Can Rabbits Have Catnip?

Published: July 22nd, 2023
Last Updated: July 23rd, 2023
Written By: Bradly Spicer
Can rabbits have catnip

Catnip is well-known for its euphoric effect on cats when smelled or ingested. But what about other pets like rabbits – can bunnies also have catnip? This is an important question for any rabbit owner to consider. While catnip is non-toxic, understanding its impact on rabbits is key to ensuring their health and well-being.

This article will provide a comprehensive overview of the effects of catnip on rabbits. We’ll explore whether rabbits can have catnip, how their digestive system handles it, the potential health implications, and safe amounts and methods for giving bunnies catnip. Key questions like the impact of catnip toys or if wild rabbits consume catnip will also be addressed.

Understanding what foods are suitable for a rabbit’s sensitive digestion is an important part of responsible pet ownership. The information provided in this article will help rabbit owners make informed decisions regarding catnip to keep their bunnies happy and healthy.

Wild Catnip

Can Rabbits Have Catnip?

Yes, rabbits can have catnip. Catnip is non-toxic to rabbits, so they can eat it or play with catnip toys safely. But while small amounts of catnip are not harmful to bunnies, there are some considerations owners should keep in mind.

The active ingredient in catnip that causes a euphoric reaction in cats is called nepetalactone. This chemical compound doesn’t affect rabbits in the same way that it does cats. Rabbits lack the feline “high” response to catnip. But that doesn’t mean catnip has no effect on bunnies.

When ingested by rabbits, catnip can have a sedative effect. The soothing nature of nepetalactone makes some bunnies relaxed and even sleepy. How strong this impact is depends on the individual rabbit. Some may show no reaction at all. But a sensitive rabbit that consumes too much catnip could become almost lethargic.

Excessive sedation in rabbits can be dangerous. A sleepy, unresponsive bunny is at higher risk of health issues like gastrointestinal stasis. That’s why moderation is key when giving your rabbit catnip. Small, occasional amounts are safe – but too much too often is not recommended.

Understanding Rabbit’s Digestive System

To understand why moderation matters when feeding rabbits catnip, it helps to first understand how their digestive system works. A rabbit’s gastrointestinal tract is delicate and requires the right diet to stay healthy.

Rabbits are herbivores, meaning they eat only plant materials. As prey animals, bunnies need to be able to quickly convert the plants they eat into nutrients. To accommodate this, rabbits have a digestive system optimized for efficiently processing high-fiber, plant-based foods.

A key aspect of a rabbit’s digestion is a specialized organ called the cecum. The cecum contains bacteria that ferments and breaks down the tough fiber in the vegetables, grasses, and hay a bunny eats. This allows rabbits to extract vital nutrients from these fibrous plant materials.

Hard, dry foods like fresh hay and leafy greens provide the abrasive fiber rabbits need to keep their digestive system moving. The indigestible parts of these foods get passed through the intestines and eventually form healthy fecal pellets. This keeps their GI tract functioning properly.

Soft, wet foods like fruits should only be a small part of a rabbit’s diet. Too many can disrupt their sensitive digestion, leading to serious issues like diarrhea. This is why high-fiber hay and leafy greens should make up the bulk of what rabbits eat.

The Impact of Catnip on Rabbit’s Health

How does catnip fit into a rabbit’s ideal high-fiber diet? Since catnip comes from the mint family, the leaves, flowers and stems contain a fair amount of fiber. This makes catnip an acceptable addition to a bunny’s diet in small amounts. But excessive consumption can cause some potential health problems.

One issue is that catnip is relatively high in volatile oils, giving it its strong aroma and flavor. While small quantities are not a problem, too much can irritate a rabbit’s stomach. Some bunnies may show signs of an upset tummy, like soft stool. Reduction of gastric motility is also possible if a rabbit has too much catnip.

The sedative effect of catnip’s nepetalactone can also be problematic at high doses. A bunny that becomes too relaxed and tired has an increased risk of gastrointestinal stasis. This dangerous condition happens when the GI tract slows down and stops moving food and waste normally.

Stasis requires emergency veterinary care. Signs include lack of appetite, small or no fecal droppings, stomach bloating, and lethargy. Rabbits can die within just 24-48 hours if stasis is not treated, so immediate vet attention is crucial. Avoiding excessive catnip reduces stasis risk.

Finally, one other possible concern is weight gain. The rich flavor of catnip may tempt some bunnies to overindulge if given unlimited access. Obesity can occur, causing joint pain and other health issues. Limiting intake is prudent for weight management.

Safe Amounts and Ways to Give Catnip to Rabbits

How much catnip is safe for a rabbit based on the potential health impacts? No definitive toxicity levels are established, but some general guidelines can help steer clear of problems.

A good rule of thumb is to limit catnip intake to no more than 1-2 times per week. Offering a sprig of catnip about the size of a large matchstick provides a taste without overdoing it. For dried catnip, a pinch the size of a pea is sufficient. But we recommend just giving your rabbit different herbs entirely.

When trying catnip for the first time, start with just a small amount to gauge your bunny’s reaction. Monitor them closely for the next 24 hours for any signs of digestive upset or sedation. Adjust quantities accordingly if needed.

Cute rabbit eating hay

There are a few different ways catnip can be offered to rabbits:

  • Fresh or dried leaves – The most direct way. Dried leaves tend to be more potent than fresh ones.
  • Infused toys – Chew toys containing catnip are fine for bunnies to nibble on.
  • Herbal blends – Some natural rabbit treats include catnip in their ingredients.
  • Sprinkled on hay – Lightly sprinkling dried catnip on your rabbit’s hay adds interest.

Avoid giving rabbits catnip tea made for human consumption. The additional ingredients may include toxic substances like chocolate or caffeine.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are catnip toys safe for rabbits?

Yes, catnip-filled toys are safe for bunnies to play with. But supervision is still advised. Make sure your rabbit doesn’t destroy and ingest excessive amounts of catnip from a toy in one sitting. Offering toys with catnip only occasionally prevents overindulgence.

Do wild rabbits eat catnip?

Catnip grows wild in many parts of the world, and wild rabbits may nibble on the plant if available. But it’s unlikely to be a significant part of their diet. Wild bunnies have a broad range of grasses, weeds, shrubs, and other plants to choose from. This variety balances their nutrition.


Rabbits can have catnip, but pet owners need to be aware of how it can affect their bunnies. Small, occasional amounts are safe for most rabbits. But overindulgence poses some health risks, including sedation, gastrointestinal issues, and weight gain.

Moderation and proper monitoring are key when giving catnip to rabbits. Limit treats to no more than 1-2 times weekly in very small quantities. Dried or fresh catnip leaves, infused toys, herbal mixes, or lightly sprinkled hay are safe ways to let your bunny enjoy this fragrant herb.

While catnip is non-toxic, rabbits have sensitive digestive systems optimized for fibrous plants. Sticking primarily to hay and leafy greens as the main diet keeps a rabbit’s GI tract functioning properly. Catnip should only be an incidental treat but generally replaced with other herbs

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