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Should Kittens Have Catnip?

By Stacy Painter
published: October 14, 2020 - updated: August 4, 2023 • 2 min. read
gray kitten on couch

Key Takeaways

  • Catnip is a plant and member of the mint family.
  • Catnip may cause cats to develop a high or sense of relaxation.
  • Catnip is safe and harmless to kittens and cats.
  • Cats may get these effects by sniffing or ingesting catnip.
  • Kittens only respond to catnip at about three to six months of age.

Catnip (Nepeta cataria) is a perennial and a member of the mint family, and its oils act as an effective insect repellent. Notorious for making cats either go crazy or completely chill out, catnip is a coveted plant that is coveted by many frisky felines. But is it safe for kittens?

What happens when you give cat catnip?

When the leaves or stems become bruised, catnip releases an oil called nepetalactone which interacts with a cat’s nasal tissue. It is thought to trigger feline pheromone receptors, resulting in behaviors similar to those of females in heat. Essentially, cats are reacting to an artificial cat pheromone.

The high a cat experiences when sniffing catnip is similar to that of marijuana or LSD. You may notice hyperactive behavior like rolling around on the floor, being extra vocal, or salivating. Your cat might rub her face or body on the herb in attempts to release more of the oil. The effects will typically last about 10 minutes and then wear off.

Catnip loving felines might also nibble on it. When ingested, the effects of catnip are quite different, and it acts more like a sedative. Your sluggish cat will enjoy a zen moment of complete relaxation.

But what about kittens—do they experience these same effects?

Protect your pet

Catnip and kittens

It’s important to note that catnip is perfectly safe and harmless to kittens. However, kittens don’t necessarily experience the same effects of catnip as adult felines. While you could offer catnip to a kitten, it won’t necessarily elicit the same reaction, if any.

According to PetPlace, small kittens don’t usually respond to catnip and may even go out of their way to ignore it. Whether or not your kitten develops an interest in catnip typically won’t show until about three to six months of age, says PetMD.

So while it isn’t harmful to expose young kittens to catnip, you’re better off waiting to introduce them to it when they are a bit older so they can fully enjoy the experience.

Stacy Painter profile
By Stacy Painter

Stacy has always been an animal lover and has worked in the pet industry and pet insurance specifically for over a decade. As a writer since early childhood, content writing for Healthy Paws pet insurance was a natural career path to combine her two passions. She currently lives in Florida with her boyfriend and Taiwanese rescue dog, Kaya.

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