valerian for cats

Valerian For Cats: Benefits & Effects

You’ve probably heard of catnip but have you ever heard of valerian root? This all-natural herb could be a new favourite for your cat.

Cats tend to be attracted to the strong smell of Valerian and it can make them feel playful and relaxed. It is found in many cat toys and can be bought as a spray too. 

This guide gives you all the information you need on what valerian root is, how it is used and why it is increasingly popular among cat owners. 

What Is Valerian? 

Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) is native to Europe and Asia but is now grown in other continents. 

Valerian root is what is used for cats as it contains Actinidine, this is a pheromone that is known to attract cats.

It is similar to (but not exactly the same as) what is found in Catnip and other plants. Cats of all sizes are attracted to the valerian root’s smell, including wild felines! 

It has a strong, pungent fragrance that many humans consider to be unpleasant. It is not something that should be out all the time.

Valerian toys should be put away after your cat has finished playing with them.

You may want to store Valerian products in an airtight container to help preserve its odour and prevent your cat from smelling it and trying to access it when it is stored away. 

There are lots of articles discussing valerian root, the effect valerian root toys have on cats and whether these strong-smelling toys are safe or not.

Don’t worry, valerian and valerian-stuffed toys are safe to give to cats but you should always supervise your cat when they are playing with a valerian toy as it can cause ecstatic play behaviour. 

Your cat should not have access to valerian 24/7, it should be given to them on occasion as a treat or as a way to help handle stressful situations. 

How Do Cats React To Valerian? 

Different cats respond in different ways.

Most cats will cuddle, lick and play with valerian filled toys.

cat reacting to valerian

Many cats find being exposed to valerian root relaxing and exciting so some cats get very playful (for example running around, chasing or chewing the toy). 

The different responses make valerian particularly great for indoor cats as it can help increase their physical activity and reduce boredom.

Giving toys with valerian can help enrich your cat’s environment. 

How Long Does It Work? 

The amount of time a cat is affected by the valerian root varies between cats.

Generally you can expect it to work for 5-20 minutes.

After this time the cat won’t react to the Valerian toys for at least 30-120 minutes.

This is when the toy should be taken away and placed in a storage container ready for the next play (the toy may need to be dried out before storage). 

What Are The Benefits? 

Valerian can help cats relax which is why Valerian filled toys are so popular during stressful situations such as firework season.

Many cats find disruptions in their general routine to be stressful and Valerian offers a way of calming them down and relaxing them without the need for medication or other means of intervention. 

5 Key Benefits Valerian Has On Cats 

  1. Relaxation – as mentioned above, one of the main uses of valerian is to help cats relax.
  2. It attracts them to new objects such as toys, beds and scratching posts – cats often turn their noses up at new items which makes it very difficult to encourage them to at least try the new item out. Sprinkling a small amount of Valerian on the new item can help capture your cat’s attention and will hopefully lead to them playing with the new toy, trying out the new scratching post or snuggling up in their new bed etc. 
  3. Improves sleep – as Valerian helps a cat relax, it makes sense that it will help them sleep too. If your cat is overactive or has trouble falling asleep, valerian can help with this.
  4. Reduces aggression – a relaxed cat is far less likely to be aggressive. Giving your cat valerian can help you prevent your cat from fighting or getting into disagreements wih other cats. It is useful in multi-cat households where tensions can run high at times. 
  5. Provides enrichment – valerian can encourage playtime and physical activity. It gives cats something new and exciting to experience and can help prevent them from becoming bored. 
valerian can be used to encourage cats to use new scratching posts

As well as toys, valerian is available in the form of sprays, powders and air diffusers, in fact you can even get valerian based cat wine too!

How Was Valerian Discovered? 

“Cat herbs” such as Valerian have been attracting the attention of wild cats for centuries and scientists have long been using the plants as a way to study felines in the wild.

This is not new, it is tried and tested so you can trust it is safe to give to your cat. 

Introducing Valerian To Your Cat

When you introduce valerian, it is best to start with a small amount so you can see how your cat responds to it.

Once you have a good idea of how your cat reacts you can adjust the amount accordingly.

If you are introducing valerian in the form of a toy, just monitor your cat’s reaction and take the toy away when playtime is over.

Is Valerian The Same As Catnip?

No, valerian and catnip are two different things.

valerian and catnip
On the left valerian, on the right catnip

They are sometimes spoken about synonymously but there are differences between them.

Not all cats like, or respond to, catnip but those same cats may respond to valerian.

Valerian offers a safe and suitable alternative to catnip so if your cat doesn’t react to their catnip toys or is bored of catnip then valerian is worth a try.

What’s The Difference Between Valarian And Catnip?

Catnip comes from the leaves of a mint plant (Nepeta cataria). When the leaves are crushed it releases nepetalactone which is an essential oil.

When a cat inhales this essential oil it gives them a boost of energy which can make them very playful. 

Valerian is a herb made from the dried and crushed valerian root. A cat reacts to the Actinidine which is a pheromone-like stimulant. 

As you can see, valerian and catnip are completely different and this is why some cats may react to one but not the other.  

Do Valerian Toys Work In Multi-Cat Households?

Valerian toys can help reduce tensions in multi-cat households and are particularly helpful when introducing new cats to each other.

It is important to offer at least one toy per cat so the cats do not get territorial or dominant over the toy.

As valerian helps to relax cats and can reduce aggression it is well-suited to use in homes with more than one cat. 

Does Valerian Root Work For Humans? 

Yes, according to Healthline, valerian root has been used for centuries to promote tranquility and improve sleep in humans.

However, you should not give your cat human valerian supplements or liquids as these may be too strong for cats and may also contain other ingredients that are harmful. 

Can I Grow Valerian At Home? 

You can grow valerian plants at home but it requires rich, well watered soil. The pink flowers and subtle scent of the flowering plant is relatively unassuming but underneath the soil is a large network of pale roots. The root is the origin of the valerian we are discussing (the valerian cats love). 

As it is the valerian root that your cat is most interested in, it will take around 2 years (or 2 growing seasons) until you are able to harvest the root. Once the root has been harvested, you will need to dry it and crush it into valerian powder. 

The powder can then be sprinkled into toys etc. It’s quite a process but luckily valerian is readily available so you don’t need to grow it yourself unless you really want to. 

In Conclusion 

Valerian is a completely safe herb that can provide your cat with some new and exciting enrichment.

It has a pungent smell but the pheromone attracts cats and can make them feel playful and relaxed.

Valerian can be used to promote exercise, reduce stress and can help you build bonds with your cats.

It is a perfect alternative to catnip.

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