What is valerian for cats?
Our kitties suffer from anxiety and stress just like we do. Whether it’s caused by changes to their environment, overstimulation, or boredom, understanding the signs and knowing what you can do to keep them stress-free is key to a happy and healthy cat. There are a whole range of things you can do to help relieve your cats stress, but today we’re going to focus on valerian. It’s a herb well-renowned for its stress-relieving benefits, and one that’s perfectly safe for kitties in the right form and quantity. We’ll go into some more depth as to exactly what valerian is, then cover how you can serve it and the benefits you may see. Seated comfortably? Let’s tuck in.
What is valerian?
Valerian is a pretty purple flowering plant, native to Europe and Asia. However, the part of the plant that we’re going to be focusing on is below the soil, the root. Valerian root extract has been used for centuries to treat a variety of conditions from insomnia and digestive issues to menopause and even muscle fatigue. It’s not just us hoomans who can benefit from it though. Valerian root extract is not only perfectly safe for our cats, but can also give them some of these magical benefits.
It's often mistakenly thought of being the same as catnip, however it’s very much not the same. Not only is it a totally different type of plant, but it contains different chemicals which react with your cat in rather opposing ways. This makes it a great alternative for cats that don’t like catnip. Valerian root extract contains several different chemicals that attract and affect our kitties, including Actinidine.
How can I give my cat valerian?
The two main ways to give your kitty valerian are either orally, or olfactorily (aka giving it a whiff). For your kitty to consume it, the best way is to use a tasty Cat Calming Treat, or over the counter cat-specific tablet squished into a cat treat. To sniff it, the valerian can be stuffed inside a toy, or used in a spray. Depending on what your intended outcome is will determine whether it’s best for your cat to eat or sniff it, as you’ll uncover in the next section.
Don’t forget you should never give your cat human-grade valerian powder or tablets as these could contain other ingredients that are toxic to cats like garlic. Equally you shouldn’t give your kitty neat valerian, as this could present a choking hazard.
If you cat has any medical issues, you should also check with your vet before giving them any kind of stimulant. Your vet will then be able to let you know if it will sit okay alongside whichever medication they're on.
How do cats react to valerian?
Cats react to valerian differently depending on how they encounter it. If you’re using valerian to keep your kitty super chillz, you’ll want to ensure they eat it rather than smell it. When consumed, the effects of valerian can include euphoria, purring, and can even fall asleep. On the other hand, if your cat smells valerian, the effects may be similar to that of catnip. AKA being extra playful and hyperactive, rubbing against it and running about like a loonatic. Following from this initial period of playfulness, valerian can leave cats calm and relaxed, which is why it’s often preferred to than catnip.
Does valerian effect all cats?
Nope! You may have spotted we made a conscious effort to use words like “can” and “may” is because not all cats are impacted by valerian. Cats only develop the “valerian gene” around the around of 3-6 months, so if you’re kitty is younger than this, it could well have no impact. Even after this age, not all cats respond to it, with one study suggesting roughly 50% of cats react to valerian.
The bottom line
If you spot your cat is stressed we know you’ll want to help them in any way you can. Valerian on its own won’t be an adequate solution, but used as part of a wider plan including behavioural and environmental changes, you should be able to help your kitty calm while their worries slip away and they can enjoy a happier life.
Whilst you’re here, why not read:
- Fireworks and pets: 10 ways to help reduce their anxiety
- Dreamies Cat Treats; are they good or bad?
- 5 cat calming tips to ease anxiety