What is Silvervine - Everything you need to know about the catnip alternative!

What is silvervine? Often likened to a version of catnip, silvervine is a plant that holds its own unique to cats. This article reveals the essence of silvervine, discusses its advantages over its famous counterpart, and highlights how it could be a game-changer for your cat’s leisure and wellbeing.

What you should know about silvervine for cats:

  • Silvervine is the cat’s pyjamas, dazzling felines with its origin in East Asia and its party-platter of effects from making kitties go wild to easing their stress.

  • It’s like catnip, but supercharged - affects about 80% of cats compared to catnip’s 50%, thanks to its dynamic duo of actinidine and dihydroactinidiolide, plus some bonus active compounds.

  • This natural feline-dental-floss not only jazzes up your cat’s day but also polishes their pearly whites, making it a purr-fect chew toy or sprinkle-on delight for fun and health.

The Origin and Nature of Silvervine

Curious about the roots of this enthralling plant that has your feline companion purring with joy? Come along as we explore the mountainous regions of Eastern Asia, where the silver vine plant, or Actinidia polygama, originates. This deciduous climber belongs to the Actinidiaceae family, which is home to about 30 species of Actinidia native to temperate Eastern Asia.

A plant with silver-white leaves that catch the eye and a name that intrigues - the Silvervine!

The allure of the silvervine doesn’t stop at its name or its silver-white leaves. This plant conceals a trove of secrets, just waiting to be revealed.

The Silvervine Plant

The silvervine plant presents a sight to behold with its simple, alternate, and long-petioled leaves, which sport distinctive silver-white marks and fine silky hairs on the upper side, giving the leaves their unique silver or white coloration. Yet, the visual appeal of the silvervine plant is merely the beginning. It’s a dioecious plant, meaning it has separate male and female plants that produce white, cup-shaped flowers, adding to its charm.

But what really attracts our feline friends to cat trees are the silvervine sticks, natural stems sourced from this climbing plant itself. We shouldn’t overlook the kiwi-like fruit, another intriguing feature that enhances the plant’s allure.

Traditional Uses

Not only do cats adore the silvervine plant, but it also holds a significant role in traditional medicine. From treating:

  • heart problems

  • rheumatism

  • arthritic pain

  • aiding in recovery after a stroke

This plant, known for producing gall fruit, has been a trusted ally in various traditional medical practices.

It’s the high levels of nutrients and active compounds such as:

  • flavonoids

  • terpenoids

  • saponins

  • beta-carotene

  • vitamin C

  • vitamin E

that make silvervine a health powerhouse. The leaves of the plant can also have a mildly hallucinogenic effect on humans when consumed in large amounts, adding another facet to this intriguing plant.

Why Cats Love Silvervine

Have you spotted your cat executing the ‘matatabi dance’ around a silvervine stick? That’s the euphoria-inducing effect of silvervine at work! This plant has a scent that resembles their own pheromones, which, combined with their sensitive olfactory system, makes silvervine irresistible to our feline friends. It’s fascinating to see how cats respond to this unique plant.

The active ingredients in silvervine, namely actinidine and dihydroactinidiolide, stimulate the pleasure centers in a cat’s brain, promoting play and providing relief from stress and anxiety. Therefore, it goes beyond the ‘matatabi dance’; your cat’s brain is hosting an entire ‘matatabi party’!

Effects on Cats

The silvervine effect on cats is a sight to behold as cats react in various ways. You’ll see cats responding by:

  • sniffing

  • licking

  • rolling

  • purring

  • rubbing their chin and cheeks

  • meowing

  • displaying increased playfulness

The joy they display is akin to finding their most adored toy - they simply cannot resist it!

However, silvervine’s influence extends beyond mere play. It acts as a powerful stimulant for cats, leading to physical responses such as bursts of energy, jumping, and running. It even sharpens senior cats’ hunting skills for mental stimulation. And the reactions to silvervine can greatly vary, with some cats appearing more playful and ‘kitten-like’ while others seem more relaxed and ‘chilled out.’.

Nepetalactol, a key component in silvervine, is known to activate the reward and pleasure centers in the cat’s brain, similar to what is seen in the human opioid system with substances like morphine.

Comparing Catnip and Silvervine

When it comes to catnip and silvervine, it’s like comparing a bicycle to a sports car. While catnip has its charm, silvervine takes the cake due to its multiple active components, making it more potent.

While catnip contains a single compound, nepetalactone, silvervine boasts two main active chemicals, actinidine and dihydroactinidiolide, along with around six other active ingredients, making it more attractive to cats than traditional catnip. The broad appeal of silvervine means it can affect a wider population of cats, including those that do not respond to catnip.

So, while not all cats may be affected by catnip, with nearly half of domestic cats being ineffective, around 80% have a response to silvervine, making it the clear winner here.

Benefits of Silvervine for Cats

Silvervine offers a plethora of benefits for cats and cat owners alike. It provides mental and physical stimulation to cats, offering sensory enrichment to their cat’s environment.

Interactive play with silvervine has several benefits for cats:

  • It enhances the bond between a cat and its owner

  • It results in increased relaxation and cuddliness post play

  • It serves as an environmental enrichment aid, improving the physiological well-being of cats, particularly those who are sick or under stress.

Chew toys infused with silvervine can provide a healthy outlet for dental exercise and can help dissuade cats from chewing on inappropriate objects.

Dental Health

One standout advantage of silvervine lies in its contribution to feline dental health. Silvervine sticks, or Matatabi sticks as they are commonly known, function as a natural dental chew that aids in cleaning their teeth.

