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I have a cat who, like most other cats, really loves catnip. She becomes (joyfully) delusional and keeps rolling on the ground. Most of the time she would swallow the herb. While I enjoy watching the little show she puts on after catnip consumption, I am a bit worried about the possibility of side effects.

Is there any health benefit associated with consuming catnip? Is there any harm that catnip could potentially do to cats (At some point my cat was so high that I started worrying if she would die of heart attack...)? What would be an appropriate amount of consumption? Could the herb be addictive?

  • This is a great question I hope someone can fully answer the questions about the health effects, and determining appropriate amount. – user9 Jan 16 '14 at 16:44
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I have not come across any cases of catnip overdose where the cat did anything worse than vomit.Some cats know when they've had enough, an some cats don't. Luckily, there doesn't seem to be any harmful side-effects. So the cats that don't know any better don't risk harming themselves. I can't say that I've seen any behavior indicating addiction either.

I would still avoid feeding it to your cat excessively, since the large amounts do cause them to vomit. It also causes diarrhea, which means at the very least, it causes a disruption in their digestive system.

I would definitely avoid giving catnip to pregnant cats, as it's known to be a uterine stimulant.

Here's a link to the American Veterinary Association's article on it. They mention a study on rats that showed they were more susceptible to seizures while on catnip. I would take it with a grain of salt though, unless you find the study and they accounted for the dosage and differences in hearts/size.

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As Matt S. says, I've never seen any situation where a cat overdosing on catnip did worse than vomit (spectacularly in this cat's case...).

That said, since vomiting isn't a particularly enjoyable experience, it makes sense to limit your cat's access to catnip and keep the dosage to a level she can tolerate - let her get high without going overboard.

In my experience every cat is different. The Siamese who ruled my life for 19 years ignored catnip altogether, as does my fluffy 18.5 year-old Siamese/Persian/who-knows-what mix. The Siamese and the fluffy one get/got high on chlorine smell instead.

Both of my other cats (no identifiable breed, both rescues) adore catnip. One won't leave off when he's had enough and will keep at the catnip until he starts with the projectile vomiting, the other one does know when he's had enough and will go and sleep it off. After the first accidental overdose, I've been careful about how much I give them and haven't had a repeat.

The short version? Watch your cat while she gets high on catnip, and when it looks like she's overdoing it, remove the nip. You'll soon work out the ideal dose to make your cat happy without unpleasant side effects.

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