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Can I Give My Kitten Catnip? How Old Should They Be?

Nicole Cosgrove Profile Picture

By Nicole Cosgrove

Cat sniffing catnip from cat toy

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’re about 6 months old. Some kittens may react to it when they’re about a year old, while others simply won’t react to it at all.

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

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 or ingest nepetalactone, which is an oil produced by the plant. Cats have a scent organ on the roof of their mouth called the vomeronasal gland. When the scent of nepetalactone reaches the vomeronasal gland, it can travel up to the brain. This can cause a behavioral response in cats.

Do All Cats Like Catnip?

cat playing with catnip mouse
Image Credit: Chewy

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 doesn’t respond to catnip, you can try giving it silvervine, another plant with similar effects to catnip. A study completed in 2017 shows that more cats react to silvervine than catnip. 86% of cats in this study reacted to silvervine while only 68% reacted to catnip.

How to Know If Your Kitten Is Reacting to Catnip

Kittens will display different behaviors to catnip. Some will lick and roll around while others will suddenly become extremely active. Kittens can also become more relaxed and affectionate. In some cases, kittens can show aggression.

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. They can even eat a little bit of catnip and may experience digestive health benefits.

However, 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’ll 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!


There’s 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 silvervine to see if it reacts to it instead.

Featured Image Credit: tamara321, Shutterstock

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