Chewing on these sticks is beneficial for a cat’s dental health as it assists in removing tartar buildup. The natural abrasive action of chewing on the silvervine plant’s sticks helps prevent plaque accumulation on the cats’ teeth. Cats that have a natural inclination to chew will particularly benefit from silvervine sticks, which are durable enough to withstand repeated biting. This contributes to maintaining good dental hygiene across various life stages from kittens to senior cats.

Anxiety and Stress Relief

Silvervine serves as a natural remedy for stress in cats. It has been shown to have a calming effect on cats, aiding in the reduction of fear and stress when they are exposed to it.

During tumultuous times, such as the holiday season, silvervine can induce a euphoric state in house cats, including three cats, that leads to relaxation after play, thus reducing stress. Indoor cats can receive increased activity and entertainment through silvervine, which is beneficial for their stress levels.

Silvervine can also contribute to stress and anxiety relief for senior cats, promoting their overall well-being.

Silvervine Products and How to Use Them

Various forms of silvervine are available, each tailored for feline enjoyment, including:
  • silvervine fruit galls

  • plush toys

  • chew sticks

  • kicker toys with enticing elements

  • blends with catnip for added attraction.

Silvervine powder can be sprinkled on cat toys, scratching posts, or bedding, while silvervine sprays can refresh old toys or entice cats to designated areas such as scratchers or beds.

Silvervine sticks, which are the natural stems of the plant, and whole dried fruits are safe for cats to nibble on under supervision, providing a playful and fresh experience. These should be stored in a sealed bag when not in use.

Choosing the Right Product

Selecting the suitable silvervine product may resemble the process of picking the perfect toy for a child. It’s all about understanding the play preferences of a cat. Does your cat enjoy activities like batting, kicking, or cuddling with their toys? These preferences should guide your choice of silvervine toys.

When introducing silvervine spray, it’s advised to use a small amount initially to observe the cat’s interest. The use of silvervine spray can be adjusted based on the cat’s initial response to ensure an engaging and pleasant experience.

Safety and Supervision

Though silvervine makes for an enticing treat for cats, their safety remains paramount. Always supervise your cat during initial interactions with silvervine products to prevent ingestion of large pieces that could lead to choking or gastrointestinal problems.

Always inspect silvervine toys for wear and tear and replace them if damaged to mitigate the risk of choking hazards. Silvervine can be utilized daily without adverse effects, and can be applied to various items such as cat beds, food, and toys for continuous stimulation.

Silvervine for Kittens, Senior Cats, and Other Pets

Are kittens welcome at the ‘matatabi party’? Absolutely! Silvervine can be safely introduced to kittens when they are at least 6 months old as many do not respond to it until they reach this age.

As for senior cats? Silvervine can be equally beneficial for them by encouraging playful behavior and offering cognitive stimulation.

Introducing Silvervine to Kittens

As for introducing kittens to silvervine, a cautious approach is recommended. Use a small amount, such as no more than 1/4 of a teaspoon during one playtime session. Silvervine powder can be sprinkled on a towel, blanket, cat’s bed, or scratching post to present it to kittens. And remember, always supervise kittens during playtime with silvervine to ensure a positive experience.

Effects of silvervine typically last between 5 to 30 minutes, but kittens under 8 months old may not react to silvervine. So don’t be disheartened if your little fluffball doesn’t seem interested at first. Patience is key!

An alternative that cats react to under 4 months is Cat Crack Catnip. You can find all you need to know about catnip here.

Benefits for Senior Cats

Silvervine can provide substantial benefits for senior cats. Exposure to silvervine has been shown to encourage play behavior in senior cats, leading to a boost in physical activities. Active engagement with silvervine can lead to a more enriched and fulfilling life for aging felines. Some benefits of silvervine for senior cats include:

  • Increased physical activity

  • Mental stimulation

  • Stress relief

  • Improved overall well-being

The behavioral engagement from playing with silvervine provides mental stimulation that is beneficial for older cats. So, whether your cat is a sprightly kitten or a graceful senior, silvervine can be a delightful addition to their playtime.


In the world of feline fun, silvervine is a game-changer. From its origins in the mountainous regions of Eastern Asia to its multiple benefits for cats, silvervine offers a safe and exciting alternative to traditional catnip. Whether it’s promoting play, enhancing dental health, or reducing stress, silvervine has something for every cat. So why not introduce your feline friend to the ‘matatabi party’ and watch them revel in the silvervine experience!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is silvervine?

Silvervine is a climbing plant native to Eastern Asia that excites cats and offers benefits like promoting play, enhancing dental health, and reducing stress. So, it's basically a kitty paradise!

What does silvervine do to cats?

Silvervine can make cats drool, roll around, climb, jump, and bounce off the walls, resulting in hyperactive and fun behavior. But some cats may become more relaxed instead!

Why do cats go crazy for silvervine?

Cats go crazy for silvervine because it contains multiple potent olfactory attractants, such as actinidine and dihydroactinidiolide, making it more potent and appealing than catnip. The active ingredient in silver vine, nepetalactol, activates the reward and pleasure center in cat brains, comparable to the opioid system's response to morphine in humans, but it's not addictive for cats.

Is silvervine stronger than catnip?

Yep, silver vine is stronger than catnip for most cats, thanks to its actinidine content. It could lead to a more intense reaction, but don't fret - it's totally safe for your feline friend. Plus, it's widely used in Asia for its health benefits. So, give it a try!

Are silver vine sticks safe for cats?

Yes, silver vine sticks are safe for cats, but it's a good idea to supervise play sessions and replace the stick if it gets chewed or destroyed. No splinters, no worries.

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