Catnip, also known as catmint or catwort, is a popular treat for pet cats. But what about other animals like rats? Can rats also enjoy catnip? In this comprehensive guide, we’ll examine everything you need to know about whether rats can have catnip.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Yes, rats can have catnip. But whether they respond to it depends on the individual rat.

What is Catnip?

Catnip, also known as Nepeta cataria, is a perennial herb that belongs to the mint family. It is native to Europe and Asia but is now commonly found all over the world. Catnip has a long history of being used for various purposes, especially when it comes to its effects on cats.

The Plant Behind the Name

Catnip plants are known for their distinctive appearance. They have heart-shaped, grayish-green leaves and small, white flowers with purple spots. The plant can grow up to three feet tall and has a strong, minty aroma that is often described as being similar to a combination of mint and lemon.

One interesting fact about catnip is that it contains a chemical compound called nepetalactone, which is responsible for its unique effects on cats. This compound is found in the leaves and stems of the plant and is released when they are crushed or bruised.

Active Ingredients

Nepetalactone is the primary active ingredient in catnip that triggers a response in cats. It acts as a stimulant and has a similar effect on cats as some recreational drugs do on humans. When cats come into contact with catnip, whether by smelling or ingesting it, they often exhibit behaviors such as rolling, rubbing, purring, and jumping.

It’s important to note that not all cats are affected by catnip. The sensitivity to catnip is inherited, and approximately 50-75% of cats are affected by it. Kittens under the age of six months are typically not responsive to catnip, and older cats may also lose their sensitivity to it over time.

Effects on Cats

The effects of catnip on cats can vary. Some cats become hyperactive and playful, while others may become more calm and relaxed. The reactions can last anywhere from a few minutes to an hour, and the effects are entirely harmless. Cats cannot overdose on catnip, and it is not addictive for them.

It’s worth mentioning that catnip can also be used as a training tool for cats. By using catnip as a reward, you can encourage certain behaviors or redirect unwanted behaviors. Many cat toys and scratching posts are infused with catnip to make them more enticing for cats.

Do Rats Like Catnip?

When it comes to catnip, most people associate it with their feline friends. But have you ever wondered if rats are also attracted to this fragrant herb? Let’s explore the fascinating world of rats and catnip to find out!

Scientific Research on Rats and Catnip

While there is limited scientific research specifically focused on rats and catnip, studies conducted on other rodents provide some insights. Catnip contains a compound called nepetalactone, which acts as a stimulant for many cats.

However, it appears that rats do not have the same reaction to catnip as cats do.

According to a study published in the journal Chemical Senses, researchers found that rats did not show a significant interest in catnip when given the opportunity to interact with it. This suggests that the chemical compounds in catnip may not have the same effect on rats as they do on cats.

Another study published in the journal Behavioural Processes focused on the effects of catnip on different rodent species. While the study observed increased activity in mice and gerbils exposed to catnip, it did not find any significant reaction in rats.

Anecdotal Experiences

Although scientific research may suggest that rats are not particularly interested in catnip, there are anecdotal experiences that suggest otherwise. Some rat owners claim that their pets do display some level of attraction to catnip.

It’s important to note that individual rats may have unique preferences and reactions to catnip, just like cats. Some rats may show curiosity or mild interest when exposed to catnip, while others may not be interested at all.

It’s always a good idea to observe your pet rat’s behavior and provide a variety of enriching toys and activities to keep them mentally stimulated.

Additionally, if you’re considering giving catnip to your pet rat, it’s crucial to ensure that the catnip you use is safe and free from any harmful additives. Organic or natural catnip is generally a safer option.

Ultimately, while the scientific research suggests that rats may not have the same affinity for catnip as cats do, individual experiences may vary. If you’re curious about how your rat will react to catnip, it can be a fun and safe experiment to try, keeping in mind the preferences and safety of your furry friend.

Potential Benefits of Catnip for Rats


While primarily known for its effects on cats, catnip can also have a calming effect on rats. The herb contains a compound called nepetalactone, which acts as a natural sedative. When rats come into contact with catnip, they may experience a sense of relaxation and reduced stress levels.

This can be particularly beneficial for rats that have been exposed to stressful situations, such as being transported or introduced to a new environment.

Pain Relief

Catnip has also been found to have pain-relieving properties for rats. The herb contains compounds that act as natural analgesics, helping to alleviate discomfort and reduce pain. This can be especially beneficial for rats that may be experiencing any type of pain, such as from injuries or age-related conditions.

However, it is important to note that catnip should not be used as a substitute for proper veterinary care, and any signs of pain or illness in rats should be addressed by a qualified veterinarian.


In addition to its relaxation and pain-relieving effects, catnip can also provide enrichment for rats. Rats are intelligent and curious animals that thrive on mental stimulation and physical activity. Introducing catnip into their environment can serve as a form of enrichment, encouraging them to explore, play, and engage in natural behaviors.

This can help prevent boredom and promote overall well-being for pet rats.

It is important to note that while catnip can have these potential benefits for rats, not all rats may have the same reaction to the herb. Just like with cats, some rats may be more sensitive to the effects of catnip, while others may not show any interest at all.

It is always best to observe your rat’s behavior and consult with a veterinarian before introducing any new substances or herbs into their environment.

How to Safely Give Catnip to Rats

While catnip is commonly associated with cats, it can also have a similar effect on rats. Just like with cats, the use of catnip with rats can provide them with mental stimulation and entertainment. However, it’s important to know how to safely give catnip to rats to ensure their well-being.

Here are some guidelines to follow:

Dosage and Frequency

When it comes to giving catnip to rats, it’s crucial to remember that they are much smaller than cats. Therefore, the dosage should be significantly lower. A general rule of thumb is to use only a small pinch of dried catnip or a few drops of catnip oil when introducing it to rats.

It’s also essential to avoid giving it to them too frequently. Just like with any substance, moderation is key. Giving catnip to rats once or twice a week is generally considered safe.

Methods of Administration

There are a few different ways to administer catnip to rats. One option is to simply sprinkle a small amount of dried catnip in their cage or play area. Rats are naturally curious creatures, and they will likely investigate and interact with the catnip on their own.

Alternatively, you can also use catnip-infused toys or treats specifically designed for rats. These toys and treats are safe for them to chew on or play with, providing them with mental and physical stimulation.

What to Look Out For

While catnip is generally safe for rats, it’s essential to monitor their behavior and health after introducing it to them. Some rats may have a stronger reaction to catnip than others. It’s normal for rats to become more active and playful after exposure to catnip, but if you notice any signs of distress or discomfort, it’s best to discontinue its use.

Additionally, if your rat has any pre-existing health conditions or is on medication, consult with a veterinarian before giving them catnip to ensure it won’t interfere with their treatment.

Remember, not all rats may have the same reaction to catnip, and it’s always important to prioritize their safety and well-being. By following these guidelines and observing your rat’s behavior, you can safely provide them with the benefits of catnip.


In summary, rats can technically consume catnip, but their individual responses vary. While catnip is safe for rats, moderation is still key. If you want to try giving your rats catnip, introduce it slowly while supervising them.

Catnip can provide enrichment, but should not replace proper rat care and nutrition. As with any treat, catnip for rats should only be given occasionally and in small amounts.

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