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Can I Give My Kitten Catnip? Vet-Reviewed Guide & FAQ

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By Nicole Cosgrove

Cat sniffing catnip from cat toy

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Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Marta Vidal-Abarca

BVSc GPCert (Ophthal) MRCVS (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Many cats go crazy for catnip and can start acting completely different after getting a whiff of it. Fortunately, catnip is completely safe and non-toxic for cats of all ages, including kittens. So, you don’t have to worry if your kitten ingests a little bit or rolls around in it.

Unlike adult cats, most kittens won’t start to feel the effects of catnip until they are about 6 months old. Some kittens may react to it when they are about a year old, while others simply won’t react to it at all.

Catnip is a curious plant with fascinating effects. Here’s what you need to know about this interesting plant and its relationship to cats.

hepper cat paw divider

What Is Catnip?

Catnip, or Nepeta cataria, is a plant species that belongs to the mint family. It’s also known as catswort, catwort, and catmint. Despite its effects on cats, it doesn’t contain any psychedelic properties.

Cats react to catnip when they smell nepetalactone, which is an oil produced by the plant. When the scent of nepetalactone reaches the cat’s olfactory system, it travels up to the brain. This can elicit behavioral responses in some cats.

cat smelling catnip
Image Credit: Kassel95, Pixabay

Do All Cats Like Catnip?

No, some cats will not react to catnip. About 60% of cats will experience the benefits of catnip. Research shows that a cat’s reaction to catnip is related to a dominant genetic trait.

If your kitten does not respond to catnip, you can try offering them silver vine, another plant with similar effects to catnip. A study completed in 2017 shows that more cats react to silver vine than catnip. Almost 80% of cats in this study reacted to silver vine, while 67% reacted to catnip.

How to Know if Your Kitten Is Reacting to Catnip

Kittens will display different behaviors to catnip. Some will head rub and roll around while others will suddenly become extremely active.

The effects of catnip usually wear off after about 10 minutes. Then, it usually takes around 30 minutes without any contact in between for cats to react to it again.

Can My Kitten Overdose on Catnip?

Kittens can’t overdose on catnip as it has no psychoactive properties, and does not have a cumulative effect. They can even eat a little bit of catnip and may experience digestive health benefits.

However, speak to your vet if you are planning to feed your cat catnip. It has been described that eating too much catnip can cause an upset stomach. So, if your kitten develops a habit of licking and eating a lot of catnip, you will want just to lay out a little bit at a time to prevent gastrointestinal upset.

Catnip is safe for kittens, but only in moderation. A sturdy toy like Hepper’s Catnip Stix can give your kitten hours of safe fun!

Hepper Stick Catnip Cat Kicker Toy
46 Reviews
Hepper Stick Catnip Cat Kicker Toy
  • No Filler - Like all the best cat toys our is stuffed with 100% organic catnip. Cheap cat toys with...
  • Flexible Play - Simple plush shape is great for biting, scratching and pawing. It can start life as...

hepper cat paw divider


There is no age restriction when it comes to giving a kitten catnip. However, most kittens will start to react to catnip when they’re between 6-12 months old. So, you may want to save the catnip toys for later on in a kitten’s development. If your kitten doesn’t end up enjoying catnip, you can always try using Silver Vine to see if they react to it instead.

Featured Image Credit By: tamara321, Shutterstock

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