Is my cat one-and-done with silvervine?
May 9, 2017 12:02 PM   Subscribe

I got Ms. Mildred Butterclaws, or Millie, a little over a year ago from a shelter. I found she was unresponsive to catnip. Then I heard about silvervine right here on MeFi and ordered a small package. She responded enthusiastically to silvervine the first time I gave it to her, but since then-- nothing. She just ignores it. Is this a common thing with cats? What could be going on here?

I've also tried giving her valierian and honeysuckle and she didn't respond to those either. I was initially happy that she seemed to enjoy the silvervine so I'd like to know if there are any other things I can do to help my cat get buzzed.
posted by mcmile to Pets & Animals (4 answers total)
That is a really fascinating behavior, mcmile.

According to a surprisingly good article on Cat World, silvervine does not contain nepetelactone, the active ingredient in catnip, but does contain closely related compounds.

Catnip is generally said to be non-toxic to cats, but the Cat World article points out an effect that would be extremely concerning in humans -- and of course to cat breeders: it stimulates uterine contractions, and is therefore a potential abortifacient.

I think this means there would have been strong selection pressure in any cat population in an area in which catnip was endemic in favor of a gene or genes which enabled a mechanism that could neutralize the effects of nepetelactone and similar compounds.

And the fact that your cat reacted only once to silvervine (and may well have reacted only once to catnip, too), suggests a very chemical structure specific response which is a hallmark of the immune system.

I'm thinking particularly of the antivenom immune response, in which
Antivenoms bind to and neutralize the venom, halting further damage, but do not reverse damage already done.
I also think other lines of evidence point to evolutionary developments in cats that suggest a long association with snakes, which might predispose cats to be able to develop antivenom responses to damaging chemicals.

All of which would mean your cat is "one-and-done" with silvervine.
posted by jamjam at 1:47 PM on May 9, 2017 [2 favorites]

I did the same thing, buying a small packet when I read about it here. My cats went nuts the first time, then ignored it for weeks. But recently I set the packet out on the floor and my cats went nuts over it again. Maybe put it away and try it again later?
posted by jenjenc at 4:31 PM on May 9, 2017 [2 favorites]

Silvervine might have lost its magic. Have found that the silvervine loses its scent quickly. A regular ziplock bag isn't good enough storage. We vacuum seal now. Before that, cling wrap in a freezer ziplock helped. (All of our Tupperware is of the disposable kind....)
posted by Kalatraz at 3:38 AM on May 10, 2017

Response by poster: Thanks for the responses! One reason why I asked this here is because googling didn't turn anything up. I guess I'll seal what I have left and try again in about a month.
posted by mcmile at 9:23 AM on May 11, 2017

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