Silver Vine: A Popular Alternative to Catnip

Catnip is easily recognizable as one of the most popular ways to provide enrichment for cats. Your cat’s sense of smell is amazing and so it’s a great way to engage them in play with a sense that is often overlooked. But what if your cat just doesn’t seem to like catnip? Research shows that silver vine, sometimes referred to as “Matatabi,” is a plant with similar effects as catnip that has a much higher chance of sparking interest in your kitty.

A 2017 article published in BMC Veterinary Research found that about 1 in 3 cats do not have any kind of response to catnip. This is in comparison to the almost 80% of cats who have a reaction to silver vine.

black and white cat playing with cat toy

What Is Silver Vine & Where Does It Grow?

Silver vine is a vining plant native to mountainous areas of China and Japan and is very commonly given to cats in those regions. Cats typically enjoy the plant’s bark, leaves, or fruit galls. So, should you give your cat silver vine?

What Kind of Reaction Should I Expect?

For most cats, silver vine creates a reaction very similar to catnip. If you kitty is part of the 80% who are genetically predisposed to respond to silver vine, you can expect them to roll around, rub against their toys and you, and maybe even drool! Generally, this plant creates a very “euphoric” response in cats which is enjoyable for them and fun for you to watch. 

There is some debate over whether silver vine can cause aggression in cats, which has been noted as a response with catnip in some cats. In an article by the National Institutes of Health, scientists have observed that cats who are aggressive with each other tend to get along when introduced to silver vine. However, other sources say that positive or negative reactions can occur. The reaction your cat has will be unique and you should always supervise your cats during play–and particularly with any new toy or material.

Silver vine powder

Silver vine powder (close-up).

Cat parents report that both silver vine and catnip can cause cats to become hyperactive and very playful, which has the potential to come off as aggression to other cats not wanting to play. Many cat owners also report that after a play session with catnip or silvervine, their cats “mellow out” and become sleepy and take a nap. Ultimately, you’ll have to watch your own cat carefully.

While most cats respond positively to silver vine and catnip, always monitor your pet when playing with either plant. If and how your cat responds to silver vine is heavily dependent on their genetics, so it can be hard to predict their reaction. Interest in silvervine usually only lasts about 10 minutes and has not been noted to have any long-lasting effects. So go ahead, enjoy some playtime with your kitty by engaging their olfactory senses in the process.

Is Silver Vine More Potent Than Catnip?

While it may seem like your cat has a stronger response to silver vine than catnip, neither plant is more potent than the other. More cats are genetically capable of a sensitivity to silver vine over catnip; and many owners mistake the increased sensitivity for the plant as being “stronger” than catnip. 

What Part Of The Silver Vine Plant Safe?

While silvervine isn’t necessarily stronger than catnip, different parts of the plant have been noted to be “stronger” than other parts of the plant. For example, fruit galls–or naturally occurring imperfections on the part of the plant that bears fruit–seem to garner a more playful reaction than just the bark.

Is Silver Vine a Drug?

No, silver vine is not a drug. It is a completely safe, non-addictive substance for cats. Catnip is also a non-addictive substance safe for cat consumption. In fact, both plants are safe for human consumption, too! But they won’t make any humans roll over and bunny kick.


Why Give Silver Vine To Your Cat?

Engaging your cat’s olfactory senses is an often overlooked form of enrichment that cats love. A big part of living in the wild is catching smells and marking on objects–like plants–and indoor kitties don’t have the same opportunities to engage in those behaviors. 


How To Use Silvervine

Silver vine is a great enrichment activity to introduce not only because it lets your cat use more of their senses, but it’s also fun for you to watch and play with them. A tiny bit goes a very long way. 

  • Use just a pinch to rub on toys to reinvigorate them.
  • Sprinkle a bit on cat trees and cat scratchers to renew interest
  • If you make toys at home, put a little sprinkle of silvervine inside. 

Cats generally become very happy or playful when given silver vine, which makes you feel better in return!

Ready To Try It? Here’s Where To Get It!

Silvervine Powder Combo from The Catnip Times

Try these toys that are already stuffed with silver vine for your cat’s enjoyment!

Get some pure silver vine or a blend of catnip and silver vine to sprinkle on your cat’s toys, scratchers, and other items. We’re partial to our own brand pack in human-grade containers and rated 5 stars on Etsy!

Visit our Etsy Shop!


About the author

Madeleine Brown is a student at the University of Chicago studying English literature. When she’s not studying, her passions are reading, baking, and spoiling her two kitties, Harper and Mr. Bingley.