Catnip has long been the preferred ‘drug’ for cats. Given just a tiny sniff of the plant, most cats will temporarily transform into an approximation of a fully loaded, 1970s era Dennis Hopper. However, for some cats, it’s as pointless as an O’Douls. A brand new study has found three new options that could allow all cats to get completely twisted.
Nepeta cataria was initially discovered to send cats into a frenzy back in the 1940s. Since that time, scientists have been unable to determine the genetic reason that some cats are overtaken by momentary delirium when exposed to it. Researchers have now determined that nepetalactone is the active isomer that gets stimulates the felines. With all of that in mind, Sebastian Bol, who is a molecular biologist, and owner of the Cowboy Cat Ranch in Texas, decided to test out a few various other plants. Silver vine, Tatarian honeysuckle, and valerian root do not contain nepetalactone, however, they have similar molecules.
With the help of a few cat clinics in southern California, Bol experimented with the plants on 100 cats. Wired goes on to explain his process:
He rubbed the plant matter on a sock or a square of carpet and then set the material in the cats’ line of sight. After that, he waited. If the cat approached but backed away, he considered that a denial. “Animals tend to move towards things they like and back away from things they consider threats,” states Buffington. After each success or denial, he’d wait just about five minutes for the cat to relax, then try again with another plant type. The response rate was quite striking: Almost 80 percent of all of the cats responded to the silver vine (a higher response rate than even nip, which got less than 70 percent of the cats high), and roughly 40 percent each for valerian root and honeysuckle.
Twenty-three of the subject cats responded to all of the plants while only six had no reaction to any of them. That very well may be because some cats just aren’t into feline recreational drugs or it could be due to environmental factors. Even cats that get zooted on nip won’t react when they feel threatened.
Interestingly, Bol asked the folks at Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, Florida to test out the silver vine on some of its animals. Tigers were completely unresponsive to both silver vine and catnip. Bobcats, however, couldn’t be bothered at all by the nip but loved the silver vine. Unfortunately, no cheetahs at all were tested. We all want to see a jacked up cheetah.
While we still don’t know for sure all of the reasons that these plants act like recreational drugs for cats, there’s now more information to study. And for pet owners, there are now more options to get your cat messed up. It makes for some hilarious YouTube videos and all creatures deserve a chance to unwind after a tough day.