Giving catnip to a cat can lead to some pretty hilarious shenanigans. One trip with the feline devil’s grass and your cat will be face-deep in the living room carpet, bustin’ a move like he’s in a 1980s nightclub. But that begs a serious question: do big cats react the same way?

Apparently, visitors of one cat animal sanctuary in Florida wouldn’t stop asking staff members if the resident lions, tigers, and panthers (oh my!) enjoyed gettin’ down with ‘nip. Curious, the staff decided to conduct a bit of an experiment…

Chris Poole, senior keeper at Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, Florida, devoted his days to rehabilitating and caring for injured or abandoned big cats like lions, tigers, and leopards. Over the years, he found that guests would frequently ask him the same question.

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“Do big cats like catnip?” Of course, anyone who’d seen a house cat on ‘nip had to be curious if that effects were the same with their wild cousins. So, how did the green stuff affect bigger cats?

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“Well,” as Chris put it, “there’s only one way to find out.” So, he nabbed a big tub of catnip, grabbed a handful, and tossed it into a brown paper bag. From there, it was time for a little experiment…

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First up: Reno the leopard. To begin, Chris tossed him a bag of ‘nip and watched as the rescued former circus cat approached it with caution. Would he freak out like a tamed house cat? Or would this powerful feline resist the allure?

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Within mere moments, Reno gave in to the pull of that premium catnip. Like even the smallest house cat, he was on the ground, rolling around with his face in the catnip-filled bag. It didn’t end there, however…

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After a minute of nose-surfing through the herb, Reno succumbed to a light-headed crash face-down in the brown paper bag. He was no better than a house cat, and by the looks of it, he was in heaven. What about the other big cats, though?

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Next up was Alex the tiger, who’d been rescued from a convicted exotic cat collector. Alex took the next hit of the ‘nip and, with the herb kickin’ around in his skull, he was in for a good time!

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Perhaps Alex fell victim to the munchies—why else would he so hungrily rip at the bag containing the premium ‘nip? While he didn’t roll around with quite the fervor as his leopard counterpart, he did have quite the experience…

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In fact, you could practically see the exact moment when the catnip kicked in. Either that, or he suddenly remembered an embarrassing moment from last year’s annual tiger Christmas party.

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After the two big cats, Chris mixed it up a little bit, giving catnip to two lynxes named Willow and Natasha who’d been rescued from fur farms in Canada. How would the lynx duo behave?

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Right away, they rolled, nibbled, and delivered lackadaisical bonks to their counterpart’s skulls! What exactly was going on in these lynxes’ brains to make them behave like this?

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Well, just like smaller cats, one whiff of the mint-family herb sent a shock of nepetalactone through their brains. Still, Chris had to wonder if Zabu the Siberian Tiger would be into it, too.

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Even a big beast like Zabu—another cat rescued from a cirus—couldn’t resist the effects of the allure of some catnip! Similar to the others, she rolled around in ecstasy. You could practically hear the purrs!

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Science tells us that if a cat eats the catnip instead of smelling it, they would fall into a mind-numbing sleep as opposed to rolling around like crazy. So would Sabre the black leopard take a bite of the stuff? Or would he inhale like the felines before him?

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Take a guess. Sabre—who’d been abandoned at the rescue in 1995—was as big of a ‘nip sniffer as the rest of ’em. With the bag between his paws, he just lost it when a bit of herb hit his system.

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Next up for a sniff of the ‘nip was Amazing Grace, a female ocelot, who spent her earliest years locked in a cage. She arrived at Big Cat Rescue a year after Sabre. Surely, an older feline would resist the high of a bag full of what basically amounted to cat LSD… right?

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Nope. When the bag hit the floor, she, too, could not resist it. It seemed catnip affected each and every big cat that rubbed his or her nose in it! Well, except for one: the stalwart lion, Joseph. How would the king of the jungle react?

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Years ago, Big Cat Rescue rescued Joseph from a group of people who’d been raising lions and tigers to be used in photographs. Amazingly, this majestic fella had a totally different response to the catnip…

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For Joseph, the bag of catnip may as well have been a library book or a VCR: he simply was not interested! With his tongue pressed placidly between his lips, this was a cat who just said “no” to drugs!

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There may be no seedy feline underworld where catnip is exchanged for a few licks of some Friskies treats, but there very well could be! Hopefully no catnip black market started up at the Big Cat Rescue…


If you love cats, just check out the video to watch the beautiful beasts of the Big Cat Rescue going crazy for a little bit of catnip in a bag. Who knew they’d behave so similarly to our tiny little house cats?

Maybe these big cats on catnip are more like your house cat than you thought. Who knew such intimidating and majestic animals could be reduced to goofs with just a hit of the ‘nip?

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