Jennifer Van de Kieft
Interview With Meowy Janes, Experts on Natural Catnip and Catnip Alternatives
Updated: Feb 22
Odor enrichment products provide great stimulation for your cat . And it's more than just catnip. Silvervine and Valerian Root are great alternatives. The owners of Meowy Janes explain the benefits, why it's important to get a certain part of the catnip plant that is higher quality, safety, and how often it can be given.
Meowy Janes is a small business operated by couple Carly and Bill. I met Carly at NYC Cat Camp in 2019 where she had a booth and we chatted a bit about our businesses. I purchased Catnip Reef which is a powdered version of catnip that my cats went crazy for. Soon I was buying their products online and my cats love their chew sticks, silvervine powder, and the herb mix of catnip and silvervine. I caught up with Bill recently and he agreed to an interview. I asked questions that come up with clients often when discussing catnip and alternatives.
How did you get started selling catnip and alternatives?
After rescuing our cats, we gave them catnip just as many owners do as however we found that they turned up their nose at the catnip we tried. We realized that they may be in that group of cats who don’t have a reaction to catnip but wanted to find out if there was anything else out there for them. Through some research we learned that there are other natural plants (silvervine and valerian) that act similarly to catnip but contain unique essential oils. These plants are not as well known especially here in the United States and are rarely sold in pet stores as they are not easy to mass produce.
On our journey we also learned much of what is sold as "catnip" is actually just the catnip stalk and leaves and that there was much more to the plant. The difference was amazing when we gave our cats high quality catnip! They actually did love catnip, they just wanted the good stuff!
What is your top selling product?
Our most popular product is anything stemming from the silvervine plant. Most commonly the Matatabi Sticks or Silvervine Powder. The sticks are the easiest to understand as being a type of cat chew toy but we think there is a higher percentage of cats that enjoy the powder. Silvervine is something that many people have never heard of but in many cases their cats love it even more than catnip and react to it uniquely.
What are the benefits for cats of offering odor enrichment?
Odor enrichment is a compliment to food or play based enrichment. Dogs love to sniff anything and everything but people may not realize cats also have a keen sense of smell and enjoy having a variety of scents in a similar way. Through a bit of observation you may notice that your cat will sniff new things brought into their environment just like dogs do. In their natural environment outside, cats would have an abundance of different plants to sniff and enjoy. The different plants can be the helpful little nudge our indoor companions need to open up to being more playful or even more loving.
Why don't the catnip toys that I buy in the store last long? My cat plays with it a few times, but then it's over.
Catnip is harvested essentially once a year in the fall and then used for the entire following year. Depending on when the toys were produced and how long they sat in the store, the catnip inside them could sometimes easily have been harvested two full years ago. Additionally, the part of catnip with the naturally occurring oils cats enjoy is also focused in the flower buds of the plant which only make up a small percentage of the overall plant. Some catnip sold is mostly the leaves and stems which only contain a little bit of the oil. Trying to mush around an old toy may break up some of the catnip inside and make it refreshed.
How often should I give my cat odor enrichment? If I give catnip daily, can they become immune?
It is very dependent on your cat. Some need breaks of a few days, while others will play with the herbs several times a day if you leave it out. They won’t become immune but can become sort of “noseblind” to the scent if around it too long. Much in the same way that you stop smelling a candle in your house eventually. Picking up the toy or putting the plant away for a few days and then reintroducing it is usually enough to make it seem new again in their eyes.
Is silvervine safe to eat? Are all your odor enrichment products safe for cats to eat?
Silvervine, catnip, and valerian are all safe for cats to eat but it is not recommended to give them as a food type treat or add it intentionally to their food. Cats are usually more interested in the scents and rubbing and sniffing rather than eating however most cats will get a few licks in while they are playing. This is totally normal! Sometimes cats will purposefully eat things like catnip to soothe an upset tummy, so if you notice them eating any of these plants (or any other plant!) in large amounts it may make them feel sick. It is advised to take the plant away or only give it within a toy to avoid intentional over consumption.
Is it true that kittens don't respond to catnip until they reach adult age? Is that true for any of the other odor enrichment products?
Most cats will not have a reaction, or at least a full reaction to catnip until they have reached maturity. This is usually between 3 to 6 months, but will sometimes be even up to a year. The nepactalone molecule naturally occurring in catnip is what ‘binds’ to olfactory receptors in a cat's nose, and this will trigger a response similar to how cats react to pheromones. This is true for the molecules present in catnip alternatives as well, as they are very similarly structured. It is theorized that because catnip and alternatives mimic these pheromones, it is not as interesting or exciting to a cat until they have reached that maturity level. Some people also notice that their elderly cats seem to lose interest in catnip as they get older, and this is likely for the same reason- once they are past a certain point in their lives it doesn’t get their motor going in the same way. Kittens usually don’t need the extra get up and go from catnip anyway, though, they are already ready to play at a moment's notice!
Check out https://meowyjanes.com/ for more information or click on their logo above to go directly to their website. Be on the lookout for new products as they are in the process of coming up with even more herbs to stimulate and sooth your cat.