Catnip is an herb with a wide variety of uses and is most well-known for the strange behavior that it causes in cats. While it’s harmless and non-addictive to cats of all ages, including nursing felines and kittens, giving catnip to your pregnant cat isn’t recommended. Catnip can sometimes act as a uterine stimulate and result in premature labor.
Despite not being recommended for pregnant cats, catnip is safe for nursing felines and kittens. This guide will teach you more about catnip, what it is, and its suitability for kittens and pregnant cats.
What Is Catnip?
Catnip is a non-toxic herb that’s part of the mint family. Also known as catmint, field balm, catswort, or Nepeta cataria in Latin, it’s a plant with heart-shaped leaves that’s native to Europe, Africa, and Asia. While it’s often considered to be a weed in the U.S.A., it has a variety of health benefits, though it’s best known for inspiring a range of strange behaviors in cats.
The reaction that it causes in cats is due to the chemical nepetalactone, a natural insect repellent. It also acts as a pheromone that cats are attracted to, which is why they love catnip so much.
Can Pregnant or Nursing Cats Have Catnip?
Catnip might not be harmful to cats, but allowing your pregnant cat access to it isn’t recommended. If your female cat is susceptible to hyperactive behavior brought on by a reaction to catnip, they might injure themself during their high. This can risk the health of your cat and her unborn litter.
The biggest issue posed by catnip to pregnant cats, however, is that the herb also stimulates the uterus, which can induce labor. If she’s given free access to catnip, your pregnant cat might deliver her litter prematurely, which can be dangerous for the kittens. However, it’s safe to give catnip to nursing cats. It won’t harm them or their kittens. That said, you should still ensure that your nursing cat receives the right nutrition in her diet, so don’t give her too much.
Remember that nursing cats have to keep themselves and their litter healthy until the kittens are weaned. For this, they need a balanced diet that’s high in nutrients so they can recover from their pregnancy and support the growth of their kittens.
Can Kittens Have Catnip?
Non-toxic, natural, and non-addictive, catnip is safe for cats of all ages. You can give it to kittens too, although they’re much less likely to react to the herb. They might grow into adults that love the stuff, though.
Kittens become more susceptible to the effects of catnip as they age and usually start to show a reaction between 6 months to 1 year old. Some kittens might show a reaction earlier, but it’s not common.
How Does Catnip Affect Cats?
We’ve all heard funny tales of cats high on catnip. It’s an herb that most cat owners have tried at least once just to see what strange behavior their cat might exhibit. However, not all cats react the same way when they’re around the herb.
Sometimes, catnip results in aggression. This isn’t a common reaction, but it’s a good reason to supervise your cat when they’re around catnip, especially if you have two or more cats. Introduce your cats to catnip individually to make sure they don’t have an aggressive response. If they do, it’s better to avoid catnip altogether.
Catnip only affects about 60% of cats, and some don’t react at all. It’s difficult to say why this is the case, but some studies believe that the reaction is caused by your cat’s genes. Some cats don’t inherit the gene necessary for a reaction with catnip.
Cats also become temporarily immune to the effects of catnip for an hour or two following their high. While the effects of catnip only last for a few minutes, your cat won’t be susceptible to another high for a while. They can also build up a tolerance to catnip over time, which means your once susceptible cat could stop reacting to catnip altogether if they’re exposed to the herb too often.
The most common reaction—and the funniest—is hyperactivity. Cats that are susceptible to the herb often act strange for the 5–15 minutes that their catnip high lasts. They’ll roll around, meow, race around the house, or play for a while before curling up for a nap as if nothing happened.
Kittens and Seniors
Out of all cats, kittens less than 6 months old and senior cats are the least likely to react to catnip at all. Senior cats that have had a lifetime of playtimes with catnip might have built up a tolerance over the years. While they might still get high on occasion, their tolerance to the herb also makes them more likely to be immune to the effects.
For kittens, before they reach 3 months old, their sense of smell isn’t fully developed, and they’re less likely to be able to properly smell catnip. To find out if they’re susceptible to catnip, you’ll have to wait until they’re older. Catnip won’t harm them, though, and you can give kittens a bit of catnip to test their reaction as they grow.
For some cats, especially when they eat the plant or the dried leaves instead of breathing it in, the result of exposure to catnip is drowsiness. While you might be looking forward to seeing your cat’s hyperactivity, they might surprise you by nibbling on a few of the leaves and then promptly curling up to go to sleep.
Catnip also has a sedative effect on dogs and can be used to help with anxiety in some canines.
Vomiting and Diarrhea
Cats aren’t likely to overdose on catnip, but if they do, it might upset their stomach. Since it’s not toxic and doesn’t cause addiction, catnip won’t cause a fatal reaction. Cats are also good at knowing when enough is enough. They’re likely to ignore the plant once they’ve gotten their fill rather than eat too much.
If they do overdo the catnip, they can suffer from vomiting and diarrhea, but these symptoms should pass on their own once the catnip is out of their system. You can help by limiting your cat’s access to the herb and monitoring playtime. This will also help you prevent your cat from developing an immunity to the effects of catnip.
Ordinarily, catnip isn’t harmful to cats. It’s safe for all ages, even if some cats don’t react to its effects. However, catnip can be dangerous when given to pregnant cats. It can be a uterine stimulant and can cause your pregnant cat to go into labor. This can lead to the kittens being born prematurely.
To be safe and ensure the health of your cat and her kittens, steer clear of catnip until the pregnancy is over.
Featured Image Credit: fabiansaragoza, Pixabay