Catnip is famous for being a cat intoxicant. It’s effects are known far and wide. It’s even become an undeniable part of our culture. For example, Ray Bradburry is quoted as saying that libraries were his catnip.

Given all the hype, you may wonder if catnip is really as powerful as it seems. Will it intoxicate your cat, or turn them into a catnip junkie? Is it safe for kittens?

At what age can a cat have catnip?

Pet parents love making their furry friends happy. When our cats are enjoying themselves, it makes us feel good too. Catnip is well known to make kitty happy, but can you give it to kittens?

Technically, cats of any age can have catnip. However, it might not effect young kittens. The good news is that it won’t harm them either.

What Age Will Catnip Affect Cats?

Catnip will typically affect cats once they are 3-6 months of age. If you give a younger kitten catnip, they are likely to simply ignore it. Of course, every cat is different. Some cats won’t react to catnip at 6 months of age, but will begin enjoying it as they get a bit older. Some cats are never affected by catnip.

Your senior cat may not be interested in catnip either. As cats age, they can lose their sensitivity to catnip.

Why Does Age Matter?

The active ingredient in catnip is nepetalactone. This is very similar to a natural cat pheromone, which is likely why cats are sensitive to it. The pheromone similarity means that cats have a receptor in their brain that responds to catnip.

Researchers also believe this is why catnip is age dependant. Cats who haven’t reached sexual maturity won’t respond to cat pheromone in the same way an adult cat will.

This may also be why catnip doesn’t always affect senior cats. It’s possible that they lose the sensitivity to the pheromone as they age. This can cause them to no longer react to catnip.

What is Catnip?

Catnip is a plant with the scientific name of  Nepeta cataria. It’s a member of the mint family, which makes it a close relation to peppermint. It’s native to Europe and Asia, but it now thrives in most parts of the world.

Types of Catnip

There are several forms of catnip available. They are all made from the catnip plant, but they come in different forms. Dried catnip is a favorite for many cat owners, and can also be used to make a tea for you to enjoy. Just buy human grade catnip if you plan on indulging as well.

You can also give your kitty fresh catnip. Like most herbs, fresh catnip will be more potent than the dried variety. For this you’ll have to find a local source, or grow your own. Purchase a catnip plant or seeds, and you’ll never run out. Just like the dried form, you can use fresh catnip as well.

The other common form is catnip is sprays or oils. These can be applied to cat toys, their bed, or scratching post. Essentially, if you want your cat to like something, just apply catnip.

Hopefully they will remember the positive experience, and still enjoy the object after the effects have worn off.

Lastly, you can buy catnip toys. These toys will include either dried catnip or catnip oil. It’s a great way to get your kitty playing, but don’t leave the toy around for them to access when the session is done. You don’t want them to overdo it.

What Happens When My Cat Has Catnip?

Catnip has some interesting affects on the feline brain.  Put simply, it gets cats high. Don’t worry, it’s completely safe and enjoyable for your cat.

Smelling catnip causes activity in two areas of your cat’s brain. these are the amygdala and the hypothalamus. The amygdala is the first stop. It gets its information from the olfactory bulb, which is responsible for your cat’s sense of smell.

It then sends information to the hypothalamus, which controls the pituitary gland, emotions, and sexual response. This is why your cat has such a strong reaction to catnip.

The effects of catnip vary. Some cats will get very excited and hyper. They will run around playing and acting like an energetic kitten. Some cats will become very affectionate. Others will get very relaxed, and may simply stare into space. Catnip is also believed to cause hallucinations in felines.

Does Canip Affect All Cats?

I love catnip tea. It doesn’t cause a high in humans, but it does have a calming effect. When I got a new cat, I thought catnip would be the perfect way for us to bond. We could enjoy it together!

Unfortunately, my cat had no interest in the catnip at all. What was I doing wrong? It turns out that some cats simply aren’t susceptible to catnip’s effects.

Some cats, no matter their age, will not respond to catnip. In fact, 20-30% of cats aren’t affected by catnip. There’s a gene that causes cats to be affected by catnip, and some cats simply lack the catnip gene.

If your kitty isn’t a catnip lover, it’s simply part of their genetic makeup.

What if My Cat Doesn’t Like Catnip?

Not all cats or kittens respond to catnip. If you have a nonresponder, what can you do? If you want to give your kitty the same enjoyment that catnip provides, you should consider silver vine. The exception to this is kittens. Kittens under 8 months old will not respond to silver vine.

Older cats love silver vine. It has similar affects to catnip. These include sedation, hyperactivity, rolling around, and licking. The affects last a bit longer than catnip. Catnip typically lasts for around 10 minutes, but the silver vine buzz can last for 30 minutes.

Another perk of silver vine is most cats are affected by it. 80% of cats are sensitive to the effects of silver vine. 75% of cats who don’t react to catnip will react to silver vine.

Is catnip okay for kittens?

Yes, catnip is ok for kittens. However, young kittens will not show any response to it. If your kitten is younger than 3 months old, catnip will not have any effects. If they are between 6-9 months old, you can try the catnip and see if it affects your kitten.

Catnip Alternatives

Younger kittens won’t respond to catnip or silver vine. What is a cat owner to do? There are a few other alternatives that are safe and effective for cats of all ages.

Valerian is a well known sedative and sleep aid for humans. It can help you relax and get a good nights sleep. In fact, the prescription anxiety medication Valium was named after the plant.

When given to cats, it has the opposite effect. It can cause them to be more energetic and happy. Like the other options, not all cats will respond. About 50% of cats enjoy valerian.

Tatarian Honeysuckle also has a similar effect to catnip. About 50% of cats respond to it as well. It can have a stimulating effect, and make your kitty more friendly.

If you want to help your kitten relax, consider lavender or chamomile. Smelling these relaxing plants has been shown to have a positive effect on anxious kitties.

Catnip Aggression

Some cats will become aggressive when given catnip. These are typically males hwo are sexually mature. It’s believed that the aggression is triggered because catnip mimics a pheremone.

Most cats do just fine with catnip, if they respond to it at all. However, if your cat or kitten becomes aggressive on the nip, consider giving them an alternative.

How much catnip can kittens have?

If you want to try catnip for your kitty, it’s important to know how much you should give them.

Catnip Dosage

There’s no real limit on how much catnip you can expose your kitten to at one time. It’s recommended to start with a teaspoon to a tablespoon, but your cat can’t overdose on the nip.

It isn’t recommended to give catnip to kittens under 3 months of age. The main reason for this is that it won’t affect them. If your kitty is old enough for the nip, it’s best to start small.

You can increase their dose if they seem to enjoy it.

Catnip Timing

Timing is really more important than how much you give your kitten at one time. Once your cat has got their nip trip on, they will need at least 30 minutes to an hour before they will respond to it again. Keep in mind that the high only lasts for about 10 minutes. Don’t be tempted to immediately give them more.

How Often Can You Give Catnip?

Some experts say it’s fine to give your kitty catnip every day, while others say you should limit exposure to once or twice a week.

Catnip’s effects on cats have been studied, but there’s no consensus on whether they can lose sensitivity by having catnip daily.

 

Author

I created and currently run Kitty Cat Tips, the website that you can go to when you have questions about your cat's behavior. It's my hope that you find Kitty Cat Tips to be a helpful resource. It is also my hope that it will help you to improve your relationship with your cat. You can read more about me and my website here.