The cat that loves catnip

This is Yindee, a lilac Siamese that cat loves to interfere with computers, photographic sessions, dressmaking and even playing the keyboard!

Not all cats respond to catnip

The herb we call catnip is a member of the mint family. Nepeta Cataria is the botanical name for catnip. It has become well known for the effect it has on cats. But not all cats respond to the smell of catnip. They say 50 – 70% % of them do react to catnip, but not the cats we had a few years ago. They walked past it and thought I was the crazy one. I took the discarded bag of catnip with me on holiday to try it out on Ozzie a cat belonging to our friends.

 The catnip was at the bottom of my suitcase. I put the suitcase down on the floor of the guest room and opened the zipper. We went out to dinner and when we came back I found all my clothes were strewn about the floor. Ozzie had found the catnip and was busy flinging it out of the packet all over my belongings. He had a mad glint in his eyes and was purring and growling as he frolicked on my underwear and rolled on the crumpled heap of T shirts, socks and dresses.

The olfactory effect of catnip

Obviously he could smