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Catnip…for Dogs!

Last month when I posted our September monthly favorites post I mentioned that I had purchased some catnip.  I, sadly, didn't get any cats to go with it.  While I personally quite enjoy the company of cats there won't be any joining the Paw Pack anytime soon - my fiance is allergic to them.  So why is someone without any cats buying catnip?  Because it's safe for dogs too!

Photo via Weimar Meneses (Flickr)

First lets take a look at what, exactly, catnip is.  The plant with the scientific name Epeta cataria is commonly known as catnip and also sometimes as catmint, or catswort.  It's a member of the mint family originally native to eastern and southern Europe, central Asia, China, and the Middle East.  Catnip is a perennial plant that grows, on average, up to 39 inches tall and produces small pink, white, and/or purple flowers from late spring until fall.  Catnip is safe for humans and is sometimes used as an ingredient in herbal teas.  It's best known, of course, for the effect it has on some (but not all) cats.

Roughly 33% of cats are actually not affected by catnip.   For the ones it does influence, an attractant called nepetalactone is to blame.  How cats react to the  nepetalactone in catnip varies.  General responses can include drooling, rubbing and rolling against the catnip, excitement, and increased activity for a short period of time.

But what does catnip do to dogs?  Why would a dog owner buy it?  Although catnip works as a stimulant on cats, it has the opposite effect on dogs.  For dogs, catnip works more as a sedative.  It can help to relax them, similar to how drinking camomile tea can help relax people.

Catnip (for dogs and people) can also help to relax upset stomachs.  It can help to relieve gas, cramps, vomiting, and diarrhea.  It can also be a natural way to help dogs who suffer from motion sickness.

I like to make my dogs catnip tea by sprinkling just a bit of catnip into their water bowl.  I also sometimes mix it into their food.  It does seem to take a bit of the edge off of Fen's anxiety over things like vet visits.  Kit has always had a sensitive stomach and it also seems to help sooth his tummy, especially on days when he's particularly gassy.

This is the brand of catnip I bought last month (affiliate link) although I'm not really brand loyal.  I've purchased other brands in the past and, so far, all the brands I've tried have been pretty much the same.  Someday I'd love to try growing catnip myself, but that's a project for another day.

Comment below!  Have you ever given catnip to your dog?  Or do you buy it for your cat?  How do your pets react to it?

  • Wow. I used to buy catnip for my cats and yep they would roll around in it and get excited. I had no idea dogs can use catnip to help relieve motion sickness or act as a sedative. That's good to know. Glad it helps your dog.

    • Thanks 🙂 Cats with catnip are so funny to watch. I went down that YouTube rabbit hole while I was working on this post haha.

  • Tonya Wilhelm

    Wonderful post! I too use catnip tea for Dexter. It's amazing how herbs can help our pets will all kinds of things.

    • It is! It's funny that catnip is so commonly sold for cats but most people don't seem to know that it can have benefits for dogs.

  • Kristen @ My 3 Little Kittens

    I had no idea catnip worked as a sedative for dogs!!!! I am not a dog owner, but this comes as a big surprise to me! My cats LOVE catnip and I always have some on hand for kitty fun!

    • Right! I didn't know dogs could have it at first either. Years ago I had a catnip mouse that I was going to send to a friend for her cats and my dog was really really interested in it. I did some research on if catnip is safe for dogs and ever since I've kept a bit of it around, it especially seems to help my older dog feel better when he gets an upset stomach.

  • I had no idea catnip had the opposite affect on dogs. Rooster (cat) loves his catnip toys and turns into a crazy, drooling kitty. I will definitely try catnip for Jack the next time we travel!

    • Give it a try! For my dogs the sedative effect isn't intense but it does seem to relax them a bit. It's funny how cats react to it, I was watching YouTube videos of cats with catnip before writing this post and they were really cracking me up.

  • Tenacious Little Terrier

    I've never tried catnip on dogs. In fact, at one pet store we were warned away from buying a cat toy because of the catnip. We'll have to try it sometime.

    • Did they say why they warned you away from it? It is a mild hallucinogen for cats, but not toxic to them as far as I know. I'm not a cat expert though, not being able to keep them myself. I've never had an issue using it with my dogs. The sedative effect isn't intense, it just kind of takes the edge off a bit. It does seem to help quite a bit when Kit gets an upset stomach though!

  • Dash Kitten in NZ

    HAHAHAHAHA (sorry) catnip is a sedative for dogs? Who knew eh? It's even more amazing than I thought it was! What a fun post and it really made me smile!

    • 🙂 I'm glad I could make you smile! Hopefully I don't give any cats any ideas...using their catnip to sedate the dog lol!

  • DearMishu

    This is o interesting - I didn't know! I always like to sniff the catnip in the petstore....might be good for a car trip or other stressful situation!

  • Debbie Bailey

    Huh! I honestly had no idea! That's great to know about motion sickness and anxiety. Sounds like something worth having on hand for our big road trip out west next month! Thanks for the tips!

  • My cat absolutely loved catnip.....sometimes. Plants have so many benefits to our pets.

  • What interesting information! I never knew that dogs could benefit from catnip as well. I've also been wanting to grow my own catnip, since Lexy is a "nip head." It would probably be a fun project.

  • Shelby Gottschalk

    I have heard that catnip can be used for dogs, but haven't tried it personally! Glad to hear that you guys have had success! 😀

  • Interesting. I had no idea you could use catnip on dogs! Truffle gets excited and sometimes aggressive with catnip. Brulee tends to lick it!

  • Montecristo Travels

    I had NO IDEA! Now I will just HAVE to try it out and see what happens! Stay tuned!

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