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Home > Cats > How Much Catnip Can I Give My Cat? Vet-Approved Facts & Safety Tips

How Much Catnip Can I Give My Cat? Vet-Approved Facts & Safety Tips

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Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Paola Cuevas

Veterinarian, MVZ

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

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There is no upper limit to the amount of catnip you can give your cat to sniff. More catnip does not always equal more robust results, though. Typically, there is thought to be an upper limit on the effects of catnip. Once your cat reaches this limit, more catnip doesn’t do anything. Therefore, overdosing is nearly impossible.

Feeding your cat too much catnip can however result in gastrointestinal issues such as vomit and diarrhea. To understand how much catnip to give your cat, let’s look at how catnip works in-depth.


How Does Catnip Work?

Catnip contains many oils. These all have different effects. Some oils can keep parasites and insects away. However, another one called nepetalactone causes the effects we’re used to seeing on cats. It binds to a cat’s receptors in its nose, stimulating its nervous system, and sending the information to your cat’s brain.

Without getting too complicated, the oil works as a synthetic pheromone. Your cat’s brain’s pleasure centers are stimulated and the cat displays the behaviors we commonly associate with catnip.

However, cat and human pheromones are different. While this oil mirrors a feline pheromone, it doesn’t mirror any human pheromones. Therefore, we don’t react to catnip the same way cats do. Still, this herb is utilized for some human benefits. For instance, it may be used to lessen headaches and infant colic (though there haven’t been many studies on catnip’s effectiveness in humans).

cat reacting to catnip
Image Credit: Kelly Magnuson, Shutterstock

Can You Give a Cat Too Much Catnip?

Catnip can cause problems if you give your cat too much. However, this is rare, unless the human adds too much catnip to a cat’s food.

Typically, the effects of catnip only last for 10 minutes or so, and then your cat becomes “immune” to the effects for about 30 minutes. Therefore, providing your cat with too much catnip is challenging, as they will stop responding to it after a few minutes.

However, a common exception to this is the catnip your cat eats. If you give your cat loose catnip, they may decide to eat it. In this case, they can overeat it which may cause stomach upset, vomiting, and diarrhea, mainly if your cat isn’t used to it. Therefore, if your cat eats catnip when provided with it, you should only give them a small amount at once.

With that said, cats cannot overdose on catnip. Therefore, you don’t have to worry about them needing veterinary care because of too much catnip. It doesn’t make them “high” like some human drugs. Instead, it works as a synthetic pheromone that wears off rather quickly.

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How Much Catnip Should I Give my Cat?

A little bit of catnip goes a long way. You only need to give your cat a bit of catnip to be effective. While more isn’t necessarily harmful, it likely won’t cause increased effects. Therefore, it is best only to give your cat a small amount of catnip and go from there. A tiny sprinkle is usually all you need—more than that, and you may just be wasting the catnip.

You should provide enough for everyone to avoid competition if you have more than one cat. We recommend spreading it out to ensure your felines can all get to it. Even cats that usually get along can become feisty when catnip is involved since it changes their behavior for a short time. Many cats become more relaxed, but others can become more prone to aggression.

Catnip only works for a few minutes before it wears off. After this time, cats are immune to catnip for a bit. Therefore, if the effects start to wear off, do not give your cat more catnip. It will not elongate the effects and will be wasted.

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

Can I Give My Cat Catnip Every Day?

You can give your cat catnip every day. However, we don’t recommend it more than that. Cats become immune to the effects of catnip shortly after exposure—it only works for a few minutes. Therefore, providing your cat with more catnip doesn’t often do anything. Usually, it only takes a few hours for cats to be reactive to this herb again. However, occasionally, it may take up to 2-3 hours before your cat will be affected again.

Therefore, it is usually best to wait at least a day. Otherwise, you may waste the catnip.

However, there is no problem with giving your cat catnip every day. It doesn’t have any adverse effect on the brain that we know of.



While cats experience a physiological change when on catnip, it is tough for them to overdose on it. Cats that like to consume catnip may get upset if they overeat. However, the effects are usually minor and don’t pose a risk for most cats.

Catnip typically only remains potent to a cat for around 10–15 minutes. After that, the effects wear off, and the feline will remain resistant to the effects for anywhere from 30 minutes to 2-3 hours. Therefore, it is tough for cats to get too much catnip since it wears off quickly, no matter how much they are exposed.

There is thought to be an upper limit on the effects of catnip that differs from cat to cat. Only about 50-70% of cats are affected by catnip at all. The remaining 30-50% don’t experience noticeable effects. Cats that are affected often have a hard ceiling on their symptoms. After that maximum is reached, more catnip doesn’t do anything.

Featured Image Credit: Lightspruch, Shutterstock

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