Valerian Root: What Is It and How Can It Be Used for Cats?

Learn how valerian root might help your cat.

Valerian root is an herb that has been used for centuries in people to combat anxiety, insomnia, and high blood pressure. It has a calming effect on the human nervous system. Scientists believe this effect is the result of its ability to increase GABA (Gamma-aminobutyric acid) levels in the brain.

Valerian has the opposite effect on cats, often causing hyper-excitability similar to that seen in some cats when they are exposed to catnip.

Indoor Cats Need Enrichment

Cats that stay inside can sometimes suffer from stress and boredom. It's essential to create an enrichment plan that keeps them engaged, practicing their hunting behavior, and moving around, so they don't become overweight. Some ways to do this include:

Another great way to provide enrichment for your indoor cat is to give him a substance that stimulates the brain through the olfactory system. The best known of these is catnip. However, there are several others, including honeysuckle, silver vine, and valerian root.

How Does Valerian Root Affect Cats?

The actinidine in valerian root acts as a stimulant to some cats that are exposed to it. These cats will often begin rolling around, playing, and acting excited. They may also drool. The playful feeling that seem to be induced by valerian provides mental stimulation and, often, exercise because cats like to run, chase, and pounce after being exposed to valerian root.

Some cats that aren't affected by catnip might show a reaction to valerian root. There are some cats that don't seem to react to valerian as well.

As with catnip, it might be possible for a cat exposed to valerian root to act more aggressive than usual. It's important to watch your cat closely the first few times you give valerian root and, if you see signs of aggression such as growling, hissing, or laying of the ears back on the head, withdraw and allow your cat to return to normal without interacting with him.

How to Give Your Cat Valerian Root

There are some cat toys available which are filled with valerian root. Some people also give a small sprinkling of dried, finely minced root to their cat. If you do that, make sure it's cut small enough so it isn't a choking hazard and give only a small amount at a time.

Do not give your cat human valerian root supplements, pills, or liquids because they might be too strong for your cat or contain other ingredients that are harmful to cats.

Because it has a strong odor that offends many people, you might wish to keep your valerian root or valerian cat toys put away in a sealed container between uses.

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