Concerned about catnip? Not quite sure if it’s perfectly safe? Feel unsure about feeding it to your cat and want to confirm there are no side-effects of doing so first? You’re in the right place.
In case you just want me to cut to the chase, here’s my TL;DR (too long; didn’t read) summary: catnip is safe. It’s nontoxic to cats, safe for them to smell and eat, and perfectly safe for kittens to ingest, too. The effects of catnip wear off when you notice them wear off; they don’t linger past that point, and there are no positive or negative long-term effects on cats that result from eating catnip besides one. That exception being: if a cat has too much catnip over a short period of time, he or she may eventually become less sensitive to its effects. But of course this has nothing to do with safety.
There are cases where catnip can make your cat ill – but these cases are rare, only ever happen if your cat has way too much catnip all at once, the symptoms are not severe, and they completely disappear, remedying themselves within very little time if you just take the catnip away from your cat while he or she recovers.
That’s my summary! Prefer to go a little more in depth about the safety of catnip? Read on ahead.
Is Catnip Safe for Cats?
Yes, catnip is safe for cats. That “freak out” your cat may or may not have after smelling or eating catnip is 100% normal, safe, and temporary. Once the effects have worn off, they have in fact completely worn off. Nothing is lasting about the effects of catnip.
Catnip is safe for cats that do react in a hyperactive way to it, and safe for cats that don’t. It’s estimated that roughly 50% of cats will have a hyperactive reaction to catnip, while the other 50% will simply be calmed by its smell and taste. These numbers vary, however, depending on which sources you look at. Some sources will say that a third of cats react strongly, a third of cats have a moderate reaction, while the last third of cats do not react to catnip at all. No matter which statistics are most accurate, however, the conclusion you should draw is the same – don’t think there’s anything wrong with your cat if he or she does not seem to react to catnip or care for it much at all; as stated, this is true of and completely normal for many cats – up to 50% of them, in fact.
Are There Any Long-Term Side Effects of Giving Catnip?
The only long term effect of catnip has nothing to do with safety or health.
If you give your cat catnip quite regularly, your cat may develop an immunity to its effects. Thus, if it was one of the 30-50% of cats who react to catnip in a hyperactive manner, your cat may not react in such a way over time if you give your cat a lot of catnip without waiting long between.
While nobody knows the exact amount of catnip to give so a cat doesn’t become habituated and immune to its effects, I’ve seen reports that giving cats catnip once every two or three weeks is a good rule of thumb to keeping them very interested in and reactive to the herb.
Is Catnip Safe for Cats to Eat?
Yes, catnip is safe for cats to eat. Catnip is a herb that’s a cousin to mint, basil, and oregano – herbs we humans regularly use in the kitchen for cooking and seasoning. Ingestion is not a problem.
In fact, catnip can even be safely ingested by humans (especially when the dried leaves are made into a tea). Catnip is sometimes used as a herbal remedy for a variety of human ailments, though not often since there are herbs that are more effective in remedying all of the ailments catnip can aid humans with.
Is Catnip Toxic to Cats?
No, it’s not. Catnip is non-toxic to cats.
Can My Cat Become Addicted to Catnip?
Absolutely not. Catnip is not an addictive substance and while you may think your cat is acting like he or she is addicted when you pull out the nip, this is just a matter of excitement and a love for the enticing or relaxing herb, not out of any addiction.
A cat’s excitement over catnip is similar to the excitement we humans feel when our favourite desert or snack is pulled out, like ice cream being pulled out of the freezer after months of not having it around. Pull out your cat’s favourite treat or snack – with my cat, an open can of tuna – that’s the same kind of excited reaction your cat is having to the catnip being pulled out.
Again, the reaction cats have to catnip being pulled out is one of excitement – not addiction.
Can My Cat Get Sick from Catnip?
While it’s perfectly safe for your cat to ingest catnip, it is possible for a cat to become ill from eating too much catnip.
What does sickness from eating too much catnip look like? Vomit or diarrhea.
Yup, that’s it! And once your cat stops eating catnip and is given a little time to recover, all the symptoms of “overdosing,” so to speak, will disappear. Again, catnip has no lasting effects.
Is Catnip Safe for Kittens?
Absolutely, catnip is safe for kittens. But of course, you won’t want to give a kitten too much catnip, as over-ingesting can lead to vomit and diarrhea, and kittens have much smaller bodies and thus lower tolerances in general than full grown cats. It’s perfectly safe to give a kitten small amounts of catnip, however.
That being said, kittens don’t develop the ability to react to catnip until they are around 3-6 months of age. And since you’re likely thinking of giving your kitten catnip to see him or her react hyper-actively to it, giving a kitten who’s younger than 6 months of age may be a little useless considering this fact.
You can always give your kitten a little bit of catnip once a month past the 3 month point to see if and when he or she starts reacting to catnip, and whether he or she is part of the 50% that are only relaxed by it, or the 50% that become hyperactive due to its smell or taste. But don’t be surprised, however, if you don’t get any sort of reaction until month 6!
Did You Know Catnip Was Safe?
What did you think about catnip in terms of safety of a cat ingesting it prior to reading this article?
Did you ever worry that it was unsafe for cats considering many cats’ hyperactive reaction to it? Did you think it might be addictive?
Have you ever had a cat vomit or have diarrhea from having too much catnip? How much catnip do you think a cat would have to ingest before these types of physical reactions took place? Ever had a cat develop an immunity to catnip over time?
Let me know down below!