An orange cat playing with a toy filled with catnip

Is Catnip Bad for Cats?

Everyone wants a happy purring cat.

In addition to lots of cuddles, playtime, and yummy treats, many cats also enjoy the euphoric feeling associated with catnip. Or more specifically, Nepetalactone (which is the oil found in the leaves, stems, and blossoms of this herb).

But are there any benefits, or is catnip bad for cats?

The answer may surprise you!

Before sprinkling a pinch of dried catnip on your kitty’s favorite toy, Westmonte Animal Clinic encourages pet parents in the Central Florida area and beyond to learn about the reasons why catnip is not only safe to give your feline friend…but beneficial, too.


What is Catnip?

To begin, let’s have a deeper look at what catnip is.

Also known by its scientific name “Nepeta cataria,” catnip is a herb in the mint family. It has light green leaves with small white and purple flowers. PetMD explains that because all cats have a scent organ in the roof of their mouth, when they smell catnip it acts as a mild feline hallucinogen.

That’s why you get a silly, goofy, zoned-out, or highly energetic cat!

Catnip is available in different forms, including:

  • Freshly grown catnip plant
  • Dried catnip
  • Stuffed toys
  • Sprays

Over 70% of cats are affected by catnip.

So, it’s no wonder why pet parents are curious if it’s okay to give their kitties a little bit every now and again.

The final verdict?

Catnip is NOT bad for cats. It’s ok to let your cat enjoy a little every once in a while!

The Humane Society of the United States concludes that so long as catnip is given in moderation (and a cat isn’t allowed to overindulge) this non-toxic herb is purrrfectly safe for most felines. It’s non-addictive and made with natural ingredients.

A black and white cat playing with a cat toy


Why Do Cats Go “Crazy” for Catnip?

It can be funny to watch your cat flop onto their belly and eagerly head and cheek rub a catnip-filled mouse. Generally, the effects of catnip last between 5 and 15 minutes. During this time, a cat may display some (or all) of the following behaviors:

  • Rolling
  • Rubbing
  • Chewing
  • Salivating
  • Licking
  • Sniffing
  • Meowing

Catnip affects a cat’s mood and behavior.

Ultimately, what happens is when a cat rolls in or crushes catnip leaves, the organic compound – nepetalactone – gets released and quickly inhaled. Signals are then sent up to the brain. The so-called “happy chemicals” result in a “high” feeling, leaving your four-legged friend anything from excited and playful to relaxed and serene.

Remember, it’s important to note that no two cats are the same…

Some cats will react differently than others. For example, one may do loops around the house and growl while another enjoys sitting quietly. Yet, either way, it’s a great tool for enriching, entertaining, and exercising your cat.


More Benefits of Catnip

Okay, so we understand all the fun reasons why cats adore catnip.

And it gets even better!



Did you know that chewing catnip has also been found to alleviate anxiety symptoms? Preventative Vet tells us that catnip can have a calming and soothing effect. Therefore, this powerful herb could be helpful for pets struggling with stress, (such as separation or travel anxiety).


Pain Relief

Secondly, catnip is a pain reliever.

This herb has anti-inflammatory properties, making it a potential temporary solution for mild pain in cats.


Can Cats Overdose on Catnip?

Now, just because catnip is loaded with wonderful properties, doesn’t mean pet owners should ignore short-lived side effects. As mentioned above, catnip is 100% safe for the vast majority of cats. It is natural and non-toxic. That being said, there are a couple of things to be aware of.

Firstly, too much catnip can lead to illness.

Although it is impossible to fatally overdose on catnip, a large amount can still make your cat feel sick. The two most common outcomes are:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

If you suspect catnip poisoning, consult with your veterinarian immediately.

Finally, watch for signs catnip brings out the worst in your cat. For instance, overstimulated behaviors such as aggression, biting, and scratching – ouch!

A small white kitten sleeping


Is It Safe For Kittens?

One last question we’re often asked is, “Can I give my kitten catnip?”

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, there is no evidence to suggest that catnip is inherently harmful to kittens. However, young kittens under the age of 6 months likely won’t feel the effects of catnip at all.



There you have it, Florida pet parents!

Westmonte Animal Clinic’s inside scoop on catnip, its numerous health benefits, and an explanation of why cats go crazy for these little dried leaves.

So, the next time you’re shopping at the pet store, consider picking up a catnip toy. Not only is your cat likely to have a fantastic time inhaling the scent, but they will reap the positive mental and physical health benefits, too!

And if you haven’t done so yet, make sure your cat is scheduled for their next wellness exam. Routine checkups on your pet’s health are the best way to keep them healthy and can identify potential health issues early before they become major problems.

New clients are always welcome, so if you’re in the Altamonte Springs or Greater Orlando area, give Westmonte Animal Clinic a call today!