Silvervine vs Catnip  — Which One Is Best for My Cat?

Silvervine vs catnip — what are they and how do they affect our kitties?

We don’t know about you, but we are always on the lookout for new ways to enrich and entertain our Fluffy Yoda. On this blog, we love to research the best accessories for our kitties’ lives, from the best beds and trees to treats and toys

And catnip toys have always been a hit. Twitching tails, dilated pupils & hours of fun — most of us have some experience of our kitties playing with this funny substance. 

But what actually is catnip? What is it about this mysterious plant that makes our cats go so wild? 

And then there’s silvervine, a less well-known stimulant that’s causing waves in the cat world. So we’re wondering… Do cats love silvervine like they do catnip?

Let’s take a closer look at the compounds of these plants, their side effects & their safety. Plus, we’ll be giving you the ULTIMATE list of the best catnip and silvervine toys to buy for your kitty’s playtime. Because that’s what we all love best, right? 🙂

Quick Facts:

  • Both catnip and silvervine are species of plants that emit chemical compounds found appealing to many cats
  • These compounds can mimic the sexual pheromones in cats, and elicit a range of positive effects in cats
  • These stimulants are most effective on mature cats, kittens often do not seem to respond
  • Some cats can react negatively to stimulants, especially aggressive cats, so be sure to supervise first experiences
  • Around 70% to 80% of cats respond to catnip 
  • Around 80% of cats respond to silvervine, with 75% of those who do not react to catnip finding silvervine stimulating 
  • Combining catnip and silvervine, or refreshing toys with refills, can help to keep the excitement going for longer

Let’s start with the old favorite — catnip. 

What Is Catnip?

White fluffy cat hiding behind catnip plant

Catnip, known scientifically as ‘Nepeta Cataria’, is a herb from the mint family.

It’s a super common plant in parts of North America, as it grows very easily here. It has feathery, light-green foliage, with little flowers similar to lavender. Cute right? 

The name ‘catnip’ seems to have emerged from the reaction cats have to this plant. But as well as entertaining our feline friends, catnip leaves are also often used to make tea and are used in natural bug sprays. 

What Does Catnip Do to Cats?

Cats have an extra scent organ than us humans, called the ‘vomeronasal gland’ and it’s located in the roof of their mouth. This special scent gland transmits scents straight to their brain…scents that we can’t even smell! 

And there’s an oil found within the leaves of catnip, called ‘nepetalactone’. It’s the smell of this oil that affects our kitties, as it mimics feline sex hormones! Both male and female cats will then react as if they are ‘in heat’ or ‘high’, as the powerful pheromone-like smell takes over.

Each cat will react differently to catnip, with some seemingly unaffected by the scent. Kittens are often uninterested until they reach maturity, for example. For some cats, it may take 30 minutes to see the effects, while others will have an instant reaction. 

The effects of catnip can include:

  • Increased affection
  • Visible relaxation
  • Meowing and vocalization
  • Increased playfulness
  • Heightened prey drive
  • Hyperactivity & drooling
  • Rubbing, scratching, and licking the catnip source

What Is Catnip Used For?

What many owners see is a happy, playful and engaged cat, who can spend a few hours enjoying a toy or playing with their human. This is why catnip toys have become a very popular method of enrichment. 

If a cat has a positive reaction to catnip, some vets suggest it as a way to decrease anxiety or a natural pain relief method. For example, if your cat struggles with separation anxiety, a catnip toy could ease them through this alone time. 

Is Catnip Bad for Cats?

Are there side effects to catnip that could be bad? Yes. As with any stimulant, catnip isn’t for every cat. 

The molecules that carry catnip’s scent, called ‘terpenoids’, can be toxic. However, they are usually harmless in the quantity in which they are present in catnip.

Still, the ASPCA warns that high levels of catnip can be toxic for this reason. Even in safe amounts, some cats can also experience vomiting and diarrhea or unsafe levels of sedation when coming into contact with the plant. 

It’s also a possibility that your kitty could become a little too stimulated, and become hyperactive, aggressive, or destructive. It could make them a danger to themselves, or even to you!

How to Use Catnip:

  • Do Start Slowly – For this reason, be sure to introduce catnip to your cat slowly, in small amounts, and observe their reaction carefully. 
  • Do Get Creative – If your cat has a positive reaction, you can invest in some catnip toys (see below!), sprinkle the dried leaves around, or spray liquid catnip on an existing toy. 
  • Don’t Go Overboard – Too much exposure to catnip can make your cat nauseous, overly drowsy, or even overstimulated. So know when your cat’s had enough. 
  • Don’t Give To Aggressive Cats – As mentioned above, aggression can be heightened so avoid giving catnip to cats with these tendencies. 

Best Catnip Toys:

YEOWWW! Variety Pack 

These toys have rave reviews, with owners claiming their cats have been enjoying them for years! Being so hard-wearing, they are a great investment piece that will reduce your need for other toys. 

This variety pack is ideal for multi-cat households and the shapes make pouncing super fun. Check out some of those Amazon video reviews for some great footage of just how enjoyable they are!

Hand Knit Wool Catnip Toys 

These gorgeous little toys are made of 100% wool and knitted using ancient Inca Indian techniques. Chilly Dog, the manufacturer, directly employs two families, championing Fair Trade. So both your cat and you can feel great about playing with them!

grey cat jumping playing with catnip toy outside

Each toy is handmade, and according to reviews, they can withstand the tearing and clawing of a great play session. The catnip is 100% natural and very effective, plus these yarn toys are naturally biodegradable. The random characters are super cute too!

SmartyKat Fish Friends

If your cat needs a little encouragement to start playtime, this fishy trio creates a textural experience most cats will adore. Made with crinkly materials, feathers, and ribbons, they’ll appeal to your kitty’s wild side!

Made with 100% chemical-free and pesticide-free catnip, they’re also super lightweight — which reviewers say their cats love because they can bat and chase them easily. So if your kitty loves to run around the hallways, these could be ideal. 

KONG Refillable Carrot with Feather

This handy refillable toy allows you to top up or refresh the catnip inside as and when your feline friend seems to have become accustomed to the scent. This way, you can reuse the same toy for as long as it lasts, while still keeping your cat entertained. 

Feathers are usually a big hit with most cats. So if your kitty needs a little encouragement, you could try this interesting, textural toy to get them excited. 

Beco Catnip Cat Toy

Beco is a fantastic company for eco-friendly pet supplies. This catnip stuffed toy has a soft, yet durable outer, made from recycled plastic. Giving trash a second life and encouraging its collection and reuse — which we love! Plus strong double stitching ensures you won’t be throwing it away any time soon.  

They use premium North American catnip, which reviewers say is super potent and encourages hours of play!

So that’s a wrap on catnip. Now, what about the new kid on the block?

What Is Silvervine?

Though catnip is the best-known cat stimulant, many other plants can alter our felines’ moods and behaviors.

One that’s being talked about a lot is silvervine, also known as ‘matatabi’. This plant comes from areas of Japan and China. It produces a kiwi-like fruit and beautiful silver leaves and flowers — giving it its beautiful name. 

Silvervine produces the chemical compound ‘nepetalacol’, which cats seem to have positive reactions to. Interestingly, this is a slightly different compound to the ‘nepetalactone’ found in catnip — despite being similar to write! 🙂

Do Cats Like Silvervine?

Yes! You’ll notice a similar effect with silvervine as you do with catnip. Many cats will become relaxed, playful & happy in its presence. 

One study found that almost 80% of the domestic cats responded to silvervine, which seems to be slightly higher than the rates for catnip. In fact, in the same study, silvervine elicited a response in 75% of the domestic cats that did not react to catnip. Interesting!

Is Silvervine for Cats Safe?

Currently, there seems to be no issue with toxicity or adverse effects to silvervine.

However, it’s important to watch your kitty for any signs of distress or illness when playing with stimulants, especially for the first time. 

ginger cat rolling in catnip leaves

It’s fascinating, but it seems that cats generally do not become aggressive in response to silvervine. It can also be used to help multi-cat households interact more positively with each other, as long as there are enough toys to go around of course!

How to Use Silvervine:

As with catnip, it’s best to keep it as a treat. Offer the toy to your cat only a couple of times a week for no longer than a few hours. This way, they will get the maxim effect and still find the toy exciting. 

Silvervine comes in a few different forms:

  • Fruit – The fruit contains the highest amount of smell, so will be likely to turn your kitty a little wild!
  • Stem – This is the vine wood that’s usually found in stick form, for playing and chewing on. 
  • Powder – Use a small pinch on a favorite toy, scratching post, or wherever you want to encourage play.
  • Toys – Silvervine is growing in popularity and is often found in many toys (see below for some awesome toy suggestions!) 

The Best Silvervine Toys:

Silvervine Sticks

These sticks are entirely natural and unprocessed, making for both eco-friendly and safe cat toys — which we love! As well as being perfect for batting and chasing, chewing these sticks can help to reduce your kitty’s dental plaque and tartar, freshen their breath and ward off gum disease.  

Silvervine Wall Ball Toy 

Made of 100% natural materials, these ball holders can be stuck to your wall and silvervine balls installed to provide a sensory experience for your cat. They can rub, sniff, chew & lick to their heart’s content!  

As well as providing dental benefits, these balls can be replaced when your kitty needs a refresher, providing a potentially more eco-friendly and wallet-friendly option than constantly buying new toys. 

Organic Silvervine Beer Bottles

These beer bottle toys can provide both endless humor and endless fun – as they are refillable and perfectly shaped for a funny photo! So you’ll be able to refresh them to get a great photo of your kitty drunk on catnip or silvervine!

Created with organic crushed fruit from pure wild growing silvervine, without any additives or preservatives. Customers rave about their quality and durability too!

Cattraction Silvervine Kicker

If you want to see how your kitty reacts to catnip and silvervine combined, try this toy out for size! Packed with plenty of ways to play, the Kicker is designed to appeal to your kitty’s hunting instincts. Includes a long plush center, feathery tail, crinkly body, ribbons & strings.

This toy contains a natural, yet potent combination of silvervine and catnip. Set to excite and engage your kitty, holding their attention while you are busy or need to get some work done! 

The Wrap Up — Silvervine vs Catnip

Silvervine is already super popular with cat lovers in Asian countries and is growing in popularity here, mainly due to its lack of side effects and reduction of aggression. 

It’s also becoming clear that more cats seem to respond to silvervine than catnip, so you’re more likely to get bang for your buck too!

Whichever stimulants you use, be sure to use them as a treat, switch up their usage for maximum effect and make sure your kitty is happy using them. 

Happy playing! 🙂

The Fluffy Kitty

The Fluffy Kitty blog inspires cat owners around the world to live a more adventurous and eco-friendly life with their cats. Read more about our story on our about us page.

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