Updated: Dec 7, 2020
As many of you will know, catnip and a variety of other plants are well known to create euphoric responses in cats. In this blog we share some of the research that suggests that catnip, matatabi and other plants commonly used in 'catnip' mixes are safe for cats and likely play a positive role in their wellbeing.
For the BrushPod®, we have formulated a special blend of the two most commonly found plants, that have been used for centuries - especially in Europe and Asia - as euphoric cat treats.
The first of these is the catnip plant 🌱 (also known as catswort). It can be identified from its pretty purple flowers.
This is a widely naturalised plant found in Asia, Northern Europe, New Zealand and North America. Studies have shown that roughly two thirds of cats respond positively to catnip, with one third not being affected at all. It is believed that the response mechanism is hereditary.
If you would like to learn more about the studies you can read the open access study by BMC Veterinary Research here. BMC (Biomedical Central) specialise in peer reviewed research studies.
Our second plant in the mix we include with the BrushPod® is Matatabi. This is also known as Silver Vine and has been shown to elicit a euphoric response in 80% of cats - so typically has a higher success rate than Catnip.
It's identifiable by its silvery leaf tips - as if they've been dipped in paint.
It is a deciduous plant native to the mountainous areas of Japan and China. It is thought the response to silver vine is slightly more intense to catnip and many cats who do not respond to catnip will respond well to matatabi - especially when derived from the the dried fruit galls of the plant.
Catnip and Matatabi both make our moggie's roll around, rub their cheeks drool and lick. The effects are short term lasting anywhere between five and thirty minutes.
There is also often a delayed time - anything from 30 minutes to a full day - before the cat will be attracted to the plant again. Although there is some evidence to suggest over-use can lead to de-sensitisation over time.
Is it safe?
Evidence says yes. Although there is interesting debate about the ethics behind getting your cat 'high'. In fact a great read is this article authored by Professor Debra Merskin at the University of Oregan. Also - we welcome further discussion on our Chatty Cat forum on the K&L website, so do join this and our other forums to chat about all things cat!
We also observe that Professor Merskin from PETA endorses catnip:
“PETA is all for treating cat companions to reasonable amounts of high-quality catnip and able to enjoy toys (including those filled with catnip) for years to come.”
The peer reviewed studies we linked to at the beginning of this article state that 'this response [to the plants] is generally believed to be neither addicting nor harmful'. Furthermore it states ' this effect is quite rare in animals, and could be used to improve the quality of cats lives'.
It seems our feline friends are lucky to have this positive response to the smell of Catnip and Matatabi, and it's this research that has given us the confidence to develop the BrushPod®. It supports our mission to create products that improve the health, wellbeing and experiences of our feline friends.
However one caveat we have read in some blogs, is that in rare cases male cats can become aggressive around catnip. None of the blogs we read cite any research or evidence to back this up - but nonetheless we thought it might be worth mentioning.
If your cat does show any sign of aggression when using the BrushPod® we suggest using it as a normal brush without the catnip / matatabi blend. We - and I'm sure other passionate cat owners - would also welcome a discussion on this on the Chatty Cat forum.
To finish this article, if your cat happens to be unlucky enough to fall into the 20% who don't respond to Catnip or Matatabi, some other popular options to try include Tatarian Huneysuckle or Valerian Root. We've not yet tried these varieties on Kuba and Leia, but please do contact us if this is something we should be offering to customers and we'll be sure to look into them.
Of course, there are plenty of reputable sources online where you can buy and try lots of different varieties. But it's also important to remember that kittens under six months old will very unlikely be responsive and it's also worth avoiding the bottle spray varieties as the potency of these is highly diluted.
Hope you enjoyed reading this article.
References: BMC Veterinary Research - https://bmcvetres.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12917-017-0987-6
All the best,
Kuba & Leia.