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Home > Cats > Can You Put Catnip in a Cat’s Food? Facts & FAQ

Can You Put Catnip in a Cat’s Food? Facts & FAQ

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Dr. Paola Cuevas

Veterinarian, MVZ

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Cats can’t get enough of catnip. One quick whiff and your feline friend is rolling around in ecstasy and pure bliss. While letting your cat sniff catnip is perfectly normal, is it okay to feed it to them directly? It’s okay to put catnip in your cat’s food but be sure to ask your vet for the right dose since its effects increase when eaten.

Well, keep reading to find out!


What Is Catnip?

Catnip, or Nepeta cataria, is a herb that thrives in North America. The herb is native to Eurasia and is a member of the mint family. It contains an oil called nepetalactone that activates sensory neurons in the cat’s brain when inhaled or ingested. Cats react differently to catnip; some cats get more aggressive and playful after sniffing catnip. Others mellow out and relax.

Catnip is perfectly safe and will only cause mild stomach upset when your cat eats a little too much. Cat owners mostly use it to ease separation anxiety, fear, or aggression in their cats. The herb works on about 70% to 80% of cats.

gray cat near catnip plants
Image By: Georgia Evans, Shutterstock

Can Cats Eat Catnip?

Yes, cats can safely ingest catnip with no adverse health or behavioral effects. The only difference is that its sedative effects could be stronger when your cat eats catnip.

However, it’s worth noting that catnip holds no nutritional value. Also, the effects of eating catnip mostly tilt towards sedation. Very rarely do cats eat catnip and become playful and active. Instead, they become mellow and even sleepy.

However, you’ll need to be careful about how much catnip you give your furry friend. Give too much, and you’ll leave them with a tummy upset. This will make them either vomit or have diarrhea. But if you give them just enough, it’ll actually improve their digestion.

How Often Can Your Cat Eat Catnip?

You’ll want to hold back on how much catnip you give your cat. The more frequently you give it to your cat, the less the effect it’ll have on it. Administer the catnip every once in a while for it to have the greatest effect on your cat. Don’t forget to give it just enough unless you want to deal with a sick cat.

gray cat enjoying fresh catnip
Image By: Anna Hoychuk, Shutterstock

How Long Do the Effects of Catnip Last?

The effects of catnip on cats will last for about 10 minutes before it starts wearing off gradually. It’ll take another 30 minutes before the herb can have any effect on the cat again. It’s advisable not to give your cat catnip back to back. Also, remember the more you expose your cat to it, the more resistance they could develop.

My Cat Doesn’t Respond to Catnip. Is Something Wrong?

Remember, only 70 to 80% of cats react to catnip. For catnip to have any effect on your cat, the cat must inherit the catnip reactiveness gene. If your cat doesn’t respond to the scent of catnip, it simply means that the cat lacks the gene. You have nothing to worry about.

If your cat doesn’t respond to catnip, then you could consider a couple of catnip alternatives. You could try Silvervine or even valerian root if you need to keep your cat calm. These plants work just as well as catnip, and some even better!

Silvervine janapese catnip
Image By: neconion, Shutterstock


Final Thoughts

There’s nothing wrong with mixing catnip in your cat’s food. It’s a great way to help them relax and get some good quality sleep. However, be sure to talk to your vet about the exact dose you should give your cat. That’s the only way to sidestep the stomach upset characteristic of giving your cat too much catnip.

Featured Image Credit: Scalia Media, Shutterstock

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