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At What Age Can Cats Have Catnip? Vet-Reviewed Facts & FAQ

Written by: Christian Adams

Last Updated on April 18, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

cat with green eyes in catnip

At What Age Can Cats Have Catnip? Vet-Reviewed Facts & FAQ


Dr. Paola Cuevas Photo


Dr. Paola Cuevas

MVZ (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

Catnip is a popular plant-derived treat for cats, and it’s easy to find in pet stores and even grocery stores. However, many pet owners are not sure what it is or if it’s safe to give to their cat, and with so many different brands to choose from, it can be challenging to know which one you should use.

Catnip is safe for cats of all ages. However, most kittens will not react to it before they are 6–9 months old. If you would like to find out more about catnip, continue reading, and we will try to answer all of your questions to help you know what it is and what it does, so you can feel safe about providing it to your pet.

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Is Catnip a Drug?

No, catnip is not a drug. It’s a member of the mint family, and it contains the chemical trans-nepetalactone that causes the reactions you see in some cats. It’s natural and safe for cats. Cats can enjoy the catnip effect by inhaling or consuming the plant. The only downside is that it could cause diarrhea or an upset stomach if your cat eats too much. Your cat will only need to smell the catnip to feel its effects. 

Image Credit: Kassel95, pixabay

Does Catnip Get Cats High?

Catnip does not exactly get your pet high, but many owners will tell you that the cat may act as if it does. Some experts believe it triggers receptors in the brain that make the cat feel euphoric like a human might after consuming marijuana or LSD, while others note that the chemical trans-nepetalactone causes a pheromone-like effect on cats, so experts believe it activates receptors for sex pheromones.yarn ball divider

At What Age Is Catnip Safe for Cats?

It seems that the effects of catnip are related to sexual maturity, as cats won’t usually react to catnip until they are at least 6 months old. In addition, only about 70% of cats can detect the euphoria-inducing chemical. Experts believe that you can trace cats’ sensitivity to catnip to a dominant gene not present in all cats. However, house cats aren’t the only ones affected. Lions, tigers, and other larger felines are also affected, even though many live in an area where catnip does not grow. Like the house cat, these large animals will become quite friendly and playful when exposed to catnip, and they will attempt to roll around in it to transfer the scent onto their fur.

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How Long Do the Effects of Catnip Last?

The catnip euphoria will usually last 10–15 minutes, depending on how sensitive your cat is to the chemical. After this short period, your cat will move on to other activities, and trying to give them more will not produce a response. It usually takes about 2 hours for their senses to reset to be able to detect the catnip again and feel its effects.

Can I Give My Cat Catnip Every Day?

You can give your cat catnip every day without worry because it is not addictive and doesn’t produce any harmful side effects or “low” that many drugs can cause. However, most experts recommend limiting exposure to once a day to prevent overstimulation. It is also wise to reduce the risk that they might eat too much, resulting in stomachache, vomiting, and diarrhea.

cat eating catnip leaves outdoor
Image Credit: sophiecat, Shutterstock

Does Catnip Help With Anxiety?

While catnip does appear to relax and calm, many cat experts do not recommend treating anxiety because its effects are short-lived. It also produces hyperactivity in most cats, which can be counterproductive. While it might provide your stressed-out cat with some temporary relief, most owners use it only as a treat, though it can be helpful to get your cat motivated to get some exercise, as it often makes them more playful and will cause some to run around frantically.

What Kind Of Catnip Should I Use?

You can find catnip everywhere and in many forms. Companies stuff it into many toys and also offer sprays and powders. You can also buy it in small bags, and it will look similar to finely chopped grass or herbs. You can also grow catnip in your garden. It is a hardy plant that grows in many environments. The only downside to growing it is that it can cause many stray cats to frequent your yard. We recommend purchasing a high-quality organic brand from your favorite place to get pet supplies. Organic catnip is less likely to have fertilizer chemicals or fillers, like hay, diluting the catnip’s potency, and it usually provides you with a resealable bag you can use to keep it fresh.

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Catnip can be a fantastic treat for your cat, and it’s often as much fun for the owners to watch the behavior as it is for the cat. All cats will act differently, and some will begin running, while others will roll around on it while looking for pets. As Thomas from IPet Guides notes, cats’ response to catnip varies, with some showing no reaction. Still, this does not mean they do not enjoy it. Experimenting with different catnip forms might help reveal their preference. It can be a great way to help your cat become more active, and it can also help prevent boredom from setting in. It’s completely safe and won’t produce any negative side effects, though some cats will not respond to it, and you will need to wait for your kitten to reach sexual maturity or be around 6 months old before their senses will develop enough to detect it.

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Featured Image Credit: Georgia Evans, Shutterstock

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