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Is Your Cat Unamused by Catnip? Try Silver Vine Instead

Kitties who don't like catnip deserve a fun time, too.

Say you’re at the pet store to pick up some cat food, and you spot a cute catnip toy. It’s been a while since your sweet furry friend has gotten a new toy, and you’ve always wondered whether she’d enjoy catnip. You toss it in your cart. As soon as you get home, you remove the toy from the packaging, set it down in front of your kitty, and whip out your phone, ready to film her hilarious antics. She sniffs it, paws at it a few times, and saunters off. So much for that!

Does this frustrating scenario sound familiar? Cats are supposed to love catnip, right? Not necessarily, as it turns out. While a source from 2007 says 70 to 80 percent of cats react to catnip, recent research suggests that only 50 to 70 percent react. That means a lot of cats simply don’t enjoy the substance. However, that doesn’t mean your cat responds to nothing. You may want to try silver vine instead.

What is silver vine?

silvervine green and white leaves on vine

Silver vine (scientific name: Actinidia polygama) is a type of plant native to China, Japan, and Russia. It’s a climbing vine with rounded leaves that come to a point, and the name comes from the silvery-white color on the tops of the leaves. In early to mid summer, the plant bears small, white flowers and fuzzy, grape-shaped fruit. The inside of the fruit resembles a kiwi (the silver vine is part of the kiwi family) except that it’s orange. And while the fruit is edible, raw or cooked, most people agree that it doesn’t taste very good unless eaten with a little salt. The leaves can be roasted or mixed with tea, and have a mild hallucinatory effect in humans when consumed in large quantities.

What happens to cats who react to it?

In cats, silver vine produces a euphoric effect (similar to the effect of catnip). The reaction will start immediately and last for about 30 minutes — your furry friend may get hyperactive or sleepy, and roll around, nuzzle into the silver vine, or lick it. After that, your kitty will likely return to normal. There are no reports of toxicity or adverse effects in cats, so it’s safe to use. Another bonus: silver vine and catnip act as insect repellant, so it’s possible that cats in the wild benefited from these plants in more ways than one.

Will my cat to react to silver vine (and other plants)?

It’s very likely. In a 2017 study, almost 80 percent of all tested cats responded to silver vine. About 66 percent responded to catnip, 50 percent to Tatarian honeysuckle, and 50 percent to valerian root. (Tatarian honeysuckle and valerian root are two other plants that often produce euphoric effects in cats.) Some cat products contain mixtures of two or more substances to increase the likelihood that your cat will react.

Why do cats react to silvervine and catnip?

According to research performed at Harvard University, silver vine and catnip contain substances that activate the reward and pleasure centers of the cat brain. In silver vine, the active ingredient is nepetalactol, and in catnip, it’s nepetalacetone. Fortunately, neither ingredient is addictive. “The part of the cat brain [that activates] is similar to the opioid system that responds to morphine in humans, but the cats are not in danger of being addicted to or harmed by silver vine,” the researchers explained.

Where can I buy silver vine?

You can buy silver vine sticks, powders, or toys online. For a few products we like, try: Meowijuana King Sized Silvervine Cat Sticks (Buy from Petco, $12.99) or Meowy Jane’s Silver Vine Powder (Buy from Amazon, $13.95). (Talk about marketing names.) As for infused toys, most companies sell them as a blend of catnip and silver vine; a popular option is Hartz Cattraction Fish Cat Toys (Buy from Amazon, $6.97). We hope your kitty enjoys it!

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