Does Catnip Soothe Your Cat’s Upset Stomach?

What is catnip and how does it affect cats?

Catnip is an herb from the mint family that contains a chemical called nepetalactone. When cats smell or ingest catnip, the nepetalactone binds to receptors in their nose and mouth, causing a euphoric reaction (1). The response is similar to when humans inhale substances like marijuana or ethanol.

Not all cats react to catnip. Around 50-70% of cats have the genetic trait that allows them to experience the euphoric effects (2). For those cats that do react, the effects of catnip generally last between 5-15 minutes before wearing off.

cat rolling in catnip with blissful expression

Common reactions to catnip include rolling around, flipping over, rubbing against objects, meowing or growling, hyperactivity, and general signs of euphoria. The herb essentially produces a temporary stimulating high for cats.

While catnip does not provide any lasting medical benefits, it is commonly used by owners as a form of environmental enrichment or bonding activity with their cat. It allows cats to engage in natural play behaviors.

Overall, catnip produces a harmless euphoric reaction in many cats that can be enjoyable in moderation. However, large amounts may cause overstimulation or gastrointestinal distress.

(1) https://www.humanesociety.org/resources/crazy-catnip
(2) https://www.petmd.com/cat/general-health/what-is-catnip

Why do some cats react strongly to catnip while others don’t?

The active chemical compound in catnip that causes euphoric effects in cats is called nepetalactone. Sensitivity to nepetalactone is an inherited genetic trait in cats. Whether a cat responds to catnip is determined by a recessive gene, so kittens can only display a sensitivity to catnip if they inherit the gene from both parents.

Around 30-50% of cats lack the genetic sensitivity to nepetalactone and will not react to catnip at all. According to PetMD, kittens younger than 6 months old also typically do not respond to catnip. They need to mature before the catnip reaction can be triggered. Most cats develop sensitivity to catnip by the time they are 1 year old.

So for a cat to enjoy and react strongly to catnip, two factors need to align – they must have inherited the catnip sensitivity gene from both parents, and they need to be old enough for the sensitivity to develop, usually around 6 months to 1 year old. This explains why some adult cats go crazy for catnip, while others appear unaffected.

Does catnip provide any health benefits for cats?

Some anecdotal reports claim that catnip provides various health benefits for cats, but there is limited scientific research supporting these uses. Catnip has been said to help soothe anxious or stressed cats, relieve digestive issues like upset stomach or constipation, and act as a mild sedative. However, most evidence is based on cat owner observations rather than clinical studies. One small study did find that nepetalactone, the active compound in catnip, had a weak sedative effect on cats when inhaled. But larger controlled studies are still needed to confirm any medical benefits of catnip for cats.

person giving cat pumpkin supplement

Overall, while catnip is generally considered safe for cats, there is no strong proof it provides significant health advantages. Most of the purported benefits remain unproven by science. More research is required to validate if catnip tea, treats or toys have tangible positive effects for cats beyond inducing temporary euphoria or relaxation when smelled or ingested. As with any supplement for pets, owners should exercise caution and consult a veterinarian first before giving catnip for any health purpose.

Can catnip help with stomach issues in cats?

There is anecdotal evidence that catnip may help relieve certain gastrointestinal issues in cats, such as gas, constipation, and diarrhea. The chemical compounds in catnip are believed to help relax the gastrointestinal tract and relieve muscle tightness that can cause discomfort.

Some cat owners report that giving their cats catnip or catnip-based treats helps with minor stomach upsets. The soothing, relaxing properties of catnip may allow the digestive system to recover more quickly.

However, there have been no direct scientific studies investigating the effects of catnip specifically on feline stomach issues. The evidence for its benefits is mainly empirical or anecdotal at this point. More research is still needed to confirm catnip’s efficacy as a remedy for gastrointestinal problems in house cats.

Overall, catnip appears mostly safe when used appropriately, with minimal side effects. So it may be reasonable for cat owners to try catnip to ease temporary stomach discomfort in their pets. But for any persisting or severe gastrointestinal issues, veterinary advice is recommended.

Potential risks and side effects of catnip for cats

While catnip is generally considered safe for cats, there are some potential side effects to be aware of. Overindulgence in catnip can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, and upset stomach in some cats (1). The active chemical compound in catnip, nepetalactone, can cause these stomach issues when consumed in large quantities.

Cats with kidney disease are also advised to avoid or limit catnip, as the nepetalactone may potentially worsen kidney problems. Pregnant and nursing cats should similarly limit or avoid catnip, as the effects on developing kittens are unknown (2).

In addition to stomach upset, other potential side effects of too much catnip include dizziness, hyperactivity, and difficulty walking normally. Some cats may also experience a “hangover” effect after the catnip wears off. Overall, catnip is safe when given occasionally and in small amounts, but caution is advised for cats prone to stomach issues or with certain health conditions.

(1) https://www.petmd.com/cat/general-health/what-is-catnip

(2) https://www.webmd.com/pets/cats/catnip-effects-on-cats

Recommended dosage and delivery methods for catnip

When giving catnip to your cat, it’s best to start with small amounts and monitor their reaction. Catnip affects cats differently, so giving a small dose first allows you to gauge their sensitivity.

owner sprinkling a small pinch of dried catnip for their cat

According to pet experts, a good starting amount is 1/4 to 1 teaspoon of dried, loose catnip. Sprinkle this small pinch in front of your cat and observe their response. If they seem to enjoy it without any concerning side effects, you can gradually increase the dose up to around 1-2 tablespoons.

Beyond loose dried catnip, there are several delivery methods to try:

  • Catnip-filled toys – Many cat toys contain catnip which will be released as your cat plays with it.
  • Catnip sprays – These sprays can be applied to toys, scratchers, bedding or other surfaces. It allows your cat to get the scent without ingesting the catnip.
  • Catnip treats – Catnip is available in tasty treat form but monitor consumption to avoid overdose.

No matter how you give catnip, it’s generally recommended to limit use to 1-2 times per week at most. This helps maintain its positive stimulating effects on your cat.

See this reference for more on catnip dosage recommendations: https://wagwalking.com/wellness/how-much-catnip-should-you-give-a-cat

Other natural remedies for cat stomach issues

In addition to catnip, there are some other natural remedies that may help soothe an upset stomach in cats:

Pumpkin – Pumpkin is a good source of soluble fiber, which can help regulate digestion. Adding a spoonful of plain, unsweetened canned pumpkin to your cat’s food may help settle their stomach. Just make sure it’s 100% pumpkin and not pumpkin pie filling.

Digestive enzymes – Enzyme supplements designed for cats can aid digestion by helping break down fats, proteins and carbs. Consult your vet on an appropriate enzyme supplement.

Probiotics – Probiotic supplements support healthy gut flora and may reduce stomach upset. Look for a cat-specific probiotic powder or paste that contains strains like Enterococcus faecium or Bifidobacterium.

Ginger – A small amount of grated ginger may help alleviate nausea and vomiting. Always consult your vet before giving ginger.

Slippery elm – The inner bark of the slippery elm tree contains mucilage which coats and soothes the digestive tract. Ask your vet about slippery elm dosage for cats.

When to seek veterinary advice for cat stomach problems

Persistent digestive issues in cats like vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, weight loss, lethargy, and loss of appetite are signs that you should make an appointment with your veterinarian. These symptoms could indicate serious underlying conditions that require medical attention and treatment.

Signs that your cat may have a more serious digestive problem include:

  • Vomiting multiple times a day or vomiting that contains blood
  • Diarrhea lasting more than 2 days or diarrhea with blood in the stool
  • Significant weight loss over a short period of time
  • Lethargy, weakness, or other concerning behavioral changes
  • Loss of appetite for more than 1 day
  • Abdominal swelling or tenderness
  • Difficulty defecating or bloody stools
  • Excessive straining or crying when trying to use the litter box

According to veterinarians, chronic vomiting or diarrhea can lead to dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, and malnutrition in cats 1. So it’s important not to wait if these symptoms persist. Make an appointment as soon as possible if your cat is exhibiting any of the above signs for more than a day or two.

Causes for chronic digestive upset can include infections, parasites, food allergies or intolerances, inflammatory bowel disease, organ dysfunction, obstruction, and certain cancers. Diagnostic tests like bloodwork, imaging, endoscopy or biopsy may be needed for your vet to determine the underlying cause and recommend appropriate treatment.

Don’t hesitate to call your vet if your cat is showing persistent digestive problems or other concerning symptoms. They can advise you on the urgency of the situation and whether emergency veterinary care is warranted.

Tips for preventing cat stomach problems

There are several ways cat owners can help prevent digestive issues in their feline companions. A high-quality diet is essential, as poor nutrition can be a major contributor to stomach troubles. Look for cat foods with easily digestible proteins and limited ingredients. Gradually transition between foods over 5-7 days to avoid GI upset. Canned food with high moisture content can also be beneficial.

Regular exercise helps motility and gut health. Aim for at least 15 minutes of playtime per day. Make sure your cat has access to clean, fresh water at all times to avoid dehydration. Chronic stress can also aggravate GI issues, so provide a calm, comfortable home environment. Using synthetic feline pheromones like Feliway can help relax anxious cats.

owner playing with cat using an interactive fishing pole toy

Routine vet checkups allow early detection and treatment of conditions like food allergies, inflammatory bowel disease, parasites, and more. Be attentive to changes in litterbox habits, appetite, or behavior that could indicate a problem. Addressing any stomach troubles promptly can help prevent chronic conditions down the road.

With proper care and nutrition, most cats can enjoy good digestive health. Partner with your vet at the first sign of issues for the best chance of resolving stomach woes and keeping your cat happy and comfortable.

Takeaways on Catnip for Cat Stomach Issues

Based on the available research, catnip may provide some relief for stomach issues in cats by relaxing the gastrointestinal tract. However, the evidence is still quite limited and more robust studies are needed.

Cat owners should use catnip carefully for stomach problems and consult with a veterinarian first, especially if symptoms persist or seem severe. Do not rely on catnip as a substitute for proper veterinary advice and care.

When used appropriately under a vet’s guidance, catnip may be one additional tool for managing minor stomach upset. But it is not a cure-all and should not replace diagnosis and treatment of underlying conditions.

In many cases, dietary adjustments, medications, or stress reduction may be more effective remedies for gastrointestinal issues in cats. Track your cat’s response to catnip and discontinue use if no benefits are observed.

While catnip is generally safe, always monitor your cat closely when introducing new substances and stop if any adverse reactions occur. Moderation is advised when using catnip to soothe a cat’s stomach.

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