Can Cats Eat Catnip? Is It Safe?

Russell Cargill

Catnip, a well-known herb in the feline world, has intrigued cat owners for generations.

But what exactly is catnip, and can cats eat catnip without any consequences?

In this article, we’ll delve into the fascinating world of catnip, exploring its origins, effects on cats, potential benefits, and whether it’s safe for our furry friends to enjoy.

Additionally, we’ll touch upon the safety of some other commonly used herbs for cats.

Let’s get started!

What Is Catnip?

Catnip, scientifically known as Nepeta cataria, is a member of the mint family and is native to Europe and parts of Asia.

The herb contains a compound called nepetalactone, which is responsible for its unique effects on cats.

It’s most commonly found in the leaves and flowers of the plant, and some cats may also respond to the stems.

The compound nepetalactone is thought to mimic feline pheromones, triggering a response in cats that can range from excitement to relaxation.

Can Cats Eat Catnip?

Cats can safely eat catnip without any harm.

In fact, consuming catnip can intensify its effects on cats.

When ingested, catnip may have a calming influence on some cats, but for others, it may result in increased playfulness and excitement.

Are There Different Varieties?

Yes, there are several varieties of catnip, but the most common one is Nepeta cataria.

Some other related plants, like silver vine (Actinidia polygama) and valerian root (Valeriana officinalis), can also have similar effects on cats.

However, not all cats respond to fresh catnip or its alternatives, as sensitivity to these plants is hereditary.

What Will Happen If My Cat Eats Catnip?

When a cat encounters catnip, whether by smelling or eating it, the nepetalactone binds to receptors in their nasal tissue and stimulates sensory neurons.

These neurons, in turn, trigger a response in the cat’s brain, leading to behaviors like sniffing, rolling, purring, and increased activity.

The effects are generally short-lived, lasting about 10-15 minutes, after which cats become temporarily immune to catnip’s allure for a few hours.

Can Catnip Cause an Upset Stomach in Cats?

While catnip is generally safe, it’s important to note that it can cause an upset stomach in some cats, particularly if consumed in large quantities.

The initial euphoria catnip induces can lead to excessive drooling, rolling, purring, and hyperactivity.

However, too much catnip can result in mild gastrointestinal upset, characterized by vomiting or diarrhea.

This is often a result of your cat’s digestive system reacting to a sudden increase in the amount of roughage consumed.

Therefore, it’s always advisable to moderate the amount of catnip given to your feline companion and monitor their reaction to it.

The Benefits Of Catnip For Cats

While catnip may not have significant medical benefits, it can positively impact a cat’s behavior.

For cats with anxiety or stress, catnip may help promote relaxation. Some benefits include:

Medical Benefits:

Catnip is not a substitute for medical treatment, but it may help alleviate stress and anxiety in some cats.

However, it’s essential to consult a veterinarian for proper advice.

Behavior Benefits:

Catnip can encourage play and exercise in sedentary cats, promoting a more active lifestyle.

Training or Social Interactions:

Catnip can be used as an incentive during training sessions or to encourage social interactions among cats.

Can Cats Overdose On Catnip?

No, cats cannot overdose on catnip.

If a cat consumes a large amount of catnip, it may result in temporary digestive upset, but it is not considered toxic.

However, too much catnip might lead to a reduction in sensitivity to its effects in the future.

Herbs Safe For Cats

Cats can safely consume thyme, basil, rosemary, and cilantro in moderation. These herbs are non-toxic to cats and can add variety to their diet.

However, it’s essential to offer these herbs as treats and not as a substitute for a balanced feline diet.


Safe for cats in small amounts, thyme can be an excellent addition to their diet and may provide mild digestive benefits.


Basil is safe for cats and can be a tasty treat, but it should be given in small quantities.


Cats can enjoy rosemary without any adverse effects, but as with other herbs, moderation is key.


Cilantro is safe for cats and can be offered occasionally, adding some excitement to their taste experiences.

That’s A Wrap

In conclusion, catnip can be an enjoyable and stimulating experience for most cats, but not all felines are affected by it.

As with any herb or treat, it’s essential to offer catnip and other herbs in moderation.

If you notice any unusual reactions in your cat after consuming catnip or other herbs, consult your veterinarian for guidance and peace of mind.

How Long Does Catnip Last?

The effects of catnip usually last for about 10-15 minutes in most cats. After that, they become temporarily immune to its effects for a few hours.

Is Catnip Safe For Cats?

The effects of catnip usually last for about 10-15 minutes in most cats. After that, they become temporarily immune to its effects for a few hours.

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