We’ve established how wonderful catnip and silver vine are for our kitties’ bouts of playtime. But what are the chief ways in which these herbs enhance their overall health?
- Relief of Stress and Anxiety – Cats are highly sensitive to stress (not just theirs, but ours), and like us, they require consistent periods of relaxation to maintain good health. Hiding, hissing and growling, and litterbox problems are just a few symptoms of stress that erroneously cause us to label a cat “mean” or “spiteful.” But in reality, cats are strict creatures of habit and can become stressed by seemingly innocuous conditions such as a new cat in the neighborhood or even new furniture in our home. We must remember that cats do not have the same choices in minimizing or managing stress like we do. Therefore, using catnip or silver vine on a regular basis – in conjunction with toys and play – can significantly lessen these stressors.
- Sharpens Natural Hunting Skills - Indoor cats can become lethargic, leaving their hunting skills dulled and unused. This is problematic because the instinctive urge to hunt remains an integral part of a cat’s genetic make-up. Being unable to act upon those urges can add to a cat’s stress. Toys and playtime provide some relief, but the mild hallucinogenic properties in catnip and silver vine are thought to allow cats to act upon their hunting skills in a different way altogether.
- Alleviation of Medical Ailments – Catnip and silver vine possess illness fighting properties for humans. One studyat NYU’s Langone Medical Center suggests that catnip can treat digestive issues, anxiety, insomnia, and colds in humans. Similarly, silvervine may alleviate hypertension, arthritic pain, and act as a sedative in humans. While no comprehensive data exists on the subject, it’s very plausible that cats may derive many of these same medical benefits from the herbs. Consider how cats are, in some cases of severe stress, prescribed anti-anxiety medications such as fluoxetine (Prozac) or alprazolam (Xanax). Just as pharmaceuticals can help cats the same way they do humans, it makes sense that catnip and silver vine can, too.
- Increased Bonding with Humans – When the hyperactive effects of catnip and silver vine wear off and the cat enters his stage of sublime tranquility, he is more amenable to bonding with his human caretaker. The cat is now fully relaxed and free of stress, which makes it easy for us humans to cuddle, massage, and talk to him. This is an especially important bonding activity for cats that are skittish or shy. Many cats who are not “lap cats,” or that feel uncomfortable being cuddled, can experience quality bonding during this relaxed period of contentment.Cat-human bonding has long been associated with mood and quality of life improvement in both the animal and human.
While catnip and silver vine should not be used as a substitute for toys, playtime, and bonding with our felines, “going green” can effectively enhance our cats’ emotional, physical, and mental health. By keeping our little lions relaxed and in touch with their wild sides, we will all reap the benefits of a harmonious, green household.
Sarah Beauchemin is a freelance writer based in Southern California and owner of the arts & culture blog,thehumanitease.com.