Catnip (Nepeta Cataria) is a historical favorite for felines, but believe it or not, only about 50% of cats will respond to this herb. If your cat is under three months of age, they will not respond to catnip at all. Catnip is a plant from the mint family and it’s actually the essential oil known as nepetalactone within the plant that gives cats the familiar “buzz” we all recognize. But don’t worry if your cat isn’t a fan – there are lots of alternatives for finicky felines who don’t like this potent herb. Here are our top five favorite alternatives to catnip:
In Japan, Silvervine is known as Matatabi. Silvervine is a Japanese favorite and is often grown in Eastern gardens. It’s such a potent attractant that it contains not one, but two cat attractant compounds! Nearly all cats will find something to love in Silvervine toys. However, when purchasing this herb, be on the lookout for a pure source – this is an herb that is often contaminated with other herbs. From the Field has plenty of toys filled with safe Silvervine and Petlinks has a bunch of toys filled with their own “HyperNip” which is a potent mix of catnip and silvervine.
You may know about the sedative qualities of valerian root because it’s a popular herb to help humans fall asleep. In cats, it has the opposite effect! Plenty of manufacturers know this secret and are expanding their toys to include Valerian root. We love the Valerian Root used in From the Field and Bavarian Cat Toys. Don’t be alarmed when you first open a package that has a cat toy filled with valerian root – it can have a very distinct “stinky cheese” odor that will make you turn your nose. Of course, cats just adore it!
Lavender is an herb found around the world that is favored by all species due to its calming effects. Luckily, it’s now readily made available to cats in toys! You can also buy a therapeutic quality of lavender to diffuse in your home – it’s safe for dogs and cats, and it may even help keep your family calm after a long day at work or school! Consider using lavender essential oil in a diffuser to calm your two- and four-legged family. These days, you can just about find lavender-scented everything – from cat litter to cleaning solutions.
There are well over 180 species of honeysuckle plants but only one species seems to have any noticeable effect on cats and that’s the Lonicera Tartarica (also known as Tartarian Honeysuckle). The active ingredient is similar in chemical structure (but not the same) as the nepetalactone found in catnip. Not only are these fun for cats, but they are also beautiful to grow. But be sure you purchase the correct kind as many types of honeysuckle can be toxic to cats.
If your cat doesn’t respond to catnip, but you still want something that will attract them to toys, Chamomile is a great alternative. Chamomile is a member of the Asteraceae family, but there are many different species of this plant. Chamomile flowers can be dried and placed inside toys to help a cat relax. You can also choose to diffuse it (combine it with lavender for some really relaxed days) and you can buy toys with chamomile flowers inside, or use hydrosols in areas your cat enjoys.
A WORD OF CAUTION
Whenever you look at natural solutions, even when it comes to toys, you should pay close attention to your cat’s reactions. Natural oils and other products can be rapidly absorbed through the digestive tract or through the skin, and then travel to the liver where they are metabolized. Since the feline liver is deficient in many enzymes, cats may be unable to metabolize these compounds properly, which can lead to behavior problems, physical problems, and even toxicity. Most cats, however, are well aware of their deficiencies and know when they’ve had enough. So, just pay close attention to how your kitty reacts the first time you give him anything new!
Have you tried any of these catnip alternatives with your best furry friend? Let us know by posting a comment below.
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