Do cats get high off catnip?

Cats have their very own stand in for pot. Nepeta cataria, the plant that is commonly known as catnip creates an amazing reaction on cats. Cats that have sniffed or ingested catnip would manifest reactions similar to what humans high on marijuana, on LSD and on other hallucinogenic drugs would have. Cats can get high off catnips. Smelling or ingesting the plant would send these cats on a “trip”. However, not all cats would have the same reaction to the plant. About 1/3 of the cat population are not attracted by catnip at all and cats that have consumed the plant would not show any significant change in behavior.

Catnip or catmint is known to be the number one narcotic in the world of Felix the cat. This mint-like plant contains Nepetalactone, an essential oil that creates the hallucinogenic effects not only on domestic and feral cats but on big cats as well. Cats have ultra sensitive scenting abilities. The olfactory system of these furry friends has special receptors that would easily identify even the lightest whiff of catnip so that cat would gravitate to where a catnip patch can be found. Cats would be attracted to toys that contain catnips as well. Once catnips are found the special receptors would trigger a change in the cat’s behavior.

Cats sure do love catnips but the euphoric reaction will not start until the odor of the plant is smelled. A cat’s usual reaction is to rub the plant against its body and when the plant is bruised, the cat would then concentrate on smelling the plant. Apparently, Nepetalactone is released when the catnip is bruised and sniffing the bruised catnip is what produces the high. After rolling on the catnip plant, the cat will now be seen eating some of the catnip. Catnips cause significant physiological behavioral change on cats. Cats that get high on this aromatic herb would vocalize excessively and assume silly positions like lying on its back with the four paws extended up in the air. Felix would take on the position of an upended table and what’s more the pet would have a silly grin on its face! The “high’ would make the cat leap as if it is chasing imaginary friends. Cats would have different reactions to catnips. While some cats would manifest exuberant behaviors, in other cats, catnip would have a sobering effect so that a cat high on catnip would manifest a sleepy and dreamy pose. The tripping though would last only for a few minutes. Catnips serve as sedatives when eaten. Because cats would eat the bruised leaves or the stalks of the plant, the stimulating effect of the plant would be gone when the calming effect of the plant takes effect.

It is interesting to note that not all cats would be affected by catnips. Cats do not acquire the taste for catnip. It is believed that love of catnip is an inherited trait. An autosomal gene inherited from one or both parents would make a cat go gaga over catnip. Cats that do not have these genes wouldn’t care less about catnips. Additionally, cats that have inherited the genes would only show interest in the plant and would manifest the change in behavior after attaining maturity. Catnips appear to have no effect on very young cats. Cats that love catnips would lose interest in the plant in their senior years. One good thing about catnips is that the plant is not addicting. Although cats get high off catnips, these feline friends have obviously learned to regulate themselves. Even if there is a catnip patch nearby, the cat would not be seen in a perpetual state of euphoria.

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