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Can cats eat catnip?
Cat WellnessCats Behavior

Can cats eat catnip?

If you own a cat, there's a good chance that he or she has already shown an interest in catnip. You may have even seen your feline friend rolling on the floor, licking the carpeting, or rubbing his face against something covered in this herb. The plant is also popular with other animals, such as rabbits and guinea pigs. It's been used to produce clothing and toys for these animals. Catnip can be toxic to other animals if ingested in large quantities, so it should not be given to them without explicit instructions from the vet. Catnip is mostly grown in open fields, but it can also be propagated indoors using seeds or cuttings from plants.

What is catnip?

Catnip is a plant with a structure similar to oregano and contains nepetalactone, which triggers an intense response in cats. Nepetalactone activates their scent receptors, causing them to exhibit different behaviors when they smell the chemical: rubbing against the plant, rolling around on it, and drooling while they do so.

Catnip can cause cats to exhibit unusual behaviors that are unhealthy for them. You see, dogs and humans are supposed to have a natural aversion toward the smell of nepetalactone. Eating catnip makes it nearly impossible for our noses to ignore the smell, triggering negative reactions.

How does catnip work for cats?

Scientists aren't sure, but they think it may be due to a cat's sense of smell. The chemicals in catnip set off different reactions in cats than in humans. That's why your cat may rub against the plant and show other affection towards it.

The scent triggers a reaction similar to what you'd see with a new kitten when she is around her mother for the first time and begins nursing for the first time. Cats tend to react with more affection when they have catnip around than if you were to give them treats or food normally. These behaviors are associated with comfort and enjoyment.

Does it work with every cat?

While catnip is safe for most cats, you may find that your feline friend doesn't have the same reaction to it as others. Even if it's not a big deal for your cat, it doesn't mean he or she won't be interested in it. Most cats will react by licking the plant, rubbing their face on it, and even growling at it. Some do this naturally, while others don't react until they're exposed to nepetalactone after eating the herb.

Not all cats respond to herbal scents in the same way as others, though, and may not have anything more than mild interest in catnip. You'll have to wait and see how yours will react.

Cats that don't respond to catnip tend to be younger than 12 weeks or they just lack a craving for both nepetalactone and formononetin (another chemical found in catnip). It's more common in male felines as well.

Is it safe for cats?

Nepetalactone and formononetin are in different amounts depending on the plant's variety. Most of the time, catnip is safe for cats to eat. The herb is also safe for pregnant or nursing kitties if you give them a small amount at a time. That said, it's not recommended to give the kitty any of the herbs if you don't know it's safe or if you suspect that there's any other illness.

The biggest concern with giving your feline friends catnip is how much they eat. Their bodies are usually built to process a small amount of the herb, but when it's ingested in a large quantity, they can lose their appetite and get diarrhea or vomiting. You should also be aware that catnip can cause nepetalactone to build up in their bodies if consumed too much over time. If you suspect your kitty has had an adverse reaction to the plant, call your vet for more information on the best way to treat him or her.

Catnip overdose

If your cat consumes more of the herb than he or she should, it can cause a catnip overdose. While most cats don't have trouble with more than a small amount, some may experience vomiting, loss of coordination, and even coma. If you suspect that your feline friend has consumed too much catnip, call your vet immediately and take him there to check on him.

Can it be helpful for cats?

While there isn't much research on catnip and cats, it shows that it can be beneficial when used responsibly. One of the most common uses is in treating cancer or the associated symptoms, such as loss of appetite, vomiting, and lack of coordination. Your vet may recommend using catnip for cats that have a bout with nausea or loss of appetite, but you should consider consulting a vet first before giving a cat herbal remedy to treat any illnesses.

How to use catnip?

There are several ways that you can use catnip. For example, you can grow it as an ornamental plant in your yard by planting it in a garden patch or a pot. It's recommended to grow the plant close to where your kitty spends most of his or her time so he or she can easily access it. You could also plant seeds and make catnip from scratch. If you're looking for convenience or perhaps you don't have the time to grow your herbs, consider purchasing catnip from a pet store that sells organic supplements for cats. Once purchased, store the herb properly to ensure that potency is maintained. You may also want to freeze it for later use.

 Catnip is also thought to help with cats' coats and overall health. If you're interested in learning more about how to make your own nepetalactone/formononetin, consult with a vet regarding how much of each chemical your feline friend should be given daily for optimal health or an overall good feeling about life.

Is it poisonous to cats?

Catnip can be poisonous to dogs and perhaps other species, but it can also be harmful to cats. For instance, cats allergic to nepetalactone may experience a reaction after ingesting the herb. Some cats may also take in more nepetalactone when they're eating too much of the plant, and if there's an intake for over 24 hours, it may cause serious health problems for your feline friend. If you suspect that your cat has ingested too much of the herb or if he or she doesn't have proper access to the plant, call your vet immediately.


Catnip is a safe herb for cats only if used in small amounts. If too much of the plant is consumed by your kitty, it can lead to catnip overdose, which can cause an array of problems for your feline friend. 

Many plant species are toxic to cats, so you should always know what plants to expect and which ones your cat can access. Most of the time, cats eat small amounts as long as they're supervised. If he or she consumes too much of these plants, you should contact a vet immediately for more information on how to help manage the kitty's condition.