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Cat Health

Top 5 Alternatives to Catnip


Catnip (Nepeta cataria) is an amazing plant. It’s been grown for centuries because it has a sedative effect on humans and acts much like chamomile. Best of all, the concentration of its active chemical nepetalactone is reported to be 10 times more powerful than DEET when used as a mosquito repellent! (But sadly, that insect-repelling property only lasts a few hours).

Many cats love catnip, but the sad fact is that not every cat will react to it. In fact, only about 50% of cats have a reaction to catnip; and if your cat’s under three months old, they will have no reaction at all because they haven’t developed the equipment to respond. In addition, the reaction to catnip is an inherited trait and if your cat doesn’t have the gene, well, they just won’t respond to the plant.

But not all is lost. If you have a cat that doesn’t respond to the favored nip, you simply find an alternative that does work. Here is a roundup of our top five favorite alternatives to catnip:

[note style=”5″ icon=”yes”]When possible, we use affiliate links in our posts. This helps allow us to continue bringing helpful articles to you. Thank you for using them to help keep this website alive.[/note] [heading style=”1″ color=”#ff9933″ style_color=”#ff9933″]1. Valerian Root[/heading]

Best known for its soothing qualities to humans, Valerian Root acts as a stimulant to cats. Over 120 chemical components are found in valerian and although it’s a very complex herb, it has not been found to have any negative side effects with moderate use. 

We love the Valerian Root used in From the Field and Bavarian Cat Toys

Valerian Root

[load_module id=”210″] [heading style=”1″ color=”#ff9933″ style_color=”#ff9933″]2. Silvervine[/heading]

Silvervine grows in many gardens around the world these days, but it’s traditionally found in Japanese gardens. In Japan, Silvervine is known as Matatabi.

This plant is so potent that it contains not just one, but two cat attractant compounds. The first is Actinidin (which is also found in Valerian). The second is dihydroactinidiolide, which is a terpene with a sweet tea-like fragrance. 

Silvervine is such a well-known attractant that there is an old Japanese saying: 

ねこ に またたび%2C じょろ に こばん

“neko ni matatabi, joro ni koban” (translated as: “Silvervine to a cat, a coin to a prostitute”). Basically it means, “To put someone in a good mood, give them their heart’s desire.” 

When purchasing Silver Vine products, stay with vendors you know. There can be a lot of adulteration in natural products, so we recommend staying with organic sources. Our favorite packages of Silver Vine come from From the Field

Silver Vine

[heading style=”1″ color=”#ff9933″ style_color=”#ff9933″]3. Lavender[/heading]

These days, you can find lavender-scented everything (from cat litter to cleaning solution).

Why is lavender such a big hit? Because it’s a natural calmant for nearly every species (including humans) and it smells great. 

In 2009, The International Journal of Phytotherapy and Phytopharmacology published a report in which a double-blind study was performed to investigate lavender as an alternative to benzodiazepine (valium). The six-week study, compared lorazepam (a common medication prescribed for depression) to silexan (a lavender oil capsule). Results were compared using the Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale (which is the industry standard for measuring anxiety).It showed that those taking the lavender capsule showed as much improvement as those taking the lorazepam.

The active ingredients in lavender are 51% linalool and 35% linalyl acetate. Linalool is a terpene alcohol that is responsible for the strong floral scent of lavender.

There are many ways you can explore the benefits of lavender, but one of our favorites is diffusing a high-quality lavender essential oil into the air. When diffusing any type of oils around cats, be sure you take precautions. While lavender is one of the safest oils there is, ffusion of oils into the air should only be done in areas where animals have a clear way to leave the room if it becomes too much for them. Remember, less is more when it comes to essential oils. Many essential oils are toxic to cats and should never be given to cats orally or applied topically, unless you’re under the care of a holistic veterinarian. (Learn more about Using Essential Oils and Natural Remedies on Cats and 10 Possible Reasons Your Cat Is Behaving Badly) 

The best way to see how your cat reacts to lavender is to grow some lavender. It’s considered safe for cats to eat and it also makes a great natural insect repellent!

Ladybug on Lavender

[heading style=”1″ color=”#ff9933″ style_color=”#ff9933″]4. Chamomile[/heading]

Chamomile is a member of the Asteraceae family, but there are many different species: two of the most popular (and safest) plants in this family are derived from Roman Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile) or German Chamomile (Marticaria recutita). 

Chamomile flowers are a great way to help a cat relax. If your cat doesn’t respond to catnip, but you still want something that will attract them to toys, Chamomile is a great alternative. You can choose to diffuse it, buy toys with chamomile flowers inside, or use hydrosols in areas your cat enjoys. 

Chamomile flowers

[heading style=”1″ color=”#ff9933″ style_color=”#ff9933″]5. Tatarian Honeysuckle (Lonicera Tatarica)[/heading]

If your cat doesn’t respond to catnip, he may still react to honeysuckle. In fact, it is thought that this plant can produce a greater reaction than catnip. 

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).

While there haven’t been any scientific studies done on this (come on, science – where are you spending your time!?), it’s suggested that nearly 30% of cats do have a noticeable reaction to this interesting plant. 

Unlike catnip, the wood of Tartarian honeysuckle has a better effect if is wet. The active ingredient is similar in structure but not the same as the nepetalactone found in catnip. While there are many species of honeysuckle, this is the only type that cats may react to.

Be safe when selecting these toys and never give you pet the actual plant to play with. The berries from certain species of honeysuckle can be dangerous, even deadly. We recommend you only purchase honeysuckle toys from vendors you trust. Here are a few places to order honeysuckle toys and sprays on Amazon from vendors we believe put out a good product.



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. 

Tatarian Honeysuckle

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