Should you give your cat catnip toys? How much is too much?

Most cats will love you forever if you give them fresh catnip toys!

Catnip and catmint are part of the Nepeta cataria family. It is a herb that can grow wild or be cultivated at home in a pot or garden. Catmint is the larger, less potent of the two. The oils in the catnip leaves and stems stimulates the cat's pheromone receptors and gives them a happy, pleasant experience.

Not all cats respond to catnip toys!

About 90% of cats love it, while the other 10% are left wondering what all the fuss is about. The current belief is that the sensitivity to catnip is hereditary.

Reactions are different for every cat - some cats roll and purr, others may kick and pounce the toy more aggressively.

If your cat used to love catnip but does not seem as interested lately, it may be for a couple of reasons:

  • The catnip may be old - if the catnip is too old it will have lost most of the oils that makes it attractive to cats.
  • The availability - it takes time after the first rush of scent for the cat's pheromone receptors to return to normal. If they have access to catnip toys all the time, they can become bored or less sensitive to it. Try only giving your cats catnip for short "play sessions", then storing it in a cupboard until next time.

Our cats know what cupboard their toys are stored in (and the exact sound of that cupboard opening!). They run from wherever they are in the house - this increases their interest and excitement when the toys come out to play!


You can buy loose leaf catnip or toys that are pre-stuffed. Some toys, like refillable catnip toys, come with catnip pouches that look like teabags. They go into a velcro area in the toy and can be changed when they get old, rather than replacing the whole thing. Organic catnip toys are also available.

You can also purchase catnip seeds or kits to grow fresh catnip at home. Once the catnip is grown, pick a leaf or two to give to your cats. Crushing the leaf and stem a bit beforehand will help release the scent.

It is possible for your cat to overdo it on catnip! If you have loose leaf catnip, a pinch or two at a time is the right amount. Cats can get so excited about catnip that they can eat too much of it. This can cause over-excitement and vomiting. If you are concerned that your cat has had way too much catnip, call your vet for advice.

To prevent your pet from eating too much - and also to retain the freshness - put loose catnip into ziplock bags or small jars and into a cupboard. Baby food jars are a great size for storing catnip.

One word of warning - don't do this: I was growing some catnip in a small clay planter. When the seeds sprouted, I placed it on a windowsill to get some more sun. Then I left the room... When I remembered a little while later and went to retrieve it, I had very happy cats and a very empty planter. Use high windowsills!

For ideas on simple cat toys from household items, and a list of things cats shouldn't play with, click here.

Return From Catnip Toys To Quality Cat Care Home

New! Comments

Have your say about what you just read! Leave me a comment in the box below.