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Nathalie Sari - Tiertraining & Verhaltensberatung

This article was written by TOBALIE in cooperation with Nathalie Sari - Tiertraining & Verhaltensberatung

Surely you have heard of these versatile herbs. Especially cat lovers are familiar with these medicinal plants, as they are sometimes even called “drugs” for cats. Especially in connection with cat toys, both valerian and catnip are often used to provide more excitement and fun for our furry friends. The stimulating effect of these plants makes even the gentlest velvet paws suddenly turn into wild house tigers chasing tumultuous through the house.

General information about valerian

The medicinal valerian (Valeriana officinalis) is one of the oldest and best known sedatives in our culture. In popular belief, valerian was also considered as protectant against evil spirits and witchcraft. Valerian is still used today as a kitchen herb and as an aid for various physical ailments. Fields of application of valerian:

  • Against sleep disorders
  • Against restlessness, irritability, anxiety and nervousness (e.g.: before exams)
  • Against heart problems caused by nervousness
  • Against abdominal cramps and gastrointestinal complaints
  • As a relative of lamb’s lettuce, the fresh green and the valerian blossoms are also used in the kitchen – the aromatic substances also refine foods such as ice cream or bread as an extract
  • In the perfume industry valerian is combined with other ingredients to create woody-musky fragrances

Although there are many different valerian products on the market, the dried root of valerian is mainly taken as tea and in the form of drops. But valerian is also very popular as a bath additive. Valerian is generally very well tolerated, but in some cases it can cause digestive problems or reactions of hypersensitivity. So far, however, there is no scientific evidence of its mode of action.

General information about catnip

Catnip (Nepeta cataria) – sometimes also known as “catmint” or “catswort” – is also used as a medicinal herb and is a true multi-talent. Catnip owes its antiviral and antimicrobial effect to the ingredient nepetalactone and is particularly effective as a repellent against vermin and other insects. The fresh leaves can be used as tea infusion or for seasoning.                                                              

Fields of application of catnip:

  • The oil is an effective repellent against fleas, mosquitoes, cockroaches and rats
  • Against colds, flu and stomach trouble
  • Catnip has a fever-reducing, sweat-inducing, antispasmodic, detoxifying, diuretic and slightly euphoric effect
  • As Tranquilizers
  • Against chronic bronchitis
  • As prevention against infections
  • Catnip has an appetite-stimulating effect before eating and after eating it stimulates digestion
  • In the past, the leaves were also chewed for toothache

How do valerian and catnip work on cats?

The essential oils are responsible for the typical smell of valerian, which magically attracts cats and makes them go “wild”. Especially male cats like this smell, as it resembles the alluring scent of a cat in heat. Although valerian seems to smell very seductive to cats, the intense scent reminds us humans more of rancid cheese and is generally perceived as rather unpleasant.

Catnip also owes its name to the fact that sexually mature cats are attracted to the scent of the plant. The unrestrained behavior of cats is caused by the alkaloid actinidine contained in both plants, with which the plant drives away annoying insects and pests. The smell acts as an attractant and stimulates the sexual behavior of the cats. The animals like to roll around in the plants, rub their head and chin on them, roll around wildly or eat and tear the leaves.

Although most sexually mature cats, including most large wild cats, react strongly to valerian and catnip, some cat specimens are not impressed by the plants at all. The assumption is that this distinct behavior has genetic reasons. Since also neutered males and sterilized cats respond to the scent of the plants, no aphrodisiac effect is assumed. However, kittens and older conspecifics are less attracted by the effect of the plants.

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Application and toys

Valerian cushions, catnip cushions and intensive sprays for use as cat toys are available in stores. Nevertheless, you can also easily make these stimulating toys yourself to make your sweetheart happy. Catnip, for example, is available as a potted plant or seed and is relatively easy to grow. The leaves will regrow quite quickly if you provide them with water and enough light regularly.

Because of its stimulating effect, you can use the leaves to rub on cat toys or put them in small bags when dried. Even if the concentration is a little weaker than with catnip spray, your fine fur nose will expect an explosion of smell. For humans, the high-dose scented cushions and sprays from the shops are usually too intense to use indoors. If possible, you should let your pet outside to play. Homemade scented pouch are more pleasant and can be reused for a very long time when sealed airtight.

These herbs can be used to calm down in stressful situations as well as to stimulate lazy kittens.

Are valerian and catnip harmful to cats?

Both valerian and catnip are hazard-free and non-dangerous to your darling in normal doses. Neither valerian nor catnip will “addict” your pet. However, you should be careful that your pet does not come into permanent contact with the plants, as the fragrances can cause increased stress levels if used excessively.

Within about 15 to 30 minutes the strong scent of valerian and catnip will dissipate. Therefore, although cats initially react very wildly, they quickly lose interest in the valerian or catnip pillows. Cat toys and cat trees can therefore be safely sprayed with the more intensive valerian spray from time to time, but always in small doses, to increase the pleasure of playing.

Caution is advised, however, if catnip in particular has too strong a euphoric effect on your cat. If the use of catnip leads to aggressive behaviour it should not be offered any further. Observe how your cat reacts to valerian or catnip and coordinate its use with the behaviour of your cat. If you are undecided or doubtful in this matter, contact a veterinarian or a cat behavioural counsellor.

Katze schläft bei Minze


The so-called cat drugs valerian and catnip are neither dangerous for your sweetheart nor do these natural stimulants have addictive effects. Once or twice a week you can give your darling those “cat drugs” to play, sniff or nibble without hesitation. If you have a green thumb, you can also simply grow the euphoric plants at home. So you can easily make your four-legged friend happy and offer him a welcome change anytime.