How Long Should You Let Your Cat Play With Catnip?

Updated June 18, 2023

Catnip toys are highly popular and generally safe, but you should know how long to let your cat play with catnip.

Leaving catnip toys scattered around the house for a cat to access at any time is a widespread mistake.

Two risks are associated with this mistake. First, cats can become tolerant to the herb and stop experiencing the effects. Second, catnip may lose its potency.

To maximize the herb’s effect, you should know how to use catnip toys correctly, how to store them, and how often to give catnip to your cat.

In short, treat catnip toys as an occasional reward but not as a substitute for other environmental enrichment. They shouldn’t be a daily pleasure.

How Fast Catnip Kicks In

How fast catnip kicks in depends on whether it’s ingested or inhaled. In the case of catnip toys, a cat inhales nepetalactone essential oil vapors that are absorbed into the nasal membrane and instantly reach the bloodstream.

From the bloodstream, catnip is transferred through the heart into all organs until it reaches the brain.

Only when the active catnip ingredient reaches the brain does it work its magic. The process usually takes under 15 minutes because nepetalactone has no barriers.

In contrast, when a cat ingests catnip, it may take up to an hour to start working because the chemical must first reach the stomach, where it gets dissolved, absorbed into the stomach lining and intestines, and metabolized by the liver.

However, the speed may differ by cat depending on its metabolism, age, and other factors. Some cats feel the effects of catnip after a few seconds of inhaling the herb, while others may need more time.

Some cats may not feel any effect from catnip toys because they are naturally unresponsive to the herb. From 25% to 50% of felines lack the gene responsible for detecting nepetalactone.

If you notice no changes in your cat’s behavior, such as rolling on the floor, rubbing against surfaces, meowing, excessive salivation, or losing focus after 15 minutes, you can assume that your cat is unresponsive to catnip.

Most cats will lose interest in catnip toys once the effect kicks in and not regain it until several hours or days later.

How Long Does Catnip Effect Last?

How long the catnip effect lasts also depends on whether a cat has ingested or inhaled it. Because inhaled catnip kicks in quickly, its effect doesn’t last for as long as the effect of ingested catnip.

When a cat eats catnip, it may experience the effects for over an hour, but catnip toys are only active for 10-15 minutes on average.

Some cats experience the effects for 30 minutes, but that’s the maximum. The effect kicks in and wears off gradually.

Catnip Tolerance

After the effect of catnip toys wears off, cats become tolerant to it and lose interest in the herb.

The timeframe of tolerance varies from cat to cat – some felines can feel the effects again after an hour, while others need days for their receptors to reset.

Cats can also develop long-term tolerance to catnip. In a way, the herb is like caffeine, nicotine, or drugs. Although catnip isn’t addictive like these substances, cats need to use more and more catnip to feel the effects on the same scale.

If you give your cat’s olfactory organs time to reset, it won’t develop tolerance, but frequent use of catnip can make a cat unresponsive to its effects.

In other words, a cat playing with catnip toys every day will soon lose interest in them and stop showing any behavior changes.

If this happens, a cay may need a lot of time to regain responsiveness, and some cats never react to the herb the same again.

For this reason, catnip toys shouldn’t lie around the house. They should only be used occasionally to prevent tolerance build-up.

Are Catnip Toys a Substitute for Regular Toys?

Since cats can build a tolerance to catnip, catnip toys aren’t a substitute for traditional toys. Over time, catnip toys lose their effect and become just chew toys filled with dry herbs.

A cat shouldn’t have constant access to catnip toys. Furthermore, chew toys aren’t sufficient to mentally stimulate a cat.

Felines need plenty of environmental enrichment, including toys that mimic prey movements, such as laser toys or motorized mice.

Overusing catnip toys has more drawbacks than benefits. Not only does catnip develop tolerance, but it may also cause adverse effects. The short “high” from a catnip toy isn’t worth the risk for many cats.

