Catnip and Cats
Catnip and cats- good and good for them (c) 2017-2018 Frania Shelley-
Grielen all rights reserved

Cats are very attached to where they live and how the live in those spaces affects their
wellbeing or welfare.  Making the environment more cat friendly includes making sure
there are people for petting and play, scratch posts, hiding spaces, cat beds and raised
resting spaces and yes, cat nip.  We already know that most cats love catnip even if we
are not sure about how good it is for them. Cats just seem to like it a little too, too much
and that must make it wrong- right?  Get ready to relax about catnip; veterinary
associations and veterinarians, like the
AVMA and VetStreet's Dr. Marty Becker
confirm the plant is non toxic to cats and can actually benefit them.  Adding cat nip to
the list of effective improvements or “enrichments” to our cat’s living space makes for
happier cats and happier cats are healthier cats.

While the leaves and the flowers of the cat nip may be the most well known, it’s not the
only plant that cats are in love with.  Silver vine fruit, Tatarian honeysuckle wood and
valerian root are also cat attractants.  To test which plant had the biggest impact on
a recent study looked at 100 cats in home and shelters along with 14 big cats
(bob cats and tigers) and their responses to each one.  The scientists were looking for the
“cat nip response” (yes, there is term for that,
take a look) defined as: “sniffing, licking,
shaking their head, rubbing (chin/cheek) and rolling on their back, sometimes
accompanied by drooling and raking,” (“raking’ is kicking with the back legs or
“bunny kicking”), how intense it was – sniffing and licking only or sniffing, licking,
rubbing or rolling over and how long it lasted – less than 10 seconds? More than 15
seconds?  Of the 100 domestic cats studied, 79 of them responded positive to the silver
vine, 68 to catnip, 53 to Tatarian honeysuckle and 47 to valerian root.  While the
response to silver vine (79%) was close to the response to cat nip (68%) the response of
the cats to the silver vine was significantly more intense.  When just looking at the
differences between how older and younger cats responded to cat nip, the researchers
found less mild and more intense responses in younger cats compared to the older cats.  
What about the big cats?  Tigers are known to be less caring than other cats about scent
enrichments and true to form, only one out of nine tigers responded positively to cat
nip and all tigers either ignored or disapproved of the silver vine.  Five bobcats were
tested with 4 responding positively to silver vine and 1 to cat nip, the bobcat’s response
was among the most intense seen lasting from several to 15 minutes.

Use the power of catnip for the good of your cat- rub it into scratching posts to heighten
their appeal, sprinkle in a corner of their beds or resting areas (catnip is also available
as a spray), fill a clean sock with dried catnip and tie it off for the best cat nip toy. Try
growing some for kitty to enjoy, cat nip is a member of the mint family and easily
grows from seeds. But do use catnip for the simple reason that most cats love it and that
is a good enough reason.

For those of us, myself included, who are interested in the other plants cats love; you
can find powdered valerian root in drug stores where it is sold for it tranquillizing
properties (cat nip is said to have a similar effect for humans).  Tatarian honeysuckle is
considered an invasive species in many states (including mine) so it may be difficult to
obtain.  The part of the silver vine that the cats are attracted to is the fruit of the plant
after the gall midge has matured and moved out of it.  Gall midges are only found in
certain areas of Asia but powdered silver vine galls can be found online and were used
in the study.

Bol, S., J. Caspers, L. Buckingham, G.D. Anderson-Shelton, C. Ridgway, C.A. Tony Buffington, S. Schulz,
E. M. Bunnik, (2017) Responsiveness of cats (Feidae) to silver vine (Actinidaia polygama), Tatarian
honeysuckle (Lonicera tatarica), valerian (Valeriana officinalis) and catnip (Nepeta cataria).  BMC
VeterinaryResearch, 13:70
Cats enjoy catnip and it's good for them too
Copyright Frania Shelley-Grielen
"We already know that most cats
love catnip even if we are not sure
about how good it is for them. Cats
just seem to like it a little too too
much and that must make it wrong-
right?  Get ready to relax about
Ask about an individual consultation
Use the power of catnip for good with your cats, rub it onto scratching posts, toys, beds, etc.
212-722-2509 / 646-228-7813

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