Can Cats Eat Catnip

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can cats eat catnip

Catnip can be very fun for cats, but it seems like many people don’t know what kind of effect catnip can have on cats and what catnip is. Most people think catnip is an herbal drug of some sort, leading to a lot of problems for their cat.

Let’s take a look at what catnip is, how it affects cats, and can cats eat catnip?

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can cats eat catnip

What is a Catnip?

Catnip, or in Latin Nepeta cataria, is a perennial herb from the Lamiaceae mint family, a relative to oregano and spearmint. Besides the name catnip, it is also called catmint or catswort because of the intense attraction cats have to this herb. The flowers are mainly white, purple, pink, showy and fragrant.  The leaves are heart- shaped and grow up to three feet.

This herb contains the feline attractant called Nepetalactone- mainly found in leaves and stems of the herb, which is responsible for behavioral effects it has on cats, not only domestic cats but all kinds of cats, including tigers and lions.  Nepetalactone is an essential oil that binds cat’s olfactory receptors which is the cause for your cat’s unique behavior.  According to some, neplacatone is similar to marijuana, because they claim that smoking catnip makes you high just like marijuana.

Catnip is known to make cats happy, boisterous, daring, and more playful.  An energetic cat who plays is not only more entertaining to the family, but also one who is getting his/her exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, and sleeps well do to the energy released.  Catnip should not be offered to your pet simply for your enjoyment, but offering the herb to your cat as a treat is a nice little offering on occasion.

Can Cats Eat Catnip?

Yes, cats can eat fresh or processed catnip without a problem. Your cat may just satisfy her taste for greens. As always moderation is the key.  Any treat, whether made for cats or humans, should only be offered in moderation.  Catnip should be given on occasion only so your cat does not become dependent on the herb and become unable to remember how to play without a stimulant.

Effects Catnip has on Cats

The most common effects of catnip range from euphoria to sedation. After smelling or eating this herb, your cat may start rolling and twisting on the floor, jumping, purring, drooling or even rubbing his face on the floor around the catnip.  These are generally signs of happiness in your cat, so you should not be too concerned.  If your cat is behaving in an incredibly unusual way or shows signs of distress, you should stop offering catnip to your pet and perhaps visit the vet to ensure your cat does not have any allergies or risk of aversions.

It is also suggested that cats moan while they are exposed to catnip, as a result of having a chemically induced hallucination.  A moaning cat may be frightening and you may worry you’re your cat is in pain.  When moaning and hallucinating, your cat will be fine, but your cat may exhibit signs of distress if the hallucinations are scary.  The cat may also be scared and nervous if hallucinating because a cat is unaware how the mind works and if s/he will become better soon.  Cats should not be fed any type of treat that will make her/him hallucinate.  Doing so is inhumane.

There are some cases when a cat can behave aggressively under the influence of this herb, but after 10- 15 minutes the aggressiveness will be gone.  If your cat becomes aggressive under the influence of catnip, discontinue the use of catnip and find an alternative for your cat.  If your cat becomes aggressive, but is not a danger to anyone and the emotion passes quickly, you may offer the herb to your pet on occasion so that s/he can benefit from the after effects when the aggressive feelings have passed.

Smelling or Eating the Catnip

The reaction on catnip differs between smelling and eating. While smelling, it may be stimulating, causing only a stimulant effect. It isn’t proved, but it is believed that catnip stimulates the receptors in a cat’s brain to respond to the “happy” pheromones.  All foods and herbs react in cats differently depending upon size, breed, temperament, and tolerance.

One cat may have their ‘happy’ receptors in the brain activated while other cats may have their ‘aggressive’ receptors activated.  Watch your cat for signs of happiness or discontent and use this knowledge in future offerings of the herb.

On the other hand, eating catnip can cause a sedative effect on your kitty and the cat may become pretty mellow.  Activating the ‘relaxed’ receptor of your cat’s brain, the catnip may actually put your cat to sleep rather than making him/her more playful.  However you cat reacts, be mindful of whether you are offering the catnip for your pleasure or the pleasure of your cat.  Please put the needs and wants of your cat first.

Is Catnip Harmful?

Catnip is not harmful at all, to cats or humans. Cats cannot overdose because they simply know when enough is just enough. It can’t cause an addiction, either. Effects last 10- 15 minutes, and after a couple of hours’ cat can consume it again. Catnip can be used to treat upset stomachs and headaches as well.

How Often Can Catnip be Given to Cats?

Some say if cats are too frequently exposed to catnip, they do not respond to it anymore. Veterinarians recommend consuming catnip once every two weeks in order to prevent that happening to your cat

Is it Possible to Grow Catnip at Home?

Growing catnip is not only possible but also very easy to maintain as well, providing your cat a fresh catnip garden year round. Catnip seeds or the whole plant can be found at your local garden store. Catnip grows wonderfully under the sun, so the best spot for it in your home would be near a window that has lots of fresh sunlight, daily.  Catnip is very versatile and can be planted in a garden or in a pot in or outdoors.

How to Dry and Store Away Catnip?

It’s important to highlight that the best type of catnip is fresh and 100% organic. If you would like to dry it on your own, just pop it in a food dehydrator or put it in the oven at 150 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes. You can also hang it and dry it outside, but away from the Sun. Storing dry catnip- put it in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer.

Some Interesting Facts About Catnip

  • Not all cats respond to the catnip the same way.
  • Around 50-70% of cats can be affected by catnip.
  • Males or females, fertile or de-sexed – there is no rule on which cat it will affect.
  • Kittens up to eight weeks old can’t enjoy catnip (they show an aversion to this herb).
  • As already mentioned, catnip effects all kind of cats, from domestic ones to lions and tigers.
  • Sensitivity to Nepetalactone is an inherited trait. If it affects a pregnant cat, it is very likely to affect her kitten when it becomes an adult as well.

After all, many cat owners don’t call it the magical cat herb for nothing. If it affects  your cat, your cat may change into a new, funny and happy pet.



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