By Jennifer Copley (Last Updated 7 April 2011)
Everyone knows that cats love catnip or catmint, but what is less widely known is that many cats will also go crazy for other plants, such as spearmint, peppermint, cat thyme, valerian, and honeysuckle.
Catnip contains nepetalactone, a substance that induces a euphoric, possibly hallucinogenic state in cats because it mimics a feline sexual pheromone (which is why young kittens don’t respond to it). Catnip is safe and non-addictive for cats.
Catnip is a member of the Lamiaceae family, which also includes mint varieties, cat thyme (another cat attractant), and other herbs. Some of these herbs contain additional chemical compounds that are appealing to cats. Although fresh mint leaves are fine, many essential oils including peppermint are toxic to cats.
Honeysuckle has similar effects on cats as catnip. However, not all cats are responders to either honeysuckle or catnip. Studies suggest that up to 75% of cats are catnip responders, and about 30% respond to honeysuckle.
Valerian, which acts as an intoxicating stimulant for cats, contains a substance called actinidine that is attractive to felines. Valerian makes some cats excited or even slightly aggressive.
Fresh-growing valerian isn’t dangerous for cats, though more highly concentrated valerian-based medicines may not be safe for all pets. Cat owners should consult a veterinarian before administering valerian-based preparations.
For more information on cats and plants, including lists of non-toxic and toxic plants, see Plants That Are Safe for Cats.
- Hartwell, S. (2008). “Catnip, Valerian, Honeysuckle and Other Cat-Attractant Plants.” MessyBeast.com.