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Can I Give My Cat a Catnip Stick? Feline Health and Safety

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By Nicole Cosgrove

catnip sticks

Cat owners can give their cats catnip in a variety of ways. It can be added to toys, given as dried leaves, or used as a spray. A popular new way of providing a catnip fix is with catnip sticks. These sticks are non-toxic, made from natural ingredients, and safe for cats when used in moderation and under supervision. Catnip sticks are also a handy way of keeping your cat’s teeth clean.

Useful they might be, though, catnip sticks can be difficult for some cats to chew on if they have too few teeth or difficulty eating. Here’s everything that you need to know about catnip sticks and a few alternative methods for giving your cat a catnip high.

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What Are Catnip Sticks?

Designed as chewy treats for cats, catnip sticks are made from the stems of catnip plants. These sticks contain the same high-inducing nepetalactone found in the rest of the catnip plant. Not only does your cat get to benefit from a new, interesting form of catnip — and the high that comes with it — but the sticks also help keep their teeth clean.

catnip sticks on white background
Image Credit: Volosina, Shutterstock

Are Catnip Sticks Safe for Cats?

Since catnip sticks are a treat designed with cats in mind, they’re safe, non-toxic, and made from completely natural ingredients. Your cat is unlikely to chew the sticks until they overdose. Once they’ve had enough, they will leave the catnip alone and do something else.

Ingesting catnip by eating the leaves or chewing on catnip sticks also has more of a sedative effect compared to smelling the herb in a cat toy or on their blanket.

As with all catnip treats, though, you should always monitor your cat’s reaction to the herb. Catnip can cause aggression in some cats and is therefore best avoided. Catnip sticks also have the added risk of breaking into small pieces that your cat might choke on, so you should replace them when they start looking too destroyed.

Are Catnip Sticks Safe for Kittens?

There are many things that you can give adult cats that kittens shouldn’t be allowed access to. Catnip, however, is completely safe for kittens. The younger your kitten is, though, the less likely they are to react to the herb.

Even if a kitten has inherited the gene that gives them a reaction to catnip, most kittens won’t react until they are between 6 and 12 months old. Despite their lack of reaction, catnip isn’t toxic to kittens and can even be given to nursing cats. You might want to leave the catnip until your kitten is old enough to enjoy it, though.

kitten at home
Image Credit: OlenaPalaguta, Shutterstock

Why Do Cats Love Catnip?

Catnip contains a compound known as nepetalactone, a natural insect repellent designed to protect the plant from aphids — it also works well against mosquitoes. But while it might protect the plant, it also creates a biological reaction in one in three cats.

For cats that are susceptible to the effects of catnip, this biological reaction affects their emotions, particularly positive ones like happiness. It is this intense, happy feeling that cats adore when they eat catnip. For a short 5–15-minute period, your cat can enjoy a pleasant high and then curl up for a nap.

Unlike many drugs that humans take at a similar high, catnip is not toxic or addictive. Cats are good at knowing when they’ve had enough, and after their brief high, they won’t be affected by catnip again for at least 2 hours.

If they do have too much catnip, it can result in vomiting and diarrhea, but these symptoms often pass on their own without becoming serious.

tuxedo cat playing with a mouse toy with catnip
Image Credit: Suzanne Tucker, Shutterstock

Alternative Ways to Give Catnip to Cats

Catnip sticks are nice treats, but they are not the only options for giving catnip to your cat. If your feline has difficulty chewing or perhaps doesn’t like catnip sticks, there are a few other ways that you can help them get their fix.

Dried Leaves

Sometimes, the simplest way is the best solution. Whether you buy catnip from a store or grow your own, it’s available as leaves cut into tiny pieces. You can use them to replace the catnip in certain toys or just give them straight to your cat for them to roll in or nibble on.

Don’t give them too many, though. With catnip, a little goes a long way, and your cat only needs a tiny pile of flakes to enjoy the effects. Freeze the leaves that you don’t use to make them last longer.

Fresh Leaves

Although dried leaves last longer, you can give your cat fresh leaves too. If you grow catnip yourself, your cat will probably find their way into your plants on their own. You might find them chewing or rolling on your catnip plants, so it’s best if you keep the plant out of reach or take steps to protect the base of the plant from damage.

cat eating catnip
Image Credit: Doug McLean, Shutterstock

Oils or Sprays

Sprinkling flakes everywhere can get messy, which is where oils and sprays come in handy. If you want your cat to take interest in a new bed or a scratching post, spray it with catnip instead of sprinkling dried leaves everywhere. While sprays don’t contain as much nepetalactone as dried or fresh catnip, they can still be useful.

Make sure you dilute concentrated oils, though, as they may be too strong for your cat.

Toys

Catnip toys are perhaps the most common way that your cat will get their high. Pet stores or your local supermarket will sell commercial toys with catnip laced through them. You can even make your own stuffed cat toys with a few sprinkles of dried leaves inside or just use a simple, budget-friendly, scrunched-up paper ball.

Whether you buy catnip toys or make your own, remember that catnip wears off over time. For a long-lasting catnip toy that your cat can use for years, find an option that enables you to replace the catnip inside. These toys often have small compartments where you can put a fresh batch of dried catnip leaves.

Our Pick for Best Catnip Toy:

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...

Catnip toys are a lot of fun for most cats, but you do want to find a high-quality version. Our Hepper Catnip Stick Toys are double-bagged and bite-proof, perfect for even the sharpest claws and teeth. They're also full of 100% organic catnip, shaped like your cat's natural prey, and hand-made in the USA.

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Conclusion

Catnip sticks are among the best ways to give your cat catnip. It’s safe, made from real catnip, and non-toxic to your cat. Not only does chewing on these sticks help keep your cat’s teeth clean, but the sticks also contain the same nepetalactone that’s found in the rest of the plant. Ingesting the nepetalactone allows your cat to benefit from the happy high that catnip is known for and can help your cat sleep.


Featured Image Credit: lermont51, Shutterstock

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