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We’ve all heard about how cats LOVE catnip. They’ll drool, run around happily, and sometimes just space out with joy when they get their paws on the stuff. But did you know there are other plants that might have the same effect on your cat? The effect of catnip only lasts about 5 to 15 minutes, so it might be good to have some other plants in your arsenal of cat toys. In addition, about 30 to 50 percent of cats don’t react to catnip at all, but they may react to one of these alternatives.
Valerian root and valerian leaves can cause a reaction in cats very similar to catnip, but it comes at a price: the plant is very stinky! Some theorize that valerian might attract cats because its pungent smell mimics the scent of cat urine. The plant doesn’t make cats mellow – it’s a stimulant that can make them happy and revved up.
Interestingly, rats have also been shown to be attracted to valerian, to the point that it’s sometimes used in rat traps! In fact, the story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin shows him using both his pipes and valerian to attract rats.
The active ingredient in valerian that draws in cats is actinidine. However, other plants have the same attractant without the terrible smell.
Silver vine, also known as Actinidia polygama, grows commonly in Japan and China. It’s the most popular cat treat in Asia, called matatabi. Some think that silver vine has a stronger effect on cats than catnip because it has two cat attractants in the plant.
You may be able to buy cat toys infused with silver vine or use silver vine’s brown powder on cat toys, similarly to how you’d use catnip. Cats also love to roll around in the plant itself. The effects can last 5 to 30 minutes but silver vine is more potent than catnip, so you likely won’t need as much.
Acalypha indica, also known as cat grass or Indian nettle, is very common in tropical countries. It’s a medicinal plant and sometimes eaten as a vegetable in West Africa. It’s also hugely popular among cats! In the countries where Indian nettle is common, it’s widely known that cats react favorably and very strongly to it. In fact, some people mistakenly believe that this plant is catnip! Interestingly, the effect of this plant might be stronger than catnip, but only the root of the plant is a cat attractant.
Cat thyme is another plant that works similarly to catnip. It can cause your cat to feel content, mellow, and happy. It doesn’t grow as fast as catnip, though, so you’ll have to plan ahead if you want to grow your own. You might also want to note that cat thyme isn’t actually a thyme, it just looks like the thyme plants.
Tartarian Honeysuckle Sawdust
This is the magic plant when it comes to cats because it is very likely to work on that small percentage of cats who do not react to catnip! Remember, this effect doesn’t happen with all honeysuckle plants. It only works with Lonicera tatarica, also called tartarian honeysuckle sawdust. Unlike catnip, this honeysuckle’s effects can be revived by dampening it. Just make sure that you use the sawdust shavings of honeysuckle, which you can buy at a pet store, and not the seeds or berries. The seeds and berries of honeysuckle plants can be toxic to cats and cause bad stomach issues.
So remember, if your cat isn’t interested in catnip, you have a lot of other options to try! And even if your cat is a huge fan of her catnip toys, you might give these other plants a chance to see if she likes them more or just to offer a little variety.