All About Cat Herbs

Welcome! If you're curious about catnip alternatives, you've come to the right place! Although catnip is the cat attractant herb that most people are familiar with, there are actually some cats who don't react to it. Thankfully, there are a few other plants that cats can enjoy as well, including silver vine, valerian root and a specific type of honeysuckle wood. At Space Kitty Express, our mission is to spread herbal joy to every kitty in the galaxy and offering a variety of herbal ingredients is one of the ways we make that possible! 

There has been some research conducted on why these cat herbs work and we now know that these plants activate specific scent receptors and elicit happy responses from cats. One theory is that some of these plants may mimic feline pheromones, so cats are naturally drawn to the scents. It is important to note that these herbs are not "drugs" and are totally safe and non-addictive. There is nothing harmful about offering herbs to your cats and it can be a very rewarding way to provide enrichment for your feline friends. Cats simply enjoy the smells. There is no need to worry and the effects are temporary!

When you offer your cat a toy with cat herbs in it, you can think of it as "olfactory enrichment." You are giving them an interesting smell that they are attracted to.  This attraction causes some cats to have a classic "catnip response" where they twitch with excitement, roll on the floor, and rub the herbal scent on their cute little faces. Typically, cats will lick, nuzzle, pounce, kick and play with the herbs for around 10-20 minutes, letting some energy out in the process. Sometimes people are concerned that herbs will make their cats act "wild" but remember that giving cats an outlet for their pent-up energy is important. If your cat seems bored or has been destructive, giving them an herbal toy can help direct their energy in a better way. Often, cats will be very active while reacting to the herbs but will seem very happy and calm afterwards, perhaps curling up for a relaxing nap after an herbal enrichment session. Other cats may have a more modest response to the herbs depending on their age and temperament, but they can still experience the joyful benefits. I have heard from cat guardians who mention that their older cats or sick cats have sought comfort from their herbal toys and that the herbs seemed to calm them. I have also heard from many customers with shy cats who say the herbs helped their cats feel more comfortable and confident around people and encouraged them to feel safe with humans. Every cat is unique. 

It is totally fine for cats to play with herbs on a daily basis, but some people may notice that their cats seem more interested or excited if herbs are offered on a limited basis (perhaps once every few days or once a week). My own rescue kitties are quite spoiled and I allow them open access to whichever herbs they prefer and there has never been an issue! There is nothing wrong with allowing your cat can play with herbs as frequently as they choose. 

One thing to keep in mind is that not every cat will respond to every herb. Whether a cat is attracted to the scent of a specific herb depends on their genetic makeup. Each cat is different and they may prefer one herb over the others. All of the herbs we offer are safe, non-addictive, and well-known for their cat attractant properties. According to a study involving 100 house cats, about 80% of cats respond to Silver Vine, 65% respond to Catnip, 50% respond to Tatarian Honeysuckle, and 50% respond to Valerian Root. If you would like to try all of them, we sell sample packs which include all of the ingredients so that you can find out which herbs are your cats' favorites!

Read on for some information about each of the individual cat attractant herbs we offer.


Catnip is the herb which most people have tried with their cats. It is the herb which is easiest to find at ordinary pet stores and has been used in cat toys for a long time. For many cats, this classic cat herb is a huge hit and the cats who react to it really love it! However, you may have also noticed that your cat doesn't seem to respond to it. If your cat is in the 35% of felines who don't react to catnip, don't be discouraged! They may prefer one of the other herbs we offer. 

Silver Vine

The silver vine plant is indigenous to Asia, where it is sometimes called "Matatabi.". While traditional catnip only produces one active ingredient, silver vine contains multiple cat attractant compounds and is one of the most popular cat herbs. Around 80% of cats react to silver vine which is higher than the percentage of cats who react to ordinary catnip. There are multiple parts of the silver vine plant that contain these aromatic compounds including the stems, leaves, and fruit galls. Each part of the plant contains slightly different proportions of the active ingredients but all of them elicit positive responses from cats. Our silver vine sticks, leaves, and fruit galls have been awakening cats to the magic of catnip-alternatives for years! If you want to try silver vine with your cats, we offer it in many forms. Some cats enjoy one part of the plant more than others so it can be good to let them try a bit of everything and see what they react to most. 

Tatarian Honeysuckle

Many people are familiar with honeysuckle, but the wood of tatarian honeysuckle  has a fragrant scent that cats love!  It is only the wood of this particular species of honeysuckle which naturally creates this cat attractant scent compound. It has a distinctively pleasant, almost sweet scent. If you buy a bag of tatarian honeysuckle wood chips from us, please remember that it is a finely ground wood. We normally don't advise allowing your cat to chow down on a pile of it! It is non-toxic but it could be hard to digest since it's a dense plant material. I have allowed my own cats to eat small amounts of it without issue but we like to mention this just in case. I wouldn't want any kitties having tummy aches or constipation from eating too much. We recommend using it in toys. Another tip is that adding a few drops of water to the wood chips can help re-fresh the scent. 

Please be aware that there are many other species of honeysuckle which may be harmful to cats so you must be cautious. Do not try offering honeysuckle flowers or leaves from your backyard to your cats. Only the wood of this specific species of honeysuckle (tatarian) has cat attractant properties. 

Valerian Root

You may be familiar with valerian root tea which has a calming effect on humans. What you may not realize, is that valerian root also has cat attractant properties! In fact, some people stumble upon this accidentally when they notice their cats trying to snatch their valerian root tea sachets! While we can't promise that valerian root will make your cat calm down, some cats do enjoy relaxing and napping with our valerian root toys. I have received many photos of cats cuddling and sleeping with our valerian root toys! However, every cat is different and many cats likes to rub and play with it in a more active way as well. Be aware that Valerian Root has a strong, earthy smell. Some people find the smell of valerian root musky and overpowering (like dirty laundry). That's why we blend our organic valerian root with organic lemongrass, to help tone down the smell a bit. While lemongrass does not elicit euphoric responses from cats, many cats are drawn to the smell of it and it's safe for cats to nibble on in small amounts. Our combination of valerian root and lemongrass has been a favorite with many kitties for years! 

Multi-Herb Blends

Do you have a multi-cat household? Or maybe you aren't sure which herb to pick first? You may want to try one of our multi-herb blends. We offer a crowd-pleasing "Complete Cat Herb Blend" that contains all of our herbs, and also a "Catnip-Alternatives Blend" that contains everything except for Catnip. We also sell sample packs with a variety of our herbs. 

What might cause my cat to not like these herbs?

Since starting Space Kitty Express in 2014, we have heard of a few rare cats who seem completely disinterested in all of these cat attractant herbs but it's very uncommon. Most cats do seem drawn to at least one of these ingredients. Over the past 10 years we have only heard from a handful of customers who say their cats didn't like any of these scents. It doesn't mean that there's anything wrong with your cat. Just remember that all cats are individuals and some of them are just not interested. There is a genetic aspect to it, but it may also be their age or personality. 

Keep in mind that kittens might not respond to our herbs if they are very young. It is safe to let kittens sniff cat attractant herbs at any age, but they may not show interest in the scents until they are more mature (approximately six months to one year old). I have seen kittens respond at younger ages, but if you introduce your kitten to herbs and they don't react, you can try again once they are a bit older. I have had foster kittens who love playing with herbs at just a few weeks old, while others become interested later. Since some scientists believe that the scent compounds in cat attractant herbs mimic feline pheromones, that may explain why some cats don't seem interested until they are more mature.

Where should I start?

Remember, every cat has their own preferences when it comes to cat herbs, just like humans have individual preferences when it comes to smells. If you want to figure out which herbs your cat prefers, we highly recommend our sample packs, which will let you learn their favorites!