Can older cat overdose on catnip?

Can older cat overdose on catnip?

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Dear Dr. Fox • My son has an 18-year-old male cat. The other night, he gave Dinker some catnip, which he has had before, but this time he had a little more than usual. Dinker was immediately unresponsive, lying down and not moving. My son thought he was going to have to put him down.

Dinker came around and has been fine ever since. Do you think the reaction was from the catnip, which he has always had without trouble? Because of his age, do you think it could have been a slight stroke or vertigo? — K.S., West Palm Beach, Fla.

DEAR K.S. • The moral of your son’s saga is: All things in moderation.

Soon after rolling in, and then eating, a small amount (one shredded teaspoon) of fresh catnip or catmint, my cats would often vomit, though usually keeping down the dried herbs. Then they’d roll in what remained on the floor, and then get squiggly, maybe batting at their tails, before zoning out for a while.

Catnip is the equivalent of Valium for most cats, but some show no interest. It makes for a relaxing tea for us humans, and also has some antispasmodic effects. I advise people to grow their own catnip, or only buy “Organically Certified,” since I have seen plastic packages of catnip in some stores indicating it comes from China.

For Dinker, I say just a pinch or two next time. Moisten it with a little water and let stand at room temperature for a few minutes first to draw out the volatile oils. Dinker may simply roll in the aroma and get “high” that way.

I say “high” not euphemistically or anthropomorphically. In the wild, many animal species — notably bears, baboons and elephants — will seek out fermented fruits, clearly enjoying the effects altering their states of consciousness and behavior. I do not think such experiences are essential for us to provide for companion animals, but olfactory-sensitive cats and dogs do enjoy different scents. Some dogs may also appreciate catnip, and I would enjoy hearing from other readers whose dogs do.

As for cannabis, which wild pigs especially relish, its use in veterinary medicine is increasing with its legalization for medical purposes. As this herb becomes accepted for recreational use in humans, companion animals should be kept away. Dogs, in particular, are often eager to eat cannabis plants or the dried herb. An overdose could cause respiratory depression and heart failure.

Visit Dr. Fox’s website at Send mail to or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut Street, Kansas City, Mo. 64106.

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