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Can Cats Eat Catnip or Is It Just for Sniffing? Vet-Verified Facts

Written by: Christian Adams

Last Updated on May 22, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team


Can Cats Eat Catnip or Is It Just for Sniffing? Vet-Verified Facts


Dr. Paola Cuevas Photo


Dr. Paola Cuevas

MVZ (Veterinarian)

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

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Everyone knows that cats love catnip. If you’ve never seen a cat’s reaction to the herb, you need to because it’s hilarious. Some cats go crazy on catnip, while others might just sit still and stare at nothing. The effects only last for about 10 minutes, but most cats seem to love catnip and its effects. Catnip is generally safe for cats to eat, though you don’t want to let your cat overindulge, as it may cause undesired gastrointestinal and behavioral issues. Let’s explore more of this topic.

cat face divider 2Is Catnip Safe for Cats to Eat?

Catnip is safe for your feline, which is good since it’s sold at pet stores everywhere! The most common way for cats to enjoy catnip is by sniffing it. However, some pet parents will mix in a little bit with their food. It usually acts as a sedative for your cat when they eat it, but some felines become more animated. Your cat’s behavior could change drastically after eating just a little!

They might become calm and spaced out or frantic and excited. Either way, your cat is in no danger, and there are no lasting effects once the catnip wears off in 5 to 15 minutes.

cat sniffing catnip
Image by: CatCrazy, Pixabay

Does Catnip Have Benefits for Cats?

Nutritionally, there’s not much in catnip to benefit your cat. Cats don’t need to eat many greens to remain healthy. However, the herb makes your cat feel happy, which could be seen as a recreational benefit.

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How Much Catnip Can I Feed My Cat?

While catnip doesn’t pose any real risk to your cat, it’s still a good idea to be cautious about how much you give them. Cats don’t need to eat plants since they’re obligate carnivores. Although they historically ingested small amounts of greens and grains from their prey’s gastrointestinal contents, their primary nutrients are proteins and fats.

While cats sometimes nibble on plants, catnip doesn’t offer nutritional benefits other than a bit of fiber. However, if they eat too much, they can experience vomiting or diarrhea. These are minor concerns, and most cats won’t overindulge in catnip.

cat enjoying cat nip
Image by: Georgia Evans, Shutterstock

Why Do Cats Love Catnip?

For felines, catnip acts as a natural mood enhancer due to a compound called nepetalactone, which may mimic cat pheromones. It can have different effects on cats, though most seem attracted to the herb. Some cats don’t react to catnip at all, and therefore, they are not attracted to it since it is a genetic predisposition. In other words, the response to catnip is inherited.

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Why Should I Give Catnip to My Cat?

There’s no medical reason to give catnip to your cat. It’s not necessary for them to have it, but there are two good reasons why you might still want to consider providing a bit of catnip for your four-legged partner.

First, most cats just like it. Your cat will likely enjoy catnip, which you can easily tell by their reaction. If they enjoy it and it makes them happier, why deprive them of the occasional joy?

Second, watching a cat react to catnip is incredibly entertaining! Some cats have hilarious reactions to catnip that contrast their stoic personalities. This can make catnip just as fun for you as it is for your cat.

What if My Cat Doesn’t React to Catnip?

While most cats like catnip, some cannot feel its effects. About 30% of all felines are immune to catnip and won’t respond to it. For the remaining 70%, catnip provides a brief euphoric effect. If your cat is part of the 30% unaffected by catnip, don’t fret. They’ll never know what they’re missing out on!

gray tabby resting on catnip
Image by: Kelly Magnuson, Shutterstock

What to Do When Catnip Makes Your Cat Aggressive

Rarely, some cats react aggressively to catnip, though it’s uncommon. Usually, the aggressive reaction occurs in males. It’s believed that the pheromones mimicked by the active compound in catnip are mating pheromones, which may be the reason behind the reaction of these cats.

How to Give Catnip to Your Cat

There are many ways you can give your cat this mood-enhancing herb as a treat. You can buy it as a dry herb, such as this 2.25-ounce jar from OurPets Cosmic Catnip. With the dry herb, you can feed it to your cat straight, sprinkle it on their food, or rub it on a scratcher.

catnip and bee
Image Credit: DanielWanke, Pixabay

Another option is a catnip spray, such as the SmartyKat Catnip Mist Spray. This makes it easier to attract your cat to specific areas rather than others, such as when you need to get them to stop scratching your sofa and start scratching their scratching post! But it’s one of the least effective ways to give your cat the “euphoria” associated with catnip.

cat paw dividerConclusion

Catnip is entirely safe for your cat and can make them happier and more playful. Plus, you’ll enjoy watching their hilarious antics after they inhale the herb’s aroma. There are several types of catnip you can give your feline, but be sure not to feed them too much, or they can experience gastrointestinal discomfort, including vomiting and diarrhea.

Featured Image Credit: Gaston Cerliani, Shutterstock

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