While often confused with catnip (Nepeta cataria), catmint (Nepeta faassenii) is an entirely different plant with different qualities and looks, known for its beautiful lavender-colored flowers.
Compared to catnip, which is widely known for its effects on cats, catmint is a relatively lesser-known plant, which is the primary reason behind the confusion of these two plants despite catmint being a very aesthetically pleasing plant.
An interesting fact is that both of these plants belong to the Nepeta genus. Nepetalactone, the substance that causes catnip to affect cats, is a trait of the Nepeta species and is also found in catmint.
As a result, catmint should technically have the same effect as catnip, yet we don’t hear of catmint as frequently as we hear of catnip, which leads us to a simple question.
Does catmint attract cats just as catnip does?
While catmint can attract cats as it contains nepetalactone, the nepetalactone content of a catmint plant is much lower than that of a catnip plant.
We have observed that while catmint does attract some cats, some cats are entirely indifferent to it. On the other hand, catnip has a higher likelihood to affect a cat, and its impact is also higher.
As a catmint plant definitely isn’t completely safe from cats, growing a catmint plant at home if you have a cat may not be the easiest thing at first if you treat it like any other plant.
Moving on, we will be going into greater detail about catmint, its capability to attract cats, and talk about scenarios where catmint is more likely to attract a cat.
Table of Contents
Does Catmint Attract Cats?
Even though not all members of the Nepeta family contain nepetalactone, catmint (Nepeta faassenii) is known to have this substance, albeit in smaller amounts compared to catnip, which is the reason behind the plant being named catmint.
While it’s an undeniable fact that catmint does attract cats, the amount of nepetalactone a catmint plant contains often isn’t enough to certainly capture a cat’s attention. Even when it does, it’s not strong enough to affect a cat as much as a catnip plant does.
In an everyday scenario of you growing a catmint plant at home, the chance of it attracting your cat is quite slim, especially with some careful positioning.
Considering that a catmint plant at home can only grow so large, and combined with the fact that the nepetalactone it contains is already weak, your cat most likely won’t be attracted to it unless you rub the plant in your cat’s face.
While the behavior can vary between cats, with some cats having a higher chance to be quickly affected by nepetalactone, the best course of action to protect your catmint plant from your cat is to place it in an unreachable area.
If your cat can’t come close enough to the catmint for the nepetalactone to be effective, your catmint will be no different than any other plant to it, which will keep your catmint plant safe even with a cat at home.
What Does Catmint Do to Cats?
As the substance found in catmint is the same as the substance found in catnip, what catmint does to a cat is very similar to the effects of catnip on cats, but in lesser strength.
Upon smelling the catmint, the scent of the nepetalactone makes its way to the cat’s brain. Nepetalactone has a smell that mimics the reproductive hormones of cats, which is why cats who smell catnip or catmint show a behavior pattern similar to a female cat in heat.
Alongside this, cats affected by the nepetalactone in catmint usually become more relaxed, affectionate, happy, and playful. If your cat is suffering from pain or anxiety, catmint can also help to relieve these conditions.
The effects of nepetalactone often last between 5 to 10 minutes, with a cooldown period of 20 to 30 minutes.
Can a Cat Eat Catmint?
Just like catnip, catmint is also safe for cats to eat. That being said, cats often don’t show interest in eating catmint as much as they do in eating catnip.
For the most part, cats prefer to play and roll around in the catmint instead of eating it, as the smell of catmint provides the euphoric feeling that the cats get from nepetalactone found in both catnip and catmint.
While catmint is safe for a cat to eat, too much of it can cause adverse effects such as an upset stomach, diarrhea, and even vomiting, which is why it’s best to be careful to keep an eye on your cat if it’s frequently interacting with catmint.
What is the Difference Between Catnip and Catmint?
While both catnip and catmint belong to the same genus, Nepeta, you can quickly tell one from another as they look completely different.
Here are some of the most apparent differences between catnip and catmint.
- Catnip is much more attractive to cats than catmint due to its high nepetalactone content.
- While the flowers of the catnip plant are often white, catmint plants have lavender-colored flowers.
- Catnip usually grows taller and wider than catmint.
- Catnip takes a shorter time to reach maximum growth compared to catmint.
How Does Catmint Smell?
Both the leaves and the flowers of a catmint plant emanate a spicy and minty scent.
Compared to a plant with a strong scent, such as lavender, the fragrance of a catmint plant is much lighter.
In the case of cats, the nepetalactone in the catmint plant is what they smell the most, often described to have a similar smell to the reproductive hormones of cats, which is the reason behind cats being affected by it.
As the catmint plant contains nepetalactone, just like the catnip plant, it technically can attract cats and cause the same effects that catnip plants have on cats.
That being said, as the nepetalactone content of a catmint plant is drastically lower, a cat would have to be very close to the plant for it to be affected, and even when it’s affected, the effects would be lesser compared to catnip.
To protect your catmint plant from your cats, we recommend strategically placing them in spots where your cats do not or won’t be able to get near, which should be more than enough in most scenarios.