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Can Kittens Have Catnip? Is Catnip Safe for Kittens As Well As Cats? – 10 important things you should know

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Can Kittens Have Catnip?

Catnip is a rather funny concept. The unassuming herb, in mere minutes, can have even the coolest and calmest cat giddily squirming all over your den rug without a single care in the world. Although many cats go batty for catnip, young kittens typically are unaffected by the stuff.

About Catnip

The minty perennial has long been appreciated for its surprising physiological effect on some cats. Nepetalactone is one of the primary components of catnip, and the chemical compound can seemingly drive a cat wild. According to the Humane Society of the United States, the scent of the aromatic oil might emulate the actions of “happiness” chemical substances, and therefore elevate a cat’s mood — in a major way.


Although catnip is totally harmless and safe around kittens, both to smell and to eat, it isn’t necessarily effective. The herb’s influence is genetic, so not all cats respond to it, according to the Humane Society of the United States. If a kitten is going to be a catnip lover, you usually can tell that when he is 3 to 6 months old. A very young kitty’s response to catnip all over the floor by him will probably be indifference — and that’s totally normal.


If your kitten has reached the half-year mark in age, you might indeed notice an obvious “result” of catnip. If you offer a little bit of the stuff for your kitty to smell, he might caress his wee body all over it, chew on it, lick it and just act like one happy camper.

The joy typically ends within minutes. And it usually takes at least one hour for a cat to regain those warm and fuzzy feelings if exposed to the herb again, according to the Feline Advisory Bureau.

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Small kittens not only don’t usually notice the effects of catnip, they sometimes even go out of their way to ignore it, according to the Feline Advisory Bureau. The marked herbal odor just might not be to a little fluff ball’s liking.

Catnip, catmint, catwort, field balm — it doesn’t matter what you call it. Lions, tigers, panthers, and your common domestic tabby just can’t seem to get enough of this fragrant herb.

Originally from Europe and Asia, minty, lemony, potent catnip — Nepeta cataria — has long been associated with cats. Even its Latin-derived cataria means “of a cat.” And research shows that cats big and small adore this weedy, invasive member of the mint family. But why do they like catnip so much? Is it safe? And what does it mean if your cat doesn’t like it?

Catnip’s Effects

It’s genetics that determines whether your feline friend falls for this cousin to basil and oregano. About one cat in two inherits a sensitivity to the herb. But you won’t know if your kitten is one of them until sometime between ages 3 and 6 months.

Catnip’s allure is in its volatile oil, specifically one chemical in that oil — nepetalactone. Found in catnip’s leaves, stems, and seeds, it only takes one or two sniffs of that wondrous oil before susceptible felines are licking, chewing, and rolling head-over-tail in kitty bliss.

Though intense, that bliss is usually short-lived, lasting about 10 minutes for most cats. For some, the euphoria translates into aggressive playfulness. At the same time, it makes others mellow and calm. But no matter what reaction your cat has, once the pleasure passes it’ll be about two hours before kitty responds to catnip again.

Can Kittens Have Catnip? by
Can Kittens Have Catnip? by

Catnip: Toys and Training

Because cats do respond to catnip again and again, the herb can be a powerful training aid.

Want to keep kitty from clawing furniture? Rub a scratching post with catnip to make it more appealing. Bought a new cat bed? Sprinkle a little of the herb on kitty’s cushion to make it more attractive to your feline friend.

You can also provide enrichment for an indoor kitty by creating catnip toys. Sprinkle a bit of the herb into an old sock, then knot the top. Or put a big pinch of catnip in a small paper bag and crush the bag into a tight ball.

Is Catnip Safe for Cats & Kittens? Can They Eat It? Is It Ever Unsafe?

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.

Can Kittens Have Catnip? by
Can Kittens Have Catnip? by

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?

Can Kittens Have Catnip? by
Can Kittens Have Catnip? by

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 Kittens Have Catnip? by
Can Kittens Have Catnip? by

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!

Can Kittens Have Catnip? by
Can Kittens Have Catnip? by

Facts about Catnaps : Can Kittens Have Catnip?

  • Catnip (Nepeta cataria) is a perennial herb that is a member of the mint family. It can grow to be up to three feet high!
  • The chemical compound in the plant that attracts and affects cats is called nepetalactone. It is found in the leaves and stems.
  • Nepetalactone is a stimulant when sniffed by a cat, producing a “high” that is described as being similar to either marijuana or LSD. (How this was determined, I do not know.) And the effects last for about 10 minutes before wearing off and the cat going back to normal.
  • When a cat eats catnip, it acts as a sedative, but when smelled, it causes the cat to go crazy. It is thought to mimic feline pheremones and trigger those receptors.
  • Cats may react to the plant by rolling around, flipping over, and generally being hyperactive.
  • About 50 percent of cats seem to be affected by catnip, and the behavior that results varies widely between individuals, and it is believed to be an inherited sensitivity.
  • And if your cat does have the sensitivity, it will not emerge until your cat is several months old, young kittens are not affected by the chemicals in the plant.
  • Cats may rub against and chew on catnip to bruise the leaves and stems, which then release more nepetalactone.
  • Catnip is safe for cats. If they eat a lot, they may vomit and have diarrhea, but will return to normal given time (and no more catnip).
  • It is also known to help humans, it has been used for its sedative properties in humans for centuries, having similar properties to chamomile and is a very potent mosquito repellent
  • If cats are exposed to catnip frequently, they may no longer respond to it. Some people recommend that it shouldn’t be given more than once every two or three weeks to prevent habituation.