Should I Give My Cat Catnip Every Day? The Pros and Cons

What is Catnip?

Catnip is an herb from the mint family that contains a chemical called nepetalactone. This chemical triggers a response when smelled by about 2/3 of cats (Human Society). The response varies from cat to cat but is believed to mimic natural cat pheromones and stimulate natural hunting or mating behaviors (PetMD). The effects of catnip are temporary and harmless for most cats.

Catnip Effects on Cats

cat rolling in catnip

When smelled, catnip can cause euphoric effects in cats like rolling, flipping, and playing. According to Scientific American, catnip contains an organic compound called nepetalactone that binds to receptors in a cat’s nose and induces a “high” feeling when inhaled ( This response, which mimics feelings of happiness and relaxation in cats, is exhibited in around 70-80% of the feline population according to PetMD ( The pleasurable effects of catnip generally last between 5 and 15 minutes before wearing off.

Catnip causes neurosensory stimulation and induces states of euphoria when smelled by susceptible cats. According to Vox, nepetalactone binds to olfactory receptors and stimulates the central nervous system, creating a temporary high akin to the effects of cannabinoids in humans ( While not all cats are affected by catnip, those that are tend to exhibit playful behavior like rolling, flipping, rubbing, and facilitating imaginary hunting after exposure.

Is Catnip Addictive or Harmful for Cats?

Research shows that catnip is not addictive or harmful to cats when given occasionally and in moderation. According to PetMD, cats cannot become addicted to catnip or experience opioid withdrawals from it, no matter how much they are exposed to (1). The chemical compound in catnip that causes the euphoric reaction in cats is called nepetalactone, which binds to olfactory receptors in a cat’s nose and has a stimulating effect. However, cats quickly become desensitized to catnip after being exposed, with the effects wearing off within 5-15 minutes before the cycle can start again. While the response may seem intense, it is just a harmless, temporary reaction.

Additionally, there are no known significant side effects or health risks associated with occasional catnip use. According to USA Today, catnip will not cause addiction or withdrawal symptoms in cats like other drugs might (2). As with any treat or stimulus though, moderation is still best. But when used responsibly, catnip can be a fun, soothing way for your cat to enjoy themselves.

Frequency of Giving Catnip

Most experts recommend giving catnip no more than 1-2 times per week. Daily use may lead to lack of response. According to, experience suggests limiting catnip sessions to 2-3 times per week maximum. Dreamie Treats also recommends starting with small amounts of catnip once or twice a week to avoid overuse.

Catnip contains nepetalactone, which binds to olfactory receptors in cats and induces euphoric effects. However, cats can develop a temporary tolerance if exposed too frequently. Limiting catnip to a couple times weekly allows them to fully experience the effects each time. Daily use runs the risk of them no longer responding to the nepetalactone.

Moderation is key when giving catnip. While not harmful in small amounts, excessive use can make it ineffective. It’s best to reserve catnip for special occasions or as an occasional treat. Following the 1-2 times per week guideline will keep your cat interested in their favorite herb.

Forms of Catnip

Catnip can be given to cats in several forms to keep it interesting for them. The most common forms of catnip include:

forms of catnip

  • Dried catnip – The leaves and flowers of the catnip plant are dried and crumbled into a fine texture that cats can eat or roll around in. Dried catnip tends to be very potent.
  • Catnip spray – Catnip essential oil is diluted with water and put into a spray bottle. Just a few spritzes on a toy or scratching post can activate the catnip for a cat.
  • Catnip-filled toys – Many cat toys on the market are filled with dried catnip. Often the catnip is sealed into pouches within toys so that the scent gradually releases over time as the cat plays with it.
  • Catnip plants – Potted catnip plants can provide entertainment for cats as they rub against, roll in, or chew on the fresh leaves and stems. However, cats may destroy the plant by overindulging.

Giving catnip in a variety of different forms keeps it novel and interesting for cats. Rotating between dried catnip, catnip-filled toys, catnip sprays, and catnip plants can help extend the positive effects of catnip for your feline friend.


Amount of Catnip to Give

When giving catnip to your cat, it’s important not to overdo it. A good rule of thumb is to give cats about 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of dried catnip per session.

measuring catnip dose

You can sprinkle the dried catnip on the floor, add it to toys, or place it in a small bowl or pouch for your cat to sniff and lick. Giving more than 1/2 teaspoon at once is not recommended, as this can lead to overstimulation.

For catnip sprays, only 1-2 quick spritzes are needed. These sprays are highly concentrated, so using too much can be overwhelming for cats. Apply the spray to toys or bedding, allowing your cat to rub against those items.

Start with smaller amounts of catnip and increase slowly if needed. Monitor your cat’s reaction and avoid giving additional catnip if your cat seems overstimulated.

Following these catnip serving sizes will allow your cat to enjoy the positive effects of catnip, without risks of overindulgence.

When to Give Catnip

The best time to give your cat catnip is when your cat seems bored or needs more exercise. Catnip can provide a fun activity for cats and encourage them to play. According to Dreamy Treats, catnip can be given to kittens once they reach 3-6 months old. For adult cats, catnip can be given about once per day. However, it’s best to avoid giving catnip right before bedtime, as the energetic effects can make it harder for your cat to settle down and sleep.

Catnip causes a stimulating and euphoric effect in cats that typically lasts 5-15 minutes. According to Petmate, the catnip experience provides cats with exercise and satisfaction. So using catnip when your cat seems bored or antsy can provide positive stimulation. Just be sure to allow the catnip effects to completely wear off before bedtime. Giving catnip too late at night can overstimulate your cat and make falling asleep difficult.

Safety Tips for Catnip

When giving catnip to your feline friend, it’s important to follow some basic safety tips:

giving cat catnip safely

Store catnip out of your cat’s reach when you’re not directly supervising. Cats can get into open containers of dried catnip. Keeping it stored up high or in a sealed container prevents overindulgence.

Choose organic catnip that is free of pesticides. As cats will likely ingest some of the herb, you want to avoid chemical residues. Organic catnip minimizes this risk.

Don’t apply catnip products directly near your cat’s eyes or nose. Catnip oils can be irritating. Instead, sprinkle loose catnip on the floor or place infused toys away from the face.

With some basic precautions, catnip can be a fun treat. Monitor your cat closely, offer moderation, and store safely.

Signs of Catnip Overuse

While catnip is generally safe for cats when used appropriately, too much catnip can cause negative side effects. Some signs that your cat may be overusing catnip include:

Lack of interest: If your cat suddenly loses interest in toys or activities they normally enjoy after being given catnip, it could be a sign of overuse. The sedating effects of catnip may cause disinterest.

Hyperactivity: Some cats can become overly excited or hyper after too much catnip. This may present as zoomies, restless behavior, or difficulty settling down.

Aggression: In rare cases, a cat given too much catnip may act out aggressively. This could include hissing, biting, scratching or other out-of-character behaviors.

It’s important to stop giving your cat catnip if you notice lack of interest, hyperactivity or aggression after use. These are signs your cat may be overdoing it with the catnip and needs a break.

Catnip Alternatives

While catnip is the most common stimulant for cats, there are some alternatives that can provide similar effects and help vary your cat’s stimulation. Two popular alternatives to catnip are silver vine and valerian root.

Silver vine (Actinidia polygama) comes from the vines and fruit of the silvervine plant native to areas of Asia like China and Japan. Silver vine contains compounds like matatabilactone that induce a response in cats similar to catnip (source). Many cats who show little interest in catnip will react more strongly to silver vine. It can be purchased as loose dried leaves or as infused cat toys.

Valerian root is another catnip alternative made from the root of the valerian plant. It contains active compounds like valerenic acid and acts as a sedative. Valerian provides a calming effect rather than stimulation. It can help anxious or stressed cats relax. Valerian root is available as capsules that can be sprinkled on food or infused into cat toys (source).

Rotating catnip alternatives like silver vine and valerian root allows you to provide your cat variety. It also prevents boredom or loss of effectiveness from repeated catnip exposure.

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