A healthy young adult cat should be sufficiently motivated to play without additional encouragement, but catnip toys benefit old, lazy, or anxious cats.

Side Effects of Catnip Toys

Catnip is generally considered safe for cats, particularly if it’s inhaled. The herb isn’t toxic to felines, and cats have an innate knowledge of how much catnip is too much, so catnip overdose and poisoning are impossible.

However, some cats may experience excessive salivation from catnip, appear disoriented, or have difficulty walking straight. Occasionally, catnip causes cats to become aggressive towards the owner or other animals in the house.

If a cat begins hissing, growling, or attacking someone after inhaling catnip, the best thing to do is leave it alone until catnip effects wear off.

Don’t attempt to calm down a cat aggressive from catnip because you may worsen the situation. Exit the room and return after 15 minutes – most cats return to the norm as soon as the catnip effect ends.

Some cats become hyperactive, jumping on walls, zooming around the room, and meowing. A disoriented and hyperactive cat may hurt itself while running, so supervision is crucial.

Sometimes, cats tear apart catnip toys while playing and ingest some catnip. Eating catnip is generally safe but may cause gastroenteric upset with symptoms including diarrhea and vomiting.

Gastroenteric adverse effects are more likely the higher the dosage. Fortunately, cats rarely consume more catnip than they should, especially if they’ve already inhaled the herb.

When ingested, catnip has the opposite effect, acting as a sedative and making cats sleepy and drowsy. Occasionally, the effect is excessive, and cats become lethargic, but most get back to the norm after a few hours.

How to Use Catnip Toys Correctly

Many feline owners don’t know how to use catnip toys to maximize their efficacy and avoid adverse effects. First, you may wonder whether catnip in toys needs to be replaced and, if so, how frequently.

The lifespan of catnip toys is the same as that of loose catnip. The herb is dry, so it doesn’t go bad in the traditional sense and won’t harm a cat if it gets old.

However, dry catnip loses its potency, similar to how spices give less flavor as they get old. Correct storage is crucial for catnip toys. Toys laying in the open, exposed to oxygen and sunlight, lose potency within a week.

For this reason, some cat owners worry there’s something wrong with their pets when they notice them losing interest in the toy.

In most cases, the problem can be resolved by replacing the catnip inside the bag, spritzing the toys with catnip spray, or rubbing loose catnip on the toy.

Instead of leaving catnip toys on the floor for your cat to play with at any time, give the toy to your cat and take it away in a few minutes once the herb has kicked in.

Only let your cat play with the toy once a week. You may give your pet the toy the same day after about two hours, but in this case, the interval between playing sessions should be longer.

Store catnip toys in a cool, dry, dark place between playing sessions. Kitchen cabinets your cat can’t open are the best place to store catnip toys. Oxygen and sunlight cause catnip to lose its potency faster.

Ideally, place the toys in an airtight lidded container or ziplock bag to minimize contact with air. The same storage instructions refer to dry catnip and other products.

Over time, your cat may develop mild tolerance to the herb and require higher doses. You can increase the herb’s effect by sprinkling catnip around the cat’s playing area or applying catnip oil to the toys.

Catnip toys are an excellent way to encourage an old, lazy cat to be active, thus preventing weight gain and promoting a healthy lifestyle.

They can also calm a female cat in heat, but some felines have the opposite reaction, becoming aggressive and restless.

One of the most common mistakes in using catnip toys is giving them to kittens. Nepetalactone mimics feline mating pheromones, so it affects only sexually mature cats.

Kittens can recognize some pheromone types but don’t yet react to mating pheromones, so they don’t care about catnip toys any more than about regular toys.

Most kittens become sexually mature and get responsive to catnip effects at six months to one year of age, but some mature slower or longer than average.

Pet Craft Supply Premium Potent Catnip

Catoxy’s pick for best catnip is: Pet Craft Supply Premium Potent Catnip.

$8.04on AmazonUpdated Sep. 6, 2023
Hit the like button!