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C2006-24

Dear Christopher Cat

My cats love catnip. When I put a bit on their scratching post and the carpet, they sniff it, chew it, roll in it – and then go crazy. Is too much catnip toxic?

Christopher Responds

I love catnip, too, and I am happy to tell you that it is a safe, non-addictive recreational drug for occasional use in healthy cats.

The active ingredient is nepetalactone, a mild hallucinogen, which some veterinarians feel should not be offered to cats with a history of seizures.

Once, I broke into the catnip container and overindulged. My pupils became dilated and I was jumpy for several hours.

While the toxic dose has not been determined, my experience suggests that moderation is best.

In some cats, the “high” induced by catnip can progress to aggression, so it’s best not to pet your cats when they are under the influence.

The response to catnip is an inherited trait, so cats that lack the “catnip gene” are not stimulated by it.
Regardless of their genetic makeup, kittens under two months of age do not respond to the herb.

Catnip was brought to the Americas by early colonists, who used it medicinally in teas, soaks and poultices. It was a commercial crop then, and if I had my way, it would be grown widely again – this time for us cats.

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