Cats and Catnip: How Much is Too Much?

by Alex Kountry
Updated on

If you’re a cat lover, you know that cats and catnip go together like peanut butter and jelly. But how much is too much? Find out in this blog post.

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Many people are familiar with the popular plant known as catnip (Nepeta cataria), which is part of the mint family. It is a perennial herb that typically grows to be about two to three feet tall, and produces small, lavender-colored flowers. The plant is native to Europe and Asia, but has naturalized in North America. It is often found in gardens, and sometimes considered a weed.

While most people know that cats enjoy catnip, they may not be aware of just how attractive the plant is to these felines. In fact, some cats seem to go crazy for catnip! They may roll around in it, chew on it, or just lie down and enjoy its fragrance. For many cats, catnip produces a reaction similar to that of marijuana: they may become more relaxed or playful.

So, how does catnip work its magic on cats? The active ingredient in catnip is a chemical called nepetalactone. This substance binds to receptors in a cat’s brain that are responsible for their sense of smell. When nepetalactone binds to these receptors, it causes them to sensory overload, resulting in the “high” that cats experience from catnip.

What is catnip?

Catnip (Nepeta cataria) is a herb in the mint family. Its main chemical constituent is nepetalactone, which is structurally similar to a class of chemicals called phytoalexins, which are produced by many plants as a deterrent to herbivory. Other members of the mint family (Lamiaceae) contain nepetalactone and may cause similar reactions in cats, including Salvia spp. (sage), Callicarpa bodinieri (beautyberry) and Satureja hortensis (sweet basil). Nepeta cataria is exclusively used by domestic cats for its recreational effects.

How does catnip affect cats?

The active ingredient in catnip is an oil called nepetalactone. When cats smell it, they experience a 1967 study found that nepetalactone activates neurons in a part of the brain that responds to happy chemicals like dopamine and serotonin. As a result, cats may feel relaxed or even a little bit euphoric when they sniff it. Some might roll around in it, rub their heads and bodies against it, or chew on it. But not all cats react to catnip — about one-third don’t appear to be affected by it at all.

How much catnip is too much?

The jury is still out on how much catnip is too much for cats. Some experts believe that there is no such thing as too much catnip for cats, while others believe that too much catnip can cause vomiting and diarrhea. The best way to determine if your cat is getting too much catnip is to observe their behavior. If they seem to be enjoying the catnip and are not experiencing any adverse effects, then it is probably safe to say that they are not getting too much.

Signs that your cat has had too much catnip

If your cat has had too much catnip, you may notice some of the following signs:
-Excessive drooling
-Loss of appetite


In conclusion, while catnip may cause some cats to act strangely, it is generally harmless. If you’re concerned that your cat is having too much fun with catnip, you can always reduce the amount you give them or take it away altogether. However, most cats will moderation and will not overdo it with the catnip.

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About the author

Alex Kountry

Alex Kountry is the founder of HayFarmGuy and has been a backyard farmer for over 10 years. Since then he has decided to write helpful articles that will help you become a better backyard farmer and know what to do. He also loves to play tennis and read books


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