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What is catnip

Health & Wellness

What is catnip and can you give it to your cat?

Here’s why cats go crazy for this treat

Catnip isn’t your average pet treat, and it’s not for every cat. The non-addictive oil can actually cause your pet to mildly hallucinate — and while some cats love it, others can have negative reactions or not feel the effects at all. There’s a lot to unpack here, which is why we have Dr. Aliya McCullough, veterinarian and pet health advocate, to walk us through all things catnip.

What is catnip?

Catnip is made from an herb in the mint family and is often grown in the upper-middle portion of the U.S. and Canada. 

What does catnip do to cats? 

Catnip contains non-addictive, aromatic oils that may make cats mildly hallucinate after eating, scratching or sniffing it. Hallucinations will typically last anywhere between 5 to 15 minutes. Most of the time, cats will roll around or rub against things after eating catnip.

However, catnip affects all cats differently. Ten to 30% of cats don’t respond to its effects — many of these felines tend to be very young or older. Treating your cat to catnip often can decrease its effects, too.  

Is catnip good for cats? 

Catnip doesn’t offer many health benefits — it should be looked at as an occasional treat for your cat that your vet approved.

Is catnip bad for cats? 

Talk to your vet to determine if catnip is safe for your pet to enjoy before treating them. If your cat is typically aggressive, catnip may heighten that behavior. Ingesting catnip can sometimes cause your pet to vomit or diarrhea and too much can trigger seizures. 

How to give cats catnip? 

Always ask your vet if catnip is safe for your pet and get personalized instructions on how to serve it. They may suggest that you start small and find fun ways to serve it, like inside of toys or by sprinkling it on the carpet. 

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Can kittens have catnip? 

With your vet’s permission, kittens can enjoy catnip. However, they may not be able to feel the effects of it until they’re 8 weeks or older. 

Can cats overdose on catnip? 

Cats can overdose on catnip. Separate your cat from the catnip and contact your veterinarian or poison control if you think your cat is having a negative reaction. 

How much catnip is too much? 

Talk to your vet about the right serving size for your cat. With their guidance, serve catnip sparingly and test a variety of toys (a lot of toys have catnip in them) to see which ones your cat responds to best. 

Catnip, when used safely, can be a new and exciting treat for your cat. Now that you know how catnip works, don’t be surprised if your cat scurries over when they hear the bag being opened.

The Dig is the expert-backed editorial from Fetch Pet Insurance. We're here to answer all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park.

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