Can Cats Eat Catnip? The Dos and Don'ts of Catnip

· 6 min read
a cat laying on a chair eating catnip


Catnip, also known as Nepeta cataria, is a fascinating herb that has captivated the hearts of cat owners around the world. Its aromatic leaves and stems contain a powerful compound called nepetalactone, which has a unique effect on our feline companions. While catnip is often associated with inducing a state of euphoria in cats, there is still a lot of curiosity and confusion surrounding its effects and safety.

As a responsible pet owner, it's essential to understand the dos and don'ts of catnip to ensure your cat's well-being. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve deep into the world of catnip, addressing common questions and clarifying misconceptions about its usage. We'll explore the effects of catnip on cats, its safety, and outline proper practices for introducing it into your furry friend's life.

Whether you've just brought home a new kitten or have a seasoned cat companion, this blog post will empower you with the knowledge to make informed decisions regarding catnip. So, let's embark on a journey to unravel the mysteries of catnip and discover how this enchanting herb can enhance your cat's life in a safe and enjoyable manner.

What is Catnip?

Catnip is a member of the mint family and is native to Europe and Asia. It contains a chemical compound called nepetalactone, which is responsible for the characteristic "high" that cats experience when exposed to catnip. This compound acts as a stimulant, affecting the cat's central nervous system.

Is Catnip Safe for Cats?

Yes, catnip is generally safe for cats. In fact, it is often used as a form of environmental enrichment to keep cats mentally stimulated and entertained. However, it's important to note that not all cats respond to catnip, as the sensitivity to the herb is genetic. Approximately 50-75% of cats exhibit a strong response to catnip, while the rest are unaffected by its effects.

What Are the Effects of Catnip on Cats?

When a cat is exposed to catnip, it may exhibit a range of behaviors, including rolling, rubbing, purring, and even leaping. These reactions are completely normal and harmless. Catnip can provide a temporary outlet for your cat's energy, helping to prevent boredom and encourage exercise.

Can Cats Overdose on Catnip?

No, cats cannot overdose on catnip. The effects of catnip are short-lived, typically lasting around 10-15 minutes. After that, the cat will become immune to its effects for approximately two hours. It's important to note that although catnip is safe, moderation is key. Excessive exposure to catnip may cause your cat to become overstimulated, leading to restlessness or even vomiting.

Are There Any Alternatives to Catnip?

If your cat does not respond to catnip or you want to try something different, there are alternative herbs that may elicit a similar response. Valerian root and silver vine are two examples of herbs that can have a stimulating effect on cats. These alternatives can be found in pet stores in various forms, such as sprays, toys, or dried herb sachets.

When Should You Avoid Using Catnip?

While catnip is generally safe, there are some cases where it's best to avoid using it. Kittens under the age of six months are usually not responsive to catnip, so it's best to wait until they are older before introducing them to it. Additionally, pregnant cats should not be exposed to catnip, as it may affect their hormones and potentially harm the developing kittens.


Catnip can be a fantastic tool for enriching your cat's environment and providing them with mental stimulation. Just like with any substance, it's important to use it in moderation and be mindful of your cat's individual sensitivities. Remember, not all cats respond to catnip, so if your feline friend is among the non-responders, don't worry. There are alternative herbs and toys available that can still provide them with plenty of joy and entertainment.

Frequently asked questions

Can’t find the answer you’re looking for? Look through our FAQs to find answers to our most commonly asked questions.

Is catnip safe for kittens?
While catnip is generally safe for adult cats, it is recommended to avoid exposing kittens under six months old to catnip. Young kittens are less likely to have a response to catnip, as their sensitivity to the herb develops as they grow. It's best to wait until they are older before introducing them to catnip.
Can cats become addicted to catnip?
No, cats cannot become physically addicted to catnip. The effects of catnip are temporary and wear off after a short period of time. It's important to use catnip as an occasional treat or source of enrichment rather than relying on it excessively. Moderation is key to ensure your cat's well-being and prevent overstimulation.
Can catnip be used as a training aid?
Yes, catnip can be a helpful tool in training cats. The stimulating effects of catnip can be used to reward positive behavior and encourage your cat to engage in desired activities. Incorporating catnip into training sessions can make the learning experience more enjoyable for your cat, increasing their motivation to participate.
Why doesn't my cat respond to catnip?
Not all cats are responsive to catnip. Sensitivity to catnip is a genetic trait, and approximately 50-75% of cats exhibit a strong response. If your cat doesn't have a reaction to catnip, it's completely normal and doesn't indicate any health issues. Instead of catnip, you can explore alternative herbs or toys that may elicit a similar response, such as valerian root or silver vine.
Can catnip be harmful if ingested in large quantities?
Ingesting catnip in large quantities is generally not harmful to cats. However, it's important to note that excessive consumption may lead to digestive upset, such as vomiting or diarrhea. To avoid overindulgence, it's recommended to offer catnip as a treat or in controlled amounts, ensuring that your cat doesn't consume excessive quantities in a short period of time.
Can outdoor cats benefit from catnip?
Absolutely! Outdoor cats can also enjoy the benefits of catnip. Catnip can provide enrichment and stimulation for cats that spend time outdoors. You can sprinkle catnip in designated areas or use catnip-infused toys to encourage play and exploration. Just be mindful of local wildlife, as catnip may attract other animals too.
Is there any alternative to catnip?
Yes, there are alternatives to catnip that can elicit a similar response in cats. Valerian root and silver vine are two widely used alternatives that have comparable effects. These herbs can be found in various forms, such as sprays, toys, or dried herb sachets. Experimenting with different options can help you find what appeals most to your cat.
How often can I give catnip to my cat?
Catnip can be offered to your cat as an occasional treat or form of enrichment. It's best to limit the frequency to a few times a week to prevent overstimulation. Regular exposure may diminish the effects of catnip, so spacing out the sessions can ensure your cat continues to enjoy the benefits of this herb.