What To Do If Your Cat Has Had Too Much Catnip

Cats as a species are creatures that become stressed very easily, and this can lead them to physical discomfort, and sore patches caused by overgrooming.

That's why it's good to help your cat relax, and there are many ways to do so—one of which is catnip.

Although catnip is safe for cats, too much of it can cause them pain or discomfort, and even though it's usually nothing to worry about, catnip overdose can be overwhelming and your cat may need to be seen by a vet, depending on the symptoms.

So what happens if your cat has too much catnip? And how do you notice?

Cat chewing on grass
A stock image shows a cat enjoying some grass. Catnip is non-toxic to cats, and usually they will not overdose on it as they will stop ingesting it once they've had enough. However, if they do consume too much you they may need medical attention. Getty Images

What is Catnip?

Catnip is a perennial herb from the mint family Lamiaceae, native to Eurasia but widely naturalized throughout temperate regions of the world, and fairly easy to find. The active ingredient that attracts felines to catnip is called nepetalactone, and luckily it's non-toxic to our feline friends.

According to the Humane Society of the United States, the most intense catnip experience starts with the nose, which its website says takes "one whiff of the stuff and your cat promptly goes nuts," as it targets feline "happy" receptors in the brain.

On the other hand, the website also states that when eaten, catnip tends to have the opposite effect and your cat mellows out, meaning that your cat will be more likely to lay down and chill rather than running and jumping around.

"Most cats react to catnip by rolling, flipping, rubbing, and eventually zoning out. They may meow or growl at the same time. Other cats become hyperactive or downright aggressive, especially if you approach them," stated the Humane Society.

What To Do If Your Cat Has Had Too Much Catnip

According to Dr. Carly Fox, senior veterinarian at Schwarzman Animal Medical Center, in New York City, catnip is safe for cats to ingest and sniff, but if they ingest too much, they can develop some gastrointestinal upset, although it's not very common.

"If you believe your cat has ingested too much, you should just give your cat some time. Effects of catnip are typically short lived, up to 30 minutes. But if your cat develops vomiting and/or diarrhea that is persistent, you should have them checked out by a veterinarian," she told Newsweek.

How To Notice If Your Cat Has Had Too Much Catnip

As mentioned above, a cat's reaction to catnip can vary depending on the method of ingestion, but usually side effects include poison-like symptoms, such as vomit and diarrhea.

According to Fox, catnip can sometimes make cats very hyperactive. Some cats will have a euphoric/happy reaction to catnip whereas others will have the opposite reaction, becoming aggressive or aloof after ingestion.

"They can develop 'the zoomies,' which can put them at risk for injury at home, and rarely, they can also develop vomiting and/or diarrhea if they ingest too much."

Although she pointed out that in general, cats are good at self-regulating and typically will stop ingesting catnip once they have had enough of it.

What's The Right Amount of Catnip to Give Your Cat?

Although catnip isn't toxic, and it doesn't really pose a risk to your cat's health in general, it should only be offered in moderation.

Fox suggests giving catnip to your cat a maximum of one or two times per week, using it when your cat is stressed, maybe for entertainment purposes, or even to encourage it to exercise, since, if sniffed, it has potential to make it more active.

She pointed out that over time, the effects of catnip can wane if used too often, so if you want it to remain effective you should only give it to your cat occasionally.

Can Catnip Become Addictive to Cats?

Catnip is not addictive and it's harmless for most cats. Some cats can't even feel the effects of the herb. In fact, according to the Humane Society, catnip sensitivity is hereditary, and an estimated 50 percent of cats have no reaction to it at all.

Although catnip is not addictive, if exposed to it frequently cats can develop a mild tolerance to it over time, meaning they will be less likely to experience any of its effects.

Can Excessive Catnip Usage Be Harmful to Cats?

Excessive catnip use itself is very unlikely to be harmful to cats since they typically won't ingest an excessive amount, although your cat's reactions to catnip may be.

"If your cat has a hyperactive reaction to catnip, they risk hurting themselves as they run around/zoom post ingestion," said Fox, and to prevent injury, she suggested making sure your cat is not on a high surface counter/bed when giving him catnip.

"If your cat has a sensitive stomach and develops vomiting/diarrhea from catnip ingestion that does not improve with time, a visit to the vet is recommended."