Although you may not have known this, not every cat is crazy about catnip. And if this information comes as a surprise to you, I promise there’s a logical explanation. You see, the reason that not all cats are crazy about catnip is because not all cats possess what is known as the “catnip gene” which is present in felines. In fact, 30-50% of felines don’t even have a reaction to catnip. (If only we could know before we bought all those catnip toys that went unused!) So, for those cats who do respond to catnip, what’s all the hype about—and most of all, is it considered safe for cats to consume? Let’s take a look at whether or not cats can eat catnip…
First off, what is it about catnip that cats like so much?
For humans, there are some things that can make us feel euphoric. And this is because it creates a response in our brains that causes us to positively react. Your cat’s brain is quite powerful. As mentioned above, up to half of cats’ brains won’t respond to catnip. But for the ones that do, their response is triggered due to the nepetalactone in catnip, an oil which be found in the stems, leaves, and seeds. And this oil is so powerfully potent, that it only takes just a few sniffs of this magical plant to send catnip-loving cats into a frenzy.
When cats exhibit a response to catnip, there’s often trilling, zoomies, round pupils, and jumping and frolicking all around. And for us cat owners, it’s quite amusing to observe. If you’re wondering why you’ve never seen a young kitten react to catnip, that’s because the catnip gene doesn’t activate until your kitten reaches 3-6 months of age.
So, can cats eat catnip?
The truth is, it’s best advised for your cat or kitten to gently lick or playfully roll in the catnip. You can spoil your kitty with some fresh catnip, but if you’re overly concerned about your cat ingesting catnip, then it’s probably in your best interest to treat your kitty to catnip toys filled with catnip instead. Your cat isn’t going to necessarily overdose on catnip and be sent to the ER, but practice precaution if you happen to notice your cat ingesting catnip.
“A reaction to catnip lasts only five to 15 minutes. Catnip is ‘purr-fectly’ safe and non-addictive, although ingesting a large amount could potentially cause a mild tummy upset.”
Remember, cats are truly individuals. And while one cat can be totally mellow on catnip, another can easily become aggressively playful—which can cause harm to you or another cat in your home. So, just like anything, practice moderation when exposing your cat to catnip.
Catnip is a perennial herb that is part of the mint family. In some regions, it’s actually called catmint.
While native to Europe, catnip now grows just about anywhere in the US. It grows to be about three feet tall and is identified by its ragged heart-shaped leaves and clusters of tubular flowers. Some people consider it a weed because once it takes hold, it can take over.
The feeling cats get from catnip is compared to when a human takes a mild hallucinogenic drug. That feeling, however, depends on whether the cat eats the stuff or smells it. If they eat it, catnip is more like a sedative. When they smell it, they get excited and active.
Male cats are often more attracted to catnip than females because it contains the same chemical that can be found in a female cat’s urine. It sounds gross, but male cats can’t help but love it.
It doesn’t matter how long you leave the catnip out, its effects only last so long. Most cats will feel it for only 10-15 minutes. They won’t be able to get the feeling again until about two hours later.
Cats aren’t the only ones that can experience the soothing effects of this herb. Catnip tea is considered a great natural remedy for humans. It’s similar to chamomile and can help you prepare for sleep. It can also help relieve nausea and headaches. If tea isn’t your thing, a lot of health stores sell catnip capsules.
Studies show catnip repels mosquitoes. When it’s fresh, it’s said to be 10 times more effective DEET. The problem is, the effects don’t last long, and it doesn’t work when applied to the skin. Growing catnip in your garden, however, is a great natural way to ward off buzzing pests.
You can use catnip to help convince your cat to scratch their new scratching post instead of the furniture or to use the expensive new bed they’re doing their best to ignore. And when it’s put in toys, it can help cats stay active and get exercise.
Big cats like lions, tigers, and jaguars can love catnip just as much as domestic cats.