Factoids: Catnip – The Drug of Choice for SOME Felines

Otis Friday. I was on her staff for 16 wonderful years. Beautifully-natured, but still happy to take a swipe at me from behind the shower curtain.

Otis Friday. I was on her staff for 16 wonderful years. Beautifully-natured, but still happy to take a swipe at me from behind the shower curtain.

When I was growing up, we always had two cats in the house, so I quite like having them around. They’re funny little critters – total mercenaries one minute then all furry and purry the next. They’ll never deign to fetch a ball for you, yet they’ll play “I want to be on that side of the door, no – that side, no – that side…” with the patience of an ancient Mah Jong player. They’ll lay on their backs all innocent-like and invite you to scratch their soft, warm stomach fur then suddenly change their minds and gouge holes in your birthday suit. It’s an ongoing mystery as to why we put up with their mercurial little souls, but once you’ve been a staff member of a cat-keeping household, you’ll always look at them with a certain amount of fascination.

Where I am, there are two cats that live nearby. Twisty, named so because he resembles an item of orange junk food we grew up with, appears to be part Oriental – although he looks like a small ginga, he has striking green eyes and talks a lot. He strolls past my tiny house sometimes, telling me all about how he’s going off hunting, then leaps onto the six-foot fence and lands with a scraping sort of a thud that has the birds around for miles smirking at him as they fly off. Then he comes back a bit later and tells me that he can’t believe how bad the hunting is today.

He’s great for a laugh, is Twisty. A few months after I moved here, it was Christmas Day morning, and I heard something moving around on my roof. I had the roof vents open, and underneath those are insect screens. Suddenly the screen under the far vent came crashing down onto the floor with a Twisty on top of it. He leapt straight back up into the air and his legs almost turned into wheels, like on a cartoon character, in his mad rush to get the hell out of there. Fortunately for him, the door just happened to be slightly ajar and he made his escape. I just about died laughing. I didn’t get a Santa down my chimney that Christmas, but I did get a cat down my hatch. 😀

Twisty - no doubt daydreaming of a place where birds can't fly.

Twisty – no doubt daydreaming of a place where birds can’t fly.

A bowl of Twisties - yep, definitely a resemblance.

A bowl of Twisties – yep, definitely a resemblance.

Moa, born to an ordinary-looking mother with ordinary-looking siblings, somehow managed to come out looking like a chocolate point Siamese. And he’s the very epitome of aloof. I get to within five feet of him and he gives me ‘the look’. Every fibre of his fur, every cell of his body, oozes “Don’t touch me. Just DON’T.” I guess he came from a royal line of ancestors that managed to escape the palace from time to time and visit the girls down the road.

'Read my lips human - Do. Not. Touch. Me.'

‘Read my lips human – Do. Not. Touch. Me.’

An actual Moa - extinct native species of New Zealand. Try as I might, I still can't see the resemblence to a blue-eyed chocolate-point siamese-looking feline quadraped. Photo courtesy of Snigl3t on Flikr.

An actual Moa – extinct native species of New Zealand. Try as I might, I still can’t see the resemblence to a blue-eyed chocolate-point siamese-looking feline quadraped. Photo courtesy of Snigl3t on Flikr.

So I decided, when I was at a garden centre a few weeks ago, that I would buy a catnip plant and see how these guys reacted to it. When I picked some off and showed it to Twisty, he just gazed at me with a semi-vacant look in his eyes that said “I wonder how many birds are over that fence today”… Then I showed some to Moa. Well!! He sniffed it and immediately his paws went into kneading mode. He grabbed it out of my hand, chewed on it a bit, dropped it on the ground, chewed it some more and then rolled and twisted and purred and rolled and purred and twisted and… He just couldn’t get enough of it! “Who are you and why are you in Moa’s body?” I was compelled to ask. This was a totally different cat! Un.Be.Lievable! See the pics of him rolling around in ecstacy here.

A day or two later, I was out watering my garden and I happened upon my catnip plant lying sideways on the ground half out of its pot, and white fur clinging to it all over the place. Somebody had found my stash!

Exhibit A - my catnip plant, smeared with DNA evidence.

Exhibit A – my catnip plant, smeared with DNA evidence.

Exhibit B - it's a real Whodunnit, this one...

Exhibit B – it’s a real Whodunnit, this one…

So, big meanie that I am, I repotted it and put it in a place that would be very awkward for even the most determined feline to reach. And it’s right under my bedroom window, so I’ll be able to hear any catsneakery that goes on.

The new stash place. He may find it, but he'll have to stand on his head to get it.

The new stash place. He may find it, but he’ll have to stand on his head to get it.

Over my coffee this morning, I decided to Google catnip and see what the story was with it. Here’s what I found out:

Catnip Factoids

  • Catnip isn’t for everyone – only 50 percent of cats will react to it. That explains Twistie’s indifference.
  • Kittens won’t respond to it until they’re 3 – 6 months old.
  • Sensitivity to it is due to an inherited gene – it’s either passed down to your cat or it isn’t. As an autosomal dominant gene, it only needs to be passed on from one parent.
  • Catnip contains nepetalactone, which binds to the olfactory receptors of cats, typically resulting in temporary euphoria.
  • It’s thought that nepetalactone mimics feline “happy” pheromones and stimulates the receptors in the cats’ brains that respond to those pheromones.
  • Their response to catnip lasts for about 10 minutes. Then they become desensitized, lose interest and walk away. BUT – in about 2 hours time, the sensitivity sort of recharges and they’ll react to it all over again.
  • Researchers say that the nepetalactone in catnip is about 10 times more effective at repelling mosquitos that Deet, which is the in most insect repellents. So, as a happy side effect, Moa will get rid of any fleas he may have while he’s being a drooling idiot.

So there we have it. Reasons for why you should have a catnip plant – you get to see normally aloof and snobby felines lose total control of their dignity and cool for a few minutes AND keep mosquitoes (and cockroaches apparently) away from your household. Nice! 😀

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