Cats, Catnip, and Other Drugs: Can Cats Get High?

If you’ve ever seen your cat dive headfirst into a pile of catnip, you’ve probably wondered what, exactly, is going on in that furry little head.

Cats may not be able to get high the same way humans can do, but there are certain substances like catnip that they seem to enjoy and that can leave them feeling pretty great.

In regards to human drugs, some of the same mind-altering substances that can help humans feel relaxed or confident can leave your cat feeling desperately ill and should be carefully monitored so that your pets are safe inside your home.


Catnip is the quintessential cat drug of choice. But a lot of pet lovers may be confused as to what, exactly catnip is, as well as how it works and what it’s doing to their four-legged friends.

Catnip doesn’t affect every animal equally, so it’s important to know as much as possible about how it drives your cats wild!

What Is Catnip?

Catnip is a wild strain of the mint family. Throughout history, it’s been used off and on for human health purposes, but nowadays, it’s mostly known as a stimulant that drives cats wild!

There are a wide variety of products made for cats that feature catnip in a starring role. Scratching posts with catnip, toys stuffed with catnip, and even shakers for spreading catnip across your home are just standard tools of the cat lover trade.

If you just want to use catnip in its loose-leaf form, try sprinkling a little bit of catnip in a new space or just your cat’s favorite patch of sun and watch how they react!

Catnip doesn’t actually act as a stimulant for every cat: about one-third of all cats are resistant to its effects, but the majority of cats love this sweet-smelling herb!

How Does Catnip Work?

No one knows for certain how catnip actually works, but it’s believed to put out a scent that mimics cat pheromones and causes those sensors to go crazy.

According to VetWest Website, If you feed a few catnip flakes to your cats in their food, they most likely won’t display the same delighted response. This is because catnip actually acts as a sedative when ingested, and only triggers your cat’s response when it’s inhaled.

The active ingredient in catnip is a compound called nepetalactone. Some have suggested that the compound is actually a mild hallucinogenic for cats, so who knows what your kitty is seeing as they frolic in a pile of catnip?

Unlike most human hallucinogenics, however, regular (and somewhat measured) exposure to catnip is not known to cause any adverse effects in cats when used as a stimulant or as a mild mind-altering substance.

What to Look Out For

Just because catnip is safe for most cats doesn’t mean that it’s free to use without any caution at all. Whether you’re using catnip for it is sedative or stimulant qualities, make sure you’re not using too much, too quickly.

According to The Humane Society of the United States, For the most part, it’s extremely unlikely for your cat to overdose on catnip, due to the fact that their interest in catnip will usually wear off after the first dosage, at which point they’ll need some time to recharge before hitting the catnip again.

According to AsthmaCats, However, if your cat is prone to allergic reactions or has feline asthma, then you may want to limit the amount of catnip they use to avoid irritating their lungs.

If you’re giving catnip to your cats in their food, check to make sure they’re not acting sick of the herb, but otherwise your cats should be fine!

Alternatives to Catnip

As mentioned previously, not every cat actually reacts to catnip. It’s believed that a love of catnip is mostly a genetic factor, and so some cats may just not see the big deal!

According to The Catington Post, If that’s the case, there are other herbs or plants that often create similar effects on your feline friends, including:

Valerian Root: long used by humans for its sedative effect, Valerian root has a stimulating effect on cats and can be used instead of catnip!

Silver Vine: some pet owners report that Silver Vine causes an even more dramatic in their cats than catnip!

Tartarian Honeysuckle: the chemical breakdown of this plant’s active ingredients make it very similar to nepetalactone. Be careful if you’re growing your own flowers, however, as other honeysuckle varieties are toxic to cats.

Other Drugs

Depending on where you live, there may be a variety of mind-altering substances that are legal or socially acceptable for you to use, but they may be affecting your cat in a different way.

Ignoring the more common addictive substances like alcohol, nicotine, or caffeine, it’s crucial to know how some of these recreational substances may be hurting your cat’s health.


Cannabis, commonly known as marijuana, is a recreational or medicinal drug that has long been used by humans for its psychoactive properties.

Regardless of its legality, marijuana is often considered a “soft drug”, and the stigma against using cannabis isn’t nearly as harsh as it was even twenty years ago.

Unfortunately, while cannabis may have some health benefits for humans, it is toxic for cats, According to PetMD. Muscle twitches, vomiting, mental imbalance, and damage to the urinary tract are just a few symptoms of feline use.

Basically, cats can get “high” off of marijuana, but it is extremely unhealthy for them to do so. If you suspect your cat has ingested cannabis, loose or edible, take your cat to the veterinarian immediately.

According to PetMD, Some veterinarians have suggested using cannabis oil as a pain relief for cats with chronic illnesses, but this is still untested and not common practice.


One of the other “soft drugs”, in common perception, is the use of “magic mushrooms”. The term refers to any mushroom that contains the compounds psilocybin, psilocin, and baeocystin.

According to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, In recent years, some parts of the United States have decriminalized the use of mushrooms as a hallucinogenic, but it is still a Schedule I drug, and therefore not as common as other forms of intoxicants.

According to Cat Health, Mushrooms deserve their own special entry due to how extremely toxic they are for cats. The same compounds that have a psychoactive effect on humans can kill a fully grown cat.

If you have reason to believe that your cat has ingested mushrooms of any sort, get them to your veterinarian immediately. If your veterinarian is not available, or if too much time has passed, try to induce vomiting, but only as a last resort.

If you get the drug out of your cat’s system in time, they should be safe, but it’s still an extremely high risk.

Harder Drugs

Marijuana, prescription drugs, and hallucinogens like mushrooms or Ecstasy are the most commonly used psychoactive substances in the United States, but what about some of the more intense drugs?

Technically speaking, your cat can get high if exposed to mind-altering substances like cocaine, heroin, or methamphetamine. However, given their effects on the human body, it should come as no surprise that they are very dangerous for cats as well.

Cocaine and amphetamines, in particular, are listed as poisons for cats and other animals. Hallucinogens like LSD may not be as lethal for cats but is still highly dangerous. According to the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health.

Most poisoning cases happen accidentally, but if you have any reason to believe that your cat is “high” on a harder drug, take them to the vet immediately.

General Advice

It should go without saying, but unless you have specific instructions from your veterinarian, do not try to get your cat high!

In the years since cannabis use has become more commonplace, “funny videos” of people forcing their pets to inhale cannabis smoke have started to appear on various video sharing sites. Before this, the drug of choice for these types of videos was nicotine.

According to Independent, This is animal cruelty. Cats and humans have different health requirements, and forcing them to inhale any sort of foreign substance can be legally counted as animal abuse.

As a general rule, treat your four-legged friends the way you would treat small children. If you feel comfortable smoking a cigarette or using cannabis on your own, then do so within the constraints of the law, but don’t expose a bystander.

If you use certain substances either recreationally or medicinally, your cat should be safe as long as you keep all substances stored out of their reach and maintain someplace where the cat can go to get fresh air.

Beyond that, the only high you have to wonder about for your cat is the natural high that they seem to get off of catnip. Because catnip is a safe, non-toxic material, your cat can technically get high off of catnip and similar substances without any negative side effects!

One Comment

  1. Kim Hesser-Bingham

    I had a Siamese escape artist that loved the weed Fox Tail! Whenever he got out he ran directly to where it grew. I spent years picking it for him,he was in heaven while eating it but did not act different after consumption. I never found another cat that cared about it. Has anyone else seen this?

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *