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Will Catnip Help Cats That Are in Pain? What You Need to Know!

Melissa Gunter

By Melissa Gunter

cat enjoying dried catnip

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Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Paola Cuevas

MVZ (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Whether you have cats in your home or simply love watching videos of these colorful four-legged felines on your phone, you know the effect catnip can have on a cat. In most cases, introducing this herb to a kitty, whether it be inside a toy or in its edible form, sends most cats into a frenzy of purring, meowing, and pure euphoria. But have you ever questioned what other benefits catnip may provide to your kitty? Will catnip help cats that are in pain? Can it help make them feel better?

Oddly enough, catnip does more for cats than simply make them happy-go-lucky. It can be used to help relieve their aches and pains. However, there are more questions to answer when it comes to catnip and its ability to help relieve pain. Let’s learn more and try to answer those burning questions so you can decide whether you should add catnip to your cat’s pain relief regimen or simply stick to letting them enjoy the wave they ride when catnip enters the room.

What Is Catnip?

Before we learn about catnip’s pain relief quality, it’s best to understand this herb a little. Catnip’s scientific name is Nepeta Cataria. This herb originated in Europe and Asia. It is part of the mint family and is quite easy to grow here in North America. Luckily, it is an invasive mint family member that is recognized by its lavender flowers and light green foliage that is feather-like in shape. Catnip isn’t only used for cats, however. People have been using catnip to make teas, cough suppressants, and even certain bug sprays for years.

Dried green catnip for cats spilling from container
Image Credit: gvictori, Shutterstock

Why Are Cats So Affected by Catnip?

Seeing a cat that is affected by catnip go crazy when around the herb is quite fun to watch. When most cats smell the herb, they feel an instant need to interact with it. This can help introduce new things to your cat like toys, bedding, and scratch posts. You can even use it as a treat from time to time. But why do certain cats react so much to catnip while others don’t?

Nepetalactone is an oil found in the catnip plant. When this oil is perceived by a cat through its vomeronasal organ, an extra scent organ found in the roof of their mouth, the scent is carried through special pathways to your cat’s brain. This is when the euphoric or excited behavior triggers. The scent of catnip mimics the sex hormone of cats which is why most cats writhe around and get excited when catnip is introduced to them.

Both males and females react the same way if they are affected. Not every cat will react the same, however. Age and heredity dictate whether a cat is a fan of catnip. Kittens and older cats may not care when catnip is around. Other cats are simply not born with the gene that reacts to the scent of catnip and therefore won’t go into such a frenzy when they smell it in the house.

cat with green eyes in catnip
Image Credit: Georgia Evans, Shutterstock

Catnip and Your Cat’s Pain Relief?

Unfortunately, no matter how well we care for them, our pets are going to experience pain throughout their lives. Luckily, catnip can help. This is due to the herb acting like a natural analgesic, or pain-relieving drug. Let’s take a look at the different ways you can use catnip to help your cat feel better when they are under the weather.

Pain Relief

When taken orally, catnip has the potential to help your cat when they are experiencing pain. Whether it be headaches, toothaches, or tummy pain a dose of this herb can help to ease pain and discomfort. When giving catnip to your cat to help with their pain, dried catnip is often the easiest way to do it. It isn’t your only option though. People have been drinking catnip tea to help with slight pain and discomfort for years. If you feel your kitty would prefer a mix of catnip with chicken broth to help them feel better, give it a shot.

Stress and Anxiety

Stress and anxiety are common occurrences in cats. We all know they aren’t fans of change and can suffer greatly when things around the house are different. The mild sedative effect of catnip is of great benefit to cats when they are feeling anxious. A catnip toy or an edible treat can help calm them when needed.

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Muscle Aches

Most cats may like to lay around and do nothing, but others are highly active. Either way, muscles can get sore and achy. If you notice your cat is suffering from this issue, catnip can help. Another important characteristic of catnip is its anti-inflammatory properties. Cats who are fans of getting in the water, (yes, they exist!) a warm catnip bath can help soothe their aches. If your cat fears the water, no worries. Oral catnip can provide the same relief without stressing your cat out about taking a bath.

Skin Relief

Yes, cats can get itchy or dried skin. Unfortunately, when this happens, it can be painful to them and result in their stress levels increasing. If you notice itchy skin, rashes, or bumps on your kitty, give catnip a try. While the catnip bath would be the easiest route to take, and most effective, oral catnip may help relieve the pain associated with skin irritations.

Final Thoughts on Catnip and Pain Relief

As you can see, catnip does more than send your cat into a frenzy. With its anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties, having this herb on hand can be a great way to treat your kitty for a wide range of issues they may experience. If your cat enjoys catnip, don’t be afraid to make it part of their health routine. Of course, like with any instance when your cat isn’t feeling well, reach out to your veterinarian to learn more about how to treat your kitty with catnip safely.


Featured Image Credit: Creative Cat Studio, Shutterstock

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