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How Much Catnip Should I Give My Cat? Health & Safety Explained

Brooke Bundy

By Brooke Bundy

cat eating catnip

Did you know that the majority of the world’s cat population goes crazy over catnip? The natural stimulant invigorates up to 80% of felines, sending them on hallucinogenic frenzies and ultimately relaxing them after the excitable episode has passed. An estimated 20-50% of cats don’t react to catnip at all. This is because genetics dictate whether a cat is influenced by nepetalactone1, the compound in catnip that causes the excitable response. But don’t worry, there’s no chance your cat will overdose on this herb. Catnip is completely safe and non-toxic to your cat. However, eating too much catnip may cause diarrhea and vomiting. Just a pinch of catnip is enough for them to feel its positive effects.

hepper cat paw divider

How Much Catnip Is Safe to Give My Cat?

There’s no set limit on how much catnip you should feed your cat. Since cats are super sensitive to this herb’s smell, they really don’t need more than 1-3 tsp. at a time. Eating too much catnip can cause GI upset, but it’s highly unlikely that your cat would eat an upsetting amount. Their bodies can only enjoy catnip for about 10-15 minutes before the effects fade, which naturally regulates how much they can ingest in one sitting. Once this happens, they can’t feel its effects again for a few hours.

Felines respond to the smell of catnip immediately. A typical receptive response is signified by dilated pupils, rubbing against the floor, and burying their faces into the source. Catnip may be tied into a cat’s sexuality somehow since they’re usually immune to its effects until puberty. Some cats even appear aroused when exposed to catnip!

tabby cat savoring catnip in the garden
Image By: Badon Hill Studio, Shutterstock

Creative Ways Your Cat Can Engage with Catnip

Your cat can smell, taste, and play with catnip, making it a multi-sensory delight for felines who are fortunate enough to possess the right genes. Here are some ways you can indulge your kitty with an herbal treat:

  • Cultivate a catnip plant. Also known as catmint, catnip (Nepeta cataria) can be grown indoors or outside. Since these plants can reach 18-24” tall, make sure you select a large container or set apart plenty of garden space for them to grow. Catmint plants need plenty of sunshine and well-draining soil to thrive. Your cat will love to munch on its leaves while sunning itself on your patio.
  • Buy catnip treats. Many store-bought treats contain catnip. It’s like edibles for felines.
  • Bake some homemade treats with catnip. You can include freshly grown catnip from your garden or the dried variety found at the pet store. Try some of these ideas for inspiration.
  • Sprinkle dried catnip herbs on your cat’s favorite things. Take nap time to the next level by scattering dried catnip leaves on your kitty’s favorite blanket. They’ll purr their appreciation.
  • Find a stimulating catnip toy. A quick browse around your local pet store will give you a variety of catnip toy options such as stuffed pouches.

If your cat needs a great toy to get the playing started, we recommend our Hepper Catnip Stick Toy. These sturdy, dual-layer sticks are hand-made in the USA and filled with 100% organic catnip. Choose from a fun range of pastel colors and give your cat hours of playtime!

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...

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Final Thoughts

Although catnip appears to have mind-altering effects, it does not possess the harmful nature of human drugs. There is no way for your cat to accidentally overdose, and the worst thing that could happen if they eat too much is their tummies might be a little upset. You should limit their intake to about 1-3 tsp. at a time, but chances are you really won’t have to regulate this treat. Catnip heavily stimulates your cat’s olfactory system, so they won’t be interested for a few hours after their brief spasmodic playtime.

Featured Image Credit: Doug McLean, Shutterstock

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