Silvervine and other alternatives to catnip
Even if your cat doesn’t like catnip, or is simply bored of it, there are other options that they might respond to.
Although most cat lovers have probably heard of catnip, alternatives like silvervine are a little less known.
What is silvervine?
Silvervine is a very effective alternative to catnip that many cats prefer.
Silvervine, known also as Matatabi, is a plant native to areas of eastern Asia and has been used for centuries as a natural medicine. In China and Japan, it has also been used as a cat stimulant far longer than it has been used in Canada. Some even call a cat’s reaction the ‘Matatabi Dance’.
When a cat is exposed to powdered silvervine, they react in the same way they do with catnip – rolling around, rubbing their chins and cheeks on the substance, meowing, drooling, and licking. So, basically, they love it.
In fact, silvervine is considered much more potent, and cats tend to prefer it. If you find that your cat isn’t all that interested in catnip any longer, silvervine may be the way to go. A study found that roughly 80% of cats showed interest in silvervine compared to about 66% for catnip.
Silvervine contains the chemical known as nepetalactol. It’s another chemical that helps keep mosquitoes away but works wonders on attracting cats. The chemical activates a cat’s opioid reward system and encourages the cat to interact with the silvervine further.
Other alternatives to catnip
There are a surprising number of alternatives to catnip, some of which are more popular than others. If you are really interested in testing out different products on your kitty pals, narrow it down to these three:
- Catmint: a common plant that can be found in gardens all over, catmint also contains nepetalactone. If your cat doesn’t like catnip, they may not like catmint. While regular mint plants can cause stomach issues for your cat, catmint provides a behaviour-changing reaction common with catnip. You can even see the effects in big wild cats!
- Valerian root: used as a treatment for humans suffering from anxiety and insomnia, Valerian root also affects cats. It can be used to relieve their stress and anxiety or to promote play in lazier cats, much in the same way catnip and silvervine work.
- Tatarian honeysuckle: different in format from the others, Tatarian honeysuckle comes in wooden pieces that quickly become drenched in cat saliva with use. Again, it works the same way as catnip and silvervine, encouraging similar reactions, but there is significantly less visible clean up. However, it can’t be stated enough: there will be a LOT of kitty slobber.
It’s certainly worth trying out a silvervine toy with your cat, whether they like catnip or not!
If you're curious, we have an article explaining why cats like catnip in the first place.