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News Article

Olfactory enrichment for cats: catnip and alternatives


Olfactory stimulation is an often overlooked method of environmental enrichment for cats in captivity.

A study comparing the responsiveness of domestic cats to catnip and three other plants has been published in BMC Veterinary Research.

Sebastiaan Bol, owner of the Cowboy Cat Ranch, led a study testing the effects of catnip (Nepeta cataria), silver vine (Actinidia polygama), Tatarian honeysuckle (Lonicera tatarica) and valerian (Valeriana officinalis) on 100 cats of six months or older in California, USA. The plant materials were offered inside a sock or on carpet; tatarian honeysuckle also was offered as a piece of wood.

Nearly all cats responded positively to olfactory enrichment. In agreement with previous studies, one out of every three cats did not respond to catnip. Almost 80% of the domestic cats responded to silver vine and about 50% to Tatarian honeysuckle and valerian root. Although cats predominantly responded to fruit galls of the silver vine plant, some also responded positively to its wood. Of the cats that did not respond to catnip, almost 75% did respond to silver vine and about one out of three to Tatarian honeysuckle.

The authors say that olfactory enrichment using silver vine, Tatarian honeysuckle or valerian root may, similar to catnip, be an effective means to improve the quality of life for cats, particularly those kept indoors exclusively.

Read article: Responsiveness of cats (Felidae) to silver vine (Actinidia polygama), Tatarian honeysuckle (Lonicera tatarica), valerian (Valeriana officinalis) and catnip (Nepeta cataria) by Sebastiaan Bol, Jana Caspers, Lauren Buckingham, Gail Denise Anderson-Shelton, Carrie Ridgway, C. A. Tony Buffington, Stefan Schulz and Evelien M. Bunnik, published in BMC Veterinary Research (2017) 13:70, doi:10.1186/s12917-017-0987-6

Accompanying blog: Catnip alternatives for your cat, but not for your tiger. BMC Series blog. Laura Cox, 7 April 2017

Article details

  • Date
  • 02 May 2017
  • Source
  • BMC Veterinary Research
  • Subject(s)
  • Dogs, Cats, and other Companion Animals