Are you worried about catnip? Perhaps you are not entirely sure if it's safe? Do you want to confirm its possible side effects before you start giving your kitties some? Well, you're in the right place!
Disclaimer: Always talk to your veterinarian before changing your pet's diet, medicine, or physical activity. This information is NOT an alternative to a veterinarian's opinion.
Is Catnip Safe for Cats & Kittens? Can They Eat It? Is It Ever Unsafe?
Cousin to mint, catnip leaves have long been valued for their surprising physiological impact on some cats. Nepetalactone is among the critical elements of catnip, and that is the chemical substance that can relatively drive a cat wild. According to the Humane Culture of the United States, the compound in catnip may replicate the "joy" chemicals in the brain. And for this reason, catnip affects a cat's state of mind--in a significant way.
A catnip plant is safe for felines that react to it, whether in a hyper way or in a minimal way. It's approximated that about 50% of cats will have hyper reactions to the herb, while the other 50% will be merely soothed by it.
Catnip is a herb that--together with basil and oregano--belongs to the mint family. These are herbs we people frequently use in the kitchen for food preparation and flavoring.
This herb can even be safely consumed by humans (specifically when the dried-out leaves are made into teas!). In some cases, it is used as a natural remedy for a selection of human disorders, though this is rare because that there are natural herbs that are much more effective than this herb.
However, these numbers differ depending on which sources you have. Some sources I found state that a third of cats react to it, a third of cats have a moderate reaction, while the last third does not respond to catnip.
Whichever statistics you look at, the consensus is that there's nothing wrong with your cat if they do not appear to respond to catnip.
How Does Catnip Work?
Catnip is a mild hallucinogenic material. One whiff and your cat have an episode of hyperactive behavior. The specific source of catnip's effect isn't entirely understood, but it tends to imitate happy pheromone in a cat's body. This herb sends happy compounds to the cat brain, making them react the way they do.
How Much Time Does The Catnip Effect Last?
The effect lingers for about 10 minutes. After that, the kitty will get burnt out and endeavor to find something new to do. It takes a cat's system approximately two hours to overcome this catnip effect.
Are There Any Long-Term Side Effects of Catnip?
The sole long-term effect of this herb has nothing to do with safety: if you regularly give your cat catnip, they might develop a resistance to its effects.
While no one knows how much exactly to give, so a cat doesn't develop resistance to catnip, I've seen sources that giving cats the herb every two or three weeks apart can help them stay reactive to the herb.
Can My Cat Become Addicted to Catnip?
Never. Catnip is not addictive, and while you may think that your cat is addicted to it when you give your cat the nip, this is only a matter of excitement and love for the relaxing and enticing herb, not out of any dependency.
A cat's excitement over catnip is similar to the enthusiasm we people feel when our favorite dessert is on the table, like seeing an ice cream being pulled out of the freezer after months of not having it! Show your cat a favorite treat, and you will get the same excited reaction in your feline.
Once again, the reaction cats have over this herb is one of excitement, not dependency.
Can My Cat Get Ill from Catnip?
While it's perfectly safe for your feline to ingest the herb, a cat can have an upset stomach from eating way too much catnip.
And what does sickness from having large amounts of this herb look like? Vomiting or diarrhea, that's it! Once more, catnip has no lasting impacts. Once your pet stops consuming the herb and is given a little time to recover, all the symptoms of "overdosing," in a manner of speaking, will go away.
Is Catnip Safe for Kittens?
Catnip is safe for kittens. But naturally, you will not want to give a kitten too much, as over-ingesting can lead to vomiting and looseness of the bowel. Kittens have smaller bodies. Hence they will be more susceptible to serious illness because of diarrhea.
Additionally, kittens cannot respond to this herb until they are around 3-6 months old. And given that you're likely thinking about offering your kitty organic catnip if they react hyper-actively to it, it might be a little pointless to give a very young kitten this herb.
If you did not want to read through all of those, here's my TL;DR (too long; did not read); in summary: catnip is safe. It's safe for adult cats to smell and chew; this is true for kittens as well.
The effect of catnip subside; when you see the impact of catnip wear off in your cat, they do not linger past that point. Additionally, there are no long-lasting effects (good or bad) that results from smelling or chewing catnip besides this one:
If a cat consumed way too much over a short period, it might become less sensitive to its effects.
There are situations where the herb can make your cat ill--but these instances are extremely rare; it only happens if your pet cat has way too much catnip all at once, the symptoms are just mild. They will go away, eventually. Just be sure to get that catnip spray or catnip toy away from your cat while they recuperate.
That's my summary!
Watching a cat react to a catnip toy is genuinely entertaining. While catnip infamously makes cats go a little crazy, it's an entirely safe natural herb. Giving catnips to kittens early isn't a problem, although your cat may not react to it if they're still very young.