Can Cats Eat Catnip? Do’s And Don’ts

There’s nothing much more enjoyable than seeing a cat get all funny and silly when you introduce a catnip toy to them. Rubbing and licking the toy, kicking it and rubbing along the floor like a total weirdo – as an owner you feel like you’ve given your cat a safe way to get weird, entertaining both you and them for a while.
 
Because of all the catnip toys available, and the general consensus that giving a cat catnip is good, when you consider can cats eat catnip safely? You probably don’t even give it a second thought. Interestingly, though, there are some do’s and don’ts when it comes to catnip and kitty use in order to keep playtime safe. 

Here are the ins and outs of kitty catnip use:

What Is Catnip?

catnip flower
Catnip is a plant that comes from the mint family ‘labiatae’, growing perennially and being sold in various different forms. The reason it is called catnip is thought to literally come from their response to it. 

Why Do Cats Act Weird Around Catnip?

Catnip (Nepata Cataria) contains something called nepetalactone, an essential oil that has an effect on most cat species, not just domestic cats. Even though many cats do respond to catnip, very young kittens often don’t react to it and don’t get that full ‘kitty crack’ response until they are older at around 3-6 months. 

Common feline responses to sniffing catnip:

  • Licking
  • Rolling
  • Sniffing
  • Licking
  • Drooling
  • Playfulness
  • Aggression
  • Hyperactivity
  • Stretching

Every cat is different in how they respond, but the reaction usually only lasts about ten minutes. 

Interestingly, cats can respond differently when they eat catnip compared to when they sniff it. When ingested, catnip can actually be a calming agent and cause your cat to wind down and chill out. So if you give them a catnip treat and don’t get the wacky response you hoped for, it’s because ingesting it can have the opposite effect to them sniffing the product. 

Are All Cats Responsive To Catnip?

If your cat couldn’t care less about catnip, don’t worry, they’re not weird. Well they are, but in a normal cat way! Apparently, science says only around 50% of cats are actually affected by the scent of catnip. Some cats may also be a little interested, or not as affected as cats like the absolute bonkers kitties you see in this Youtube video enjoying a catnip house (yes really!).  

Can Cats Eat Catnip Safely

True catnip is safe for a cat to enjoy and comes in a wide variety of cat-friendly forms such as; infused bubbles, stuffed toys, pouches, dried leaves, fresh plants and treats. 

The good news is that your cat can’t really overdose on catnip either as they will leave it when they have had enough. That being said, just like apples, strawberries or other plant-based matter, too much catnip will give your cat a bad tummy. So just like you would prepare apples and give a small piece as a treat, you wouldn’t put it in the cats bowl for them to eat a lot of. The same goes for catnip. Sniffing exposure can be limitless, but if they can consume the leaves it is worth limiting how much they consume to avoid tummy upset. 

Key Catnip Do’s And Don’ts

Here’s a rough list of catnip do’s and don’ts to follow so you make sure your cat has the best experience latching on to the nip: 

DO

Provide Catnip As A Treat

catnip treat
Catnip is a safe way for your kitty to get some stimulation and fun. As a treat try sprinkling it on their scratching post, on their toys, or getting them a catnip toy. 

Take It Away

Try to remove the catnip toy and bag it up if you can, hoovering away any catnip deposits. Can cats eat catnip leaves? Yes they can BUT if they can smell it all the time they won’t be as affected by it and toys can lose their scent. Some cats may even get nauseous or grumpy with too much catnip exposure.

Instead, give it to them for a short time them remove it and keep the toy in a bag so it is fresh the next time kitty gets to play. 

Grow It

You can grow catnip yourself if you want to if you have wondered; can cats eat fresh catnip? The only problem is they may literally wreck your garden or house trying to get access to the plant so, the plant may not last all that long! 

Experiment With Different Brands

Different catnip brands and varieties will affect different cats in different ways. Can cats eat dried catnip from any brand? Yes. However they won’t always be interested. One toy that makes one cat look at you like you offered them a bath, will make another go wild with excitement. Cats will also respond differently to fresh catnip plants, powder and leaves. The powder tends to bring the strongest response because it releases the oil in the plant that sends cats a bit funny.

Jackson Galaxy talks about cats and their different responses to catnip in this Youtube video.

As a general rule: don’t be disheartened if the first product doesn’t have the desired effect. 

DON’TS

DON’T Give Catnip To Very Young Kittens

It doesn’t tend to affect them and isn’t worth the money or effort. Wait until they are a little older (between 3 and 6 months) and try it then. 

DON’T Give Catnip To Angry Kitters

If you have an angry cat, or a cat prone to aggressive play, catnip is not a good idea. It can literally cause them to throw any inhibitions out of the window and just go fully wild. 

DON’T Worry If Your Cat Doesn’t Care

As we mentioned above, all cats are different with catnip and how they respond to it. Try not to have any expectations from your kitty when it comes to the catnip and you’ll probably both have a better experience. 

DON’T Limit Your Cat To Catnip Alone

If your cat is unresponsive when it comes to catnip, there are alternatives you can try such as:

  • Silver Vine
  • Tatarian Honeysuckle
  • Valerian Root
  • Catmint

It is important to be cautious with introducing these products to your cat. As with catnip, try not to overexpose your cat to these products and only purchase them from trusted retailers. 

DON’T Give Your Cat Catnip Treated With Pesticides

If you are ever unsure if a catnip plant has been treated with chemicals or not, never risk giving it to your cat. Chemicals like pesticides can kill your kitty quickly, so it is never worth the risk. 

Can Cats Eat Catnip? Yeah!

Now you know how to safely give your cat catnip, it’s time to have some fun! Whether your cat goes crazy on the nip, or gives it little more than a sniff and a stink eye, it’s all extra stimulation and interest for them, which can only be a good thing.

About Anneka Dalrymple

I am a writer of 6 years, and I’m a total animal nerd. I love wildlife, but none so much as my own tiny lion, April. She’s a 10 year old floofer who adopted us, and we’re so much happier for that. I have also grown up with animals and at one point we had 6 cats, 2 dogs and 2 rabbits. Pets are a total gift.

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