mental stimulation.

How Does Catnip Affect Dogs?

While cats often go crazy for catnip, dogs, on the other hand, generally show little to no interest in it. The response to catnip in dogs is not as prominent as it is in cats due to a difference in the way their brains are wired. However, there are exceptions, as a small percentage of dogs may exhibit a reaction to catnip.

Reaction to Catnip

In some cases, dogs may display mild interest or curiosity towards catnip. They might sniff or investigate it briefly but are unlikely to exhibit the same level of excitement or playfulness seen in cats. The reaction, if any, varies among individual dogs, and not all dogs will respond to catnip.

See also: Top 10 Best Training Treats for Puppies: A Guide for New Dog Owners

Safety Concerns

It’s essential to consider the safety of our furry friends when introducing any new substances to them. While catnip is generally safe for cats, the same cannot be said for dogs. Ingesting large amounts of catnip can potentially cause digestive upset in canines. Therefore, it’s recommended to limit a dog’s exposure to catnip or avoid it altogether to prevent any adverse effects.

Can Dogs Benefit from Catnip?

Although catnip may not have the same effect on dogs as it does on cats, there are other ways our canine companions can benefit from environmental enrichment. Engaging dogs in interactive play, providing mental stimulation through puzzle toys, and offering them a variety of scents and textures can contribute to their overall well-being and happiness.

Alternatives to Catnip for Dogs

If you’re looking for alternatives to catnip that can elicit a positive response in your dog, consider the following options:

Valerian Root

Valerian root is an herb known for its calming properties. It can help reduce anxiety in dogs and promote relaxation. Some pet owners use valerian root as a natural remedy for stress-related issues, including separation anxiety and fear of loud noises.

Silver Vine

Silver vine, also known as Actinidia polygama, is a plant native to Asia. It produces a similar effect to catnip in cats. Although it doesn’t affect all felines, some cats may respond positively to silver vine, displaying behaviors comparable to those seen with catnip.


In conclusion, while catnip has a profound influence on cats, its effects on dogs are generally limited. Dogs typically show little interest in catnip, and the response is not as pronounced as it is in felines. It’s crucial to prioritize the safety and well-being of our dogs, and therefore, it’s advisable to limit their exposure to catnip to avoid any potential digestive issues. Instead, explore other enrichment activities and safe alternatives to promote their overall happiness.

FAQs about Does Catnip Affect Dogs

Here are the FAQs about Catnip Affecting Dogs:

Can catnip be harmful to dogs?

While catnip is generally safe for cats, it can potentially cause digestive upset if ingested in large amounts by dogs. It’s best to limit a dog’s exposure to catnip or avoid it altogether.

Why don’t dogs respond to catnip like cats do?

Dogs have a different biological makeup compared to cats, resulting in a distinct response to catnip. The compounds in catnip that affect cats don’t have the same effect on dogs’ brains.

Are there any alternatives to catnip for dogs?

Yes, there are alternatives to catnip for dogs. Valerian root and silver vine are two examples that can elicit a positive response in dogs, providing relaxation and mental stimulation.

Can dogs have an allergic reaction to catnip?

While allergic reactions to catnip in dogs are rare, it’s possible for a dog to be allergic to any substance, including catnip. If you notice any unusual symptoms after exposure to catnip, consult a veterinarian.

Is it safe for dogs to interact with catnip toys?

While most dogs are not affected by catnip, interacting with catnip toys should generally be safe. However, always supervise your dog during playtime and ensure they don’t ingest large amounts of catnip.

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