Can Cats Have Too Much Catnip?
There is no evidence that suggests cats can have too much catnip.
It seems that most cat owners enjoy giving their cats catnip just as much as the cats enjoy getting some catnip. The way their behavior and mood changes is just amazing. They will become extremely hyper and then mellow out in 15-30 minutes. They will roll over, lick, rub on everything, and they may even get a bit vocal! These behaviors also make you wonder “Can cats have too much catnip?”
There is no evidence that cats can have too much catnip, and there are two lines of reasoning to support that. First, catnip has not been found to be harmful to cats in any quantity. Second, cats are very good with self regulation. They’re able to stop themselves from being overstimulated. Studies also show that there is a catnip plateau. This means that once cats ingest a certain amount of catnip, the effects stop increasing. Cats can also develop a tolerance to catnip where the effects decrease overtime.
A cat’s brain will slowly reduce it’s response to catnip overtime, thus protecting itself from excessive stimulation. It is still good to use catnip in moderation or as a special treat to ensure that your cat gets the maximum enjoyment out of ever “dose!”
The effects from catnip are brought on by cats inhaling the catnip’s scent through their vomeronasal organ. However, if cats were to actually eat the catnip, they would not experience any negative effects from it. If your cat eats a very large amount of catnip, it may just upset their stomachs temporarily. As always, please call your cat’s veterinarian if you are concerned about your cat.
What is catnip?
Catnip is a plant that is just one of nearly 250 different species from the mint family. Since it’s in the mint family, it has a nice, leafy green appearance. Although most people have only ever seen the dried and ground up versions sold it most large chain pet stores.
Believe it nor not, catnip isn’t just for cats! Humans have been growing catnip in their gardens and using it for medicinal purposes for centuries! Although it makes your cat go crazy, it sedates and mellows humans out. When made into a tea, it has calming effects just like chamomile does.
Catnip contains an essential oil known as Nepetalactone. This compound is produced in the plant’s leaves and stems. Your cat has a special section of their nose that is normally used to detect cat pheromones. It’s believed that the essential oil in catnip makes its way to this part of your cat’s nose when catnip is inhaled. You may notice your cat lifting their upper lip when inhaling catnip, this is to help cats better inhale and process the oils of the catnip.
Your cat’s brain thinks that this active ingredient is a potent source of cat pheromones. This triggers your cat’s brain into bring happy by playing on the same receptors that produce euphoria. The closest comparison we can make is that humans would need to take a low dose of LSD to feel the same way that cats do when they’re enjoying some catnip. Thankfully catnip isn’t addicting!
What does catnip do to my cat?
The effects catnip can have on your cat honestly depend on genetics! Most studies show that at least 50% of cats are affected by catnip. Adult or teen cats will typically enjoy catnip much more than kittens. The actual effects from catnip vary greatly.
Kitty is on top of the world! They're ecstatic and beyond happy!
Your cat is having great sensory stimulation and is drooling from happiness!
The effects and stimulation have been a lot of fun but your cat is now exhausted, almost as if they were sedated
Some cats start to get grumpy, either from the catnip itself or from the catnip wearing off. They may even growl!
Although rare, some cats will have a negative response to catnip and will cause them to bite and scratch.
How much catnip should I give my cat?
As we discussed above, cats are VERY good at self regulating themselves and you likely don’t ever have to worry about giving them too much. Your cat can not overdose on catnip and your cat knows when they’ve had too much and will actually refuse to inhale or ingest any more. Even if cats weren’t good at self regulation, they start to become immune to the effects of catnip anyways.
You may notice that kittens simply don’t want any catnip at all. Cat’s done develop the sensory sensitivity needed to enjoy catnip until they’re anywhere from about 6 months to 1 year old. You might also notice that tour adult kitty doesn’t show any interest either, somewhere between 30% and 50% of cats just don’t get any effects from catnip.
Start off by rubbing some catnip (or spraying some liquid catnip!) on your kitty’s favorite toy. If you prefer to give pure catnip, then give them a little pinch of dried catnip and see how they react. From here you and gauge whether or not to give them more. You might also want to consider giving them fresh catnip leaves if you can find them. If not, grow your own!
Remember, you can’t overdo it so if you spill too much out and your kitty dives in head first then don’t worry! Just be sure to not give them some right before bed to enhance their night time zoomies! (Speaking of, have you read Why do cats go crazy at night?)