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Valerian; The Key to Your Cat’s Happiness
Ever wondered why your cat goes crazy for catnip?
You may believe he is showing his appreciation for the gift, but if you know cats you wouldn’t really believe that. However, an alternative completely scientific and non emotional explanation would better suit your furry friends nature.
You may not think much about that cheap mouse toy you bought offhandedly, but the complexity of it may surprise you. Let’s talk about what it is about Valerian catnip that gets your cat going, how it works, and how it can benefit your kitty’s health.
What is Valerian?
Valerian is your cat’s plant based version of cloud nine and is found in most of his favourite toys. The Valerian plant is native to the three major continents of Europe, Asia and North America, and looks like an everyday wildflower.
On first impressions the flowering plant looks like a cluster of fairytale-esque muted pink bells perched on a bright green stalk. Other than the subtle sweet scent the flowers give off, they would go unnoticed among more prominent flowers you’d come across in the forest.
The appearance of the plant is unassuming, but under the soil these small flourishes of pink have an impressive network of pale roots. Spanning further than what the plant should need to survive, these unexpected anchors to the earth hold the key to the age old catnip question.
If you wanted to have a go at growing your own Valerian plants you will need some green fingers and a garden. While the plant itself grows in a variety of soils it grows most successfully in rich, well watered and drained environments. This is why it is continent specific when it comes to where it is popularly produced.
As mentioned in the explanation of what the plant is, the root is the origin of those crazy cat eyes you see peeking round the couch. Growing the Valerian plant is no short project and you would need enough patience to span over two years. After your wait, and the passing of two growing seasons, it is time to harvest!
The flowers themselves would make some lovely pressed art while you do some more waiting as the roots dry. Finally, you are ready to crush the root, shovel it into a handcrafted cat toy and hope it was worth the effort.
How does it work?
Valerian is often paired with catnip but the two are not synonymous. The distinguishing features of the two transpire into which parts of the plants are used to make catnip and so affect the reaction your cat has to them.
Catnip is a species of mint, specifically Nepeta cataria. Much like Valerian the plant itself does not look as if it has the ability to put cats across the globe into a state of ecstasy. Again, it is what the plant conceals that has such exciting effects. When crushed the leaves release nepetalactone, the essential oil that when inhaled will boost your cat’s energy levels and remind you of their hectic kitten days.
Valerian works in the same way but instead of working as an essential oil it works as a herb. The herb is made from the dried and crushed root of the Valerian plant, and your cat’s reaction is a result of the pheromone like stimulant actinidine.
The Genetics Behind the Madness
As these reactions come from an organic source not all cats can enjoy the elation of Catnip and Valerian. There are around 30% of cats that are entirely unbothered by these toys, while the rest enthusiastically roll in the dried leaves.
So, what is it about the biology of cats that makes the majority of them respond in such a manner? It is all down to genetics. The cat’s olfactory system is extremely sensitive to nepetalactone and actinidine.
This system is our sense of smell and a cats is twice as receptive to smells when compared to that of humans. While we smell mint as a subtle scent, this essential oil fires off the cats hypersensitive receptors and send them through the roof.
The sensitivity of this complex system is down to lineage. A cat must carry the dominant autosomal gene to detect either of these scents and experience the euphoria. So, if the next time you present your cat with a handful of catnip and he act as if you’ve just brought home a dog do not be offended. He just lacks the autosomal gene and probably doesn’t hate you.
The Health Benefits
Not only does this herb provide hours of fun for you and your feline friend, but it can keep your cat healthy. It may seem that your cat running around like mad can only work as a good twenty minutes of hilarious amusement however it is much more.
While you watch him chase that mysterious red dot around the living room, you’re giving him a great cardio workout. Keeping your cat at a healthy weight and living an active lifestyle can be made easier with a dose of Valerian catnip. The twenty minutes of hyperactive exercise will do wonders for his joints, heart and his belly!
In particular, if your cat prefers to dwell indoors then Valerian is even more beneficial. Not only will it increase his physical activity, it will do wonders for his boredom levels and keep his life interesting. He’ll appreciate the enrichment of his everyday environment, but remember to rotate scents to keep it interesting.
On the other hand if your cat suffers from anxiety and you just cannot stop him from climbing the walls, do not fret. Give your kitty some Valerian root to snack on and watch him take time out to relax. Cuddle up with your new docile buddy for an episode or two of your favourite tv show and enjoy the purring bliss by your side.
While cats are great at regulating their catnip consumption, keep an eye on how much they may be eating to avoid any visits to the vet with a dehydrated fluff ball. This will also prevent any stubborn stains featuring on your new carpets.
All in all Valerian catnip is a wonderful product for your cat to indulge in. This will bring any shy kitten out of their shell and let senior cats keep an upbeat lifestyle. Plus, it can give you a break from any needy meows and let your cats have fun without your input.
Now that the question of why has been answered, you may now be wondering whether giving your cat this fuelled happiness will make him show you any more affection. Unfortunately, this cannot be guaranteed. However, you hold the key to your kitty’s manic Valerian induced happiness and can watch adoringly as he climbs your curtains knowing he’s happy and healthy.