Professor Debra Merskin from the University of Oregon wrote an article last month for The Conversation asking whether it is unethical to give your cat catnip, referring to it as “kitty crack” since it is available in concentrated forms like oil and sprays. She argues that laughing at your cat when they are showing the effects from the herb “raises questions about human power and animal autonomy.” I think those are interesting questions, but I disagree with targeting catnip. Perhaps dressing cats up in clothing where there is a one-sided benefit is a better ethical argument.
About 70% of adult cats are affected by catnip, an herb from the mint family. Cats can enjoy catnip through toys and even licking the herb in dried form. Indoor cats often develop behavior issues stemming from boredom. Providing enrichment including playtime, toys, scratchers, perches, and odor enrichment is substantial for mental stimulation and the ethics of guardians’ pleasure in watching their cats enjoy catnip is trivial. Cats have an extremely strong sense of smell and enhancing their environment with catnip is a good thing. I recommend having a container of good quality catnip. It can be used to marinate inanimate toys. My cats get a weekly dose to enjoy.