The living environment of domesticated cats usually determines their quality of life. Cats can become bored and stressed more easily, especially in the absence of good company. Lack of environmental features such as hiding places, scratching posts, and opportunity to play and chase have been known to contribute to variable combinations of behavioral issues (e.g., aggression, destructive behavior and excessive grooming) and physical disease such as lower urinary tract disease, upper respiratory disease, inappetence, and obesity. Effective improvements to the living environments of cats are well known and often used to increase their quality of life, while olfactory stimulation which is an effective form of stress relief for cats is often overlooked as a means of enrichment.
Nepeta cataria, commonly known as catnip is a plant native to parts of Europe and Asia that is well known for its cat-attracting (and craze-inducing) properties among domestic cats. Reactions to catnip typically include sniffing, licking, biting, rubbing or rolling on the plant, head shaking, drooling, vocalizing and even kicking with the hind feet.
A chemical compound called nepalacatlone that is naturally released when the leaves/stem of the plant stem are bruised is the reason for this reaction. This chemical binds to protein receptors within the cat’s nose which then stimulate sensory neurons that lead to changes in brain activity.
Valerian root is from the Valeriana Officinalis, a flowering herb plant with sweetly scented white or pink flowers that grows around the world.
This plant has long been used by humans since the times of ancient Greece and Rome as a medicinal herb. Valerian is commonly consumed in the form of a tea or a dietary supplement due to its calming effects. Cats have a much different reaction to this all-natural herb than humans. Behaviors of cats on valerian root are similar to the commonly experienced behaviors of cats on catnip. It results in playful behaviors such as rolling, chin and cheek rubbing, meowing, pouncing, drooling and licking.
Cats’ reaction to Valerian Root is based on the scent of the essential oils of the herb which are thought to mimic cat pheromones which put them in a playful or loving mood. Do note that scent is described as earthy, like cheese, or smelly shoes The effects usually only last between 5-30 minutes and may not work on kittens.
Silvervine is a plant that can be found in the mountainous regions of eastern Asia, it has been used for centuries as a preventative health aid. In addition to its medicinal uses for humans, it is also used in counties such as Japan as a cat stimulant. Cats enter a euphoric state that involves behaviors like rolling, chin and cheek rubbing, meowing, drooling and licking when exposed to Silvervine. Reactions vary from cat to cat and the effects generally last from 5-30 minutes.
As compared to Catnip, Silvervine is more potent due to the presence of two cat attractants as opposed to catnip’s one If your cat does not respond to catnip anymore, silvervine may just be the right replacement.
Are these herbs safe for my cat?
They are not only safe for your cat but it can actually be beneficial! It aids in relieving stress and anxiety and helps to promote play and exercise for lazy cats who prefer to lay around all day. It also helps to promote a bond between paw parent and kitty. These herbs are completely safe for your cat to smell and ingest in the amounts used in play. Because it is not metabolized it is impossible to overdose on, be addicted to, have withdrawal from, or cause any long-lasting physical effects.
Where can I get these herbs?
These herbs can often be found in their crushed or powder form that can be sprinkled on the floor where you want your cat to play. They also come in the form of a reusable toy to prolong the effects of the herbs.
Cat Chou Chou (Bantal Busuk) by Pudgy Cat Co
Jar of Catnip Pawty Mix by Meowijuana
Valerian Wild Hare Stinky Mouse Attachment by Purrs Cat Toys