Is Your Cat Really High or Just Excited By Catnip?

Anna Hoychuk/

Many of us revel in the sweet smell of aromatic narcotics in the air as we discuss the daily needs of our lives, while our cat lays purring on our laps as we babble on. Yes, the likes of alcohol and recreational drugs give us a fleeting high, only to slump as back to reality once we fall asleep.

Interestingly, catnip appears to give our feline pets a similar sensation, as is occasionally seen by their erratic behavior once they partake of a catnip toy.

But why do they suddenly transform into some goofy, comical caricature of a pet? Could catnip actually be getting them high?

Let’s begin by giving a little background on catnip. This particular plant belongs to Lamiaceae, a special family of aromatic herbs associated with the likes of basil, oregano, and sage.

The secret behind catnip’s enchanting power on our canine friends lies in nepetalactone. This compound stimulates an alluring response in the cat by binding with receptors located in the cat’s nostrils.

Not only does it elicit a euphoric response in the cat, but it is also known to compromise the cat’s central nervous system. Kind of like what you see with your friend when they’ve had one too many!

However, there’s no solid proof to show that catnip actually affects cats in the same way marijuana does to humans.

Could She Just Be Numb?

In humans, it’s been proven time and again that the likes of alcohol, cocaine, and marijuana stimulate the release of dopamine which provides one with the ‘high’ sensation that they usually experience.

Despite your cat looking like it’s having the time of its life, there is no substantial evidence to suggest that the cat’s brain has been affected in a similar manner to ingesting recreational drugs.

In fact, scientists have discovered that not all cats respond euphorically to catnip. Other cats do not even experience anything.

Nevertheless, the effects of catnip can also be seen on other feline species in the wild. For example, hunters used catnip to lure mountain lions and cougars from their lairs before shooting or capturing them. Other studies have also demonstrated that big cats like leopards and lions are attracted by the aroma of catnip. Interestingly, the tiger seems unfazed by catnip!

To cap it off, the effects of catnip on our feline friends are still a big mystery. One thing’s for sure, they have a profound effect on our cats that we can’t help but find amusing!