Can Dogs Play With Catnip Toys?

The catnip won’t hurt a dog — it’s the toy that’s the problem. Here’s why dogs should not play with cat toys, regardless of whether or not there’s catnip.

Can dogs play with catnip toys?
When dogs play with catnip toys: This cute dog “thinks she’s a cat,” says the photographer, Ted Fu.

Most cats love catnip.

The nepetalactone in catnip makes cats react to this plant in different ways.1

Some cats go crazy over catnip, while others just enjoy a peaceful naptime from its effects. Catnip is neither addictive (despite what you may have heard) nor harmful to cats. But what about dogs?

Can I Give My Dog Catnip?

Although the name “catnip” itself makes us assume that it’s meant specifically for cats, catnip is fine for dogs, too.

So, yes, you can give your dog catnip without worry.

With its tranquilizing effect — yes, it can actually calm pets — catnip is a safe herbal remedy for dogs. You can use it to help with nervousness and sleeplessness in many animals.

Those long car trips or visits to the vet’s office may become less stressful to your dog if you sprinkle up to a teaspoon catnip onto the dog’s canned or dry food.

Of course, you shouldn’t do this every day, and you should discuss this with your veterinarian first.

According to 1,001 Old-Time Household Hints, giving a dog catnip may also relieve muscle spasms, diarrhea and minor respiratory problems.2

“Catnip is an ‘as-needed’ herb,” the book says. “Think of it as a natural medicine for your pet that can ease symptoms for specific conditions such as nervousness or gas.”

“Let the dog play with my toy? Are you out of your mind?” Photo: Fotobox_Petra0107

Can Dogs Play With Catnip Toys?

Although a little catnip is OK for dogs, catnip toys are not designed for dogs.

The danger in letting a dog play with a cat toy is that your dog could swallow squeakers, rattles, fillings or other teeny parts of a toy that was designed for smaller animals (cats) to play with.

According to Dr. Debra Primovic, DVM, eating the whole toy could become a foreign body — a serious problem.

“The concern is that many cat toys are small and some dogs like to ‘eat’ things, which can cause a gastrointestinal obstruction that could require surgery,” Dr. Primovic says.3

To keep your dog healthy and safe, do not leave cat toys (regardless of whether the toys contain catnip) lying around. Prevention is the best cure, so no catnip toys for your dog.

Wild aniseed — catnip for dogs. Photo: MabelAmber

Safe Ways You Can Give a Dog Catnip

Try rubbing a little catnip on a tennis ball to give your dog that extra push they need to play fetch.

And did you know there is actually a catnip made for dogs?

This herb, called anise (or aniseed — not to be confused with star anise), offers dogs the same enjoyment as catnip does for cats4.

Sprinkle a few drops of anise on one of your dog’s favorite fabric toys and see how your pet takes to it.

You can buy anise extract at many grocery stores, or you can find anise-flavored dog treat recipes and products online.

Be careful not to give your dog too much of this “dog catnip,” though.

According to Dogs Naturally, “The potency [of anise] varies depending on whether the product is whole ground herb, an extract, granular concentrate or even an essential oil version of the herb, so it’s best to follow the manufacturer’s instructions.”

“If you buy human products, the dosing instructions are based on a 150 lb human, so just adjust the dosage for your dog’s weight,” Dogs Naturally says, adding: “This is a standard way to dose herbs and can be used for other herbal products as well.”5

And again, please consult your vet first.


  1. “Nepetalactone.” Wikipedia.
  2. 1,001 Old-Time Household Hints: Timeless Bits of Household Wisdom for Today’s Home and Garden. Yankee Magazine, eds. Skyhorse Publishing, Inc. 2014. 244–45.
  3. Primovic, Debra, DVM. “Is It Safe for a Dog to Play With Cat Toys?” Pet Place. March 2, 2015.
  4. Jeanroy, Amy. “Anise Is Like Catnip for Dogs.” The Spruce Pets. June 28, 2018.
  5. Jodie, Gruenstern, DVM, CVA. “Anise, Fennel, Licorice — What’s the Difference?” Dogs Naturally.