Can Kittens Have Catnip?

The Animalista can kittens have catnip
Catnip is typically associated with its effects on older cats, but kittens can also benefit from catnip and its completely safe for them

If you’re like most cat owners, you’ve probably heard about catnip and how a taste or sniff of it can make cats roll around with ecstasy or make them simply lounge in a relaxed state. One of the popular questions many people often ask is if kittens can have catnip and whether or not it is safe for them. Keep reading to know more about catnip and whether you should give it your kitten.

What is catnip?

Before we get started with the potential effects of catnip on kittens, you might want to know what exactly catnip is. Also known as catmint and field balm, catnip is a member of the mint family, containing volatile oils, sterols, acids and tannins.

Catnip has long been used for centuries in Asia to treat a wide range of ailments but is now found all over the world. It is usually grown by gardeners because it is drought-resistant and can repel insects.

The Animalista fresh catnip

How does catnip work?

As you may know, cats can’t seem to get enough of catnip. It’s not unusual for such cats to roll on the ground, meow loudly, jump around and so on. But what is responsible for these effects in cats?

Although catnip contains a number of chemical compounds. Research shows that the major ingredient that makes cat go wild in excitement is Nepetalactone, an oil that works like pheromones in cats.

When cats sniff or eat catnip, Nepetalactone enters their nose and binds to receptors on the sensory neurons lining the nasal cavity, which in turn activates different areas of the brain associated with emotions and behavior.

The effects typically include behaviors like sniffing, chewing, licking, salivating, rolling, flipping and even zoning out. They may also roll, jump or run around wildly. Other times, the excitement translates to aggression if you try to come close to them. When eaten, the effects are much different as most cats tend to mellow and become calm.

Usually, these sessions of hyperactivity can be intense but they are short-lived and seldom last more than ten minutes, after which cats lose interest. The effects then wear off and cats will be immune to the effects for at least two hours. They might then take interest again.

Some experts believe that the type of behavioral response exhibited depends on the dose inhaled and the cat as the response to catnip is behavioral. Like many other things, the more a cat eats or sniff catnip, the stronger the effect, It’s the reason why different cats are not equally affected by catnip.

The Animalista cat feeling the effects of catnip

Can kitten have catnip?

While catnip is usually administered to cats, one question that pet owners frequently ask is “can kitten have catnip?” The simple answer to the question is “Yes.” However there are a few things you need to know.

1. The kitten’s age is a determining factor

About one in every two kittens inherit a sensitivity to catnip but you won’t know it  until they’re between three and six months old, which is around the time they reach sexual maturity.

2. Catnip is safe for kittens

Despite the crazy effects it has on felines, the herb is 100 percent safe for both eating and smelling. In other words, the effects of catnip wear out completely in two hours. It can’t negatively affect your kitty’s health.

3. There are no long-term side effects

Catnip has only one side effect and that is the likelihood of your cat developing immunity to it if you give it to her often. The more often you give your furry friend catnip, the less likely it is that she will react to it in such a way over time.

While there’s no established amount of catnip to give to cats or a preferred frequency, giving your kitten the herb once every week or two weeks is a good rule of thumb.

4. Kittens cannot be addicted catnip

Because many substances are capable of inducing a continued dependency, many cat owners have expressed worries of their feline getting addicted to the herb. However, there’s no reason to fret as cats cannot get addicted to it. If there’s any cause for concern, it should be the possibility of your pet getting used to catnip overtime, leading to low sensitivity to it.

5. Catnip is safe to eat

It is non-toxic and it can be safely digested by your kitten’s body system. The effects may just be stronger since she’s ingesting all the oils as opposed to sniffing just a little amount. If you’re wondering when your kitten can eat catnip, it’s best to give it to her after she starts eating her food. Now the question is, “when do kittens start eating foods and drinking water?” That’s usually around 4 weeks but keep in mind that her gene for that sensitivity doesn’t emerge till six months.

kitten looking for some catnip

What are the benefits of catnip to kittens?

If your kitty is able to react to catnip, you can use it for two major purposes:

1. Relaxation

One of the key benefits of catnip is that it can be used to calm an anxious or restless feline. If your kitty is showing signs of restlessness or anxiety, a pinch of this herb can help lower her stress levels.

Expectedly, your cat will get excited and become hyperactive for about ten minutes. But after this, you can expect her to mellow out when the effects begin to wear out.

Catnip can be especially helpful when you want to distract your pet or soften the terror of a car journey or make it easy to introduce your furry friend to another feline.

2. For exercise and training

Catnip can also be an effective exercise aid to help your pet stay healthy without her knowing she’s having a workout. Alternatively, you can use it to train your cat. For instance, if you want to keep kitty for clawing the furniture, just place a small amount of catnip on scratching post to make it more appealing.

You can also use it as a means to encourage good behavior in place of a traditional food treat. So when next your feline behaves well, reward her with some catnip and she will soon be discouraged from bad habits.


Catnip is a nice way to give your kitten a treat as well as help her develop good feline behaviors. It is essentially a harmless way to keep your cats entertained but if your kitten doesn’t react to it, there’s no reason to worry as she’s probably doesn’t have the gene.


By: Brenda

Contributing Animalista

The Animalista contributors are animal people from around the world who use their writing talents to produce content that educates, entertains, and raises awareness for animal related topics.  


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