How Often Can I Give My Cat Catnip?

How Often Can I Give My Cat Catnip

When it comes to giving catnip to a feline, there are no hard and fast rules. Some experts recommend giving catnip in its various forms twice to thrice a week. Others say that you should give catnip no more than once daily.

How often can you give catnip to your cat?

For most cats, one serving of catnip is more than enough. Although the herb is safe and non-toxic to felines, you should not give it to your cat more than once. 

The main reason behind that recommendation is the law of diminishing returns. The more often you give catnip to your pet, the sooner he becomes desensitized. Over time, the effects will not be as strong as the first time you give catnip to your feline.

What is catnip?

Catnip (Nepeta cataria) is an herb that originates from Asia and Europe. It is also known as field balm, catmint, and catwort. This fragrant herb is a member of the mint family and is a close relative of both basil and oregano.

Due to its vigorous growth, catnip is sometimes considered a weed. If you plant it in your garden, you have to watch it closely. Otherwise, you will soon find your garden overrun by this plant.

How does catnip affect cats?

The effects of catnip have been observed, not only in domestic cats but also in big cats that live in captivity. And most of these effects are relatively the same.

These effects can be attributed to nepetalactone, a volatile oil that can be found in greater concentrations in the herb’s leaves, stems, seeds, and to a lesser extent, the roots and flowers.

Nepetalactone is a psychoactive substance. Psychoactive substances are substances that affect how the brain works. These substances can also alter a creature’s feelings and behavior.

Cats that are sensitive to catnip exhibit a variety of behaviors when they sniff the herb. These include euphoria, zoomies, affection, staring blankly into the distance, and rolling on the floor.

The effect of ingestion is remarkably different. When your cat eats catnip, he will become sedate and calm.

However, there are a few exceptions. In some cats, catnip can lower a feline’s inhibitions and bring out aggression. 

Take note that catnip does not affect all cats. According to experts, about 70 percent of cats are sensitive to catnip and its effects. The reason behind this is genetics. If a cat is sensitive to the herb, its offspring will also be sensitive to it.

Can you give catnip to kittens?

Catnip is safe for cats of all ages, including young cats. However, you cannot expect the same results in young cats. In fact, a kitten may initially be repelled by the scent of the herb.

Sensitivity to catnip does not appear until a cat has reached sexual maturity. Usually, this is around six months. 

Once a young cat has developed a sensitivity to catnip, he will show interest in the herb as well as items that are laced with oil from the herb.

Initially, you should give your cat a small amount of catnip, about a small pinch of flakes or a small drop of oil applied to his favorite toy. Make sure that you monitor your cat closely. New users of catnip tend to become rambunctious and can get themselves hurt when left unsupervised.

Over time, as your cat grows older, you will notice that he does not like catnip as much as he once did. Some older cats can even hate catnip. Do not worry, this is just normal for cats.

How do you store catnip?

Like the dried herbs you use for cooking, dried catnip also expires over time. After some time, dried catnip loses its scent and efficacy. This is why you should avoid buying catnip in bulk. It is always better to buy in small quantities rather than throw away a substantial amount of unused catnip.

After buying a pack of dried catnip, transfer the content of the bag into an airtight container to keep moisture out. Moisture promotes mold which in turn, renders catnip useless.

Be sure to store the catnip container in a cool, dry, and dark place. Excessive exposure to sunlight can break down the oil in the catnip, lessening its potency.

Remember that cats are clever creatures and they can learn where you store the catnip. Be sure that the storage area you choose is out of reach of your pet.

For catnip oils and sprays, it is best to check the expiry date printed on the packaging. Err on the side of caution and throw away these products if the expiry date has lapsed.

If you want to have a fresh batch of the herb close at hand, you should strongly consider planting catnip. However, be sure that you keep your plants away from your cats as well as feral cats that might invade your yard.

Typically, the effects of catnip can last between 10 to 15 minutes. Afterward, you should expect your pet to return to his normal self.

Some cats self-regulate and will not look for more catnip once their wants have been satisfied. Other cats will actively seek more catnip, spurred by the need to chase the effects of the herb. 

Are there other uses for catnip?

Catnip is a great mood enhancer. If you notice that your pet is not as active as his usual self, you can try giving him catnip to boost his mood.

Catnip can also be used to train cats. For example, if your cat has been scratching a piece of furniture, you can apply catnip oil or spray on one part of the furniture.

Or perhaps you bought a new cat bed or your cat has been neglecting his favorite toy. A small amount of catnip oil or spray can help turn his attention to these items.

Finally, catnip can also be used to boost a feline’s appetite. You can add a pinch of dried catnip to your cat’s food to entice him to eat more, especially if he is a picky eater. For this purpose, use dried herb instead of sprays or oils.

Giving catnip to your pet daily

In general, catnip is safe for most cats. You can give your pet catnip daily but avoid giving the herb to him more than once a day. Otherwise, your pet will become desensitized to it.

Image: istockphoto.com / peplow

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