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Can Cats Be Allergic to Catnip? Feline Facts & FAQs

Written by: Cassidy Sutton

Last Updated on January 17, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

jar of catnip

Can Cats Be Allergic to Catnip? Feline Facts & FAQs

So, your cat had some catnip and is now acting weird. Should you be worried? Well, you’re in luck because you don’t need to worry! Catnip isn’t an addictive substance, and there’s no evidence that cats have allergic reactions to the plant.

However, cats can have too much catnip and experience adverse reactions like vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, and difficulty walking. This can be from eating or sniffing the plant. The raw plant is powerful, and you can find higher potencies, like catnip oil, that can be too much for your cat.

Even so, there’s no need to imagine the worst of the worst, and here’s why.


Catnip 101

Catnip (Nepeta cataria) belongs to the mint family (Lamiaceae), which includes spearmint, peppermint, sage, lemon balm, etc. These plants are known for their highly aromatic leaves, stems, and flowers. Volatile oils give these plants their scent and protect them from harmful insects and diseases. It is also why bugs don’t care for peppermint or spearmint.

Nepetalactone, one of catnip’s volatile oils, binds to receptors in the cat’s nose, which triggers the “happy” neurons in the brain and makes your kitty feel marvelous for about 10 minutes. Even wild cats like lions enjoy the effects of nepetalactone.

Regardless of their size, all cats react differently to the plant, but common effects in felines include:
  • Rubbing on the plant
  • Rolling around
  • Vocalizations
  • Loss of focus
  • Drooling
  • Zoomies
  • Sleepiness

After the 10-minute euphoric experience, your cat may fall into a state of relaxation for 2–3 hours. These are perfectly natural reactions, especially if you’re offering a live plant.

Cats can experience a mellow high if they eat the plant and a more erratic experience when offered a more concentrated version like catnip oil. It all boils down to how much catnip you offer your cat.

Gray Cat Enjoying Fresh Catnip_Anna Hoychuk_shutterstock
Image By: Anna Hoychuk, Shutterstock

How Much Catnip Is Too Much?

There isn’t an exact measurement for offering catnip to your kitty. Still, cats don’t need much to experience the sensational feeling.

Fresh catnip is more potent than dried catnip, so only a few leaves or a couple of clippings will do. You can sprinkle a little dried catnip at a time to see how your cat reacts and make adjustments based on your observations.

If you’re wondering why your cat is vomiting, not walking properly, or having diarrhea, it probably consumed too much catnip. This can happen when your cat has free access to the live plant, or you use a product with high potencies, like catnip oil.

All you can do is give your cat time. Eventually, the symptoms should subside. However, never hesitate to call your veterinarian. It’s best to be safe rather than sorry.

Does Catnip Affect All Cats?

Not all cats become bumbling buffoons with catnip. In fact, only 50%–70% of cats feel anything at all. Scientists believe this is because of genetics. If a cat responds to catnip, its offspring will likely react to the plant.

Age also plays a part. Kittens don’t develop a sensitivity to the nepetalactone until they reach 6 months to 1 year old. Over time, your cat can develop a catnip tolerance if exposed daily. This can easily be avoided with intentional moderation. Take the catnip away from time to time and give your cat something to look forward to when you offer it again.

Image By: Kassel95, Pixabay

What Can I Use Instead of Catnip?

Cats are nutty when affected by catnip. If the catnip high freaks you out a little, we don’t blame you. Other options don’t have as strong of an effect. You can also try these herbs if your cat doesn’t respond to catnip:

  • Silvervine: Silvervine (Actinidia polygama) is a member of the kiwi family and can even help repel insects. The high is similar to catnip, lasting up to 30 minutes. The high may even be stronger than catnip, so offer it in small quantities.
  • Tatarian Honeysuckle: Tatarian Honeysuckle (Lonicera tatarica) was brought to the US in the 1700s from eastern Asia. A study showed that cats responded so well to Tatarian Honeysuckle that some cats even preferred it more than catnip. However, some states don’t allow the selling or distribution of the plant because it’s invasive.
  • Valerian: Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) is another herb native to Europe and Asia and has been used as a sedative for thousands of years. A study showed that out of 100 cats, 50% were affected by valerian. The effect was a nice high, followed by sleepiness.

divider-catclaw1 Conclusion

You don’t need to worry about your cat being allergic to catnip. However, you should monitor how much catnip your cat enjoys. It’s a fun plant for everyone involved, but too much of a good thing is always bad. Practice moderation and avoid high-potency products like catnip oil, and your cat should be fine.

Featured Image Credit: Gaston Cerliani, Shutterstock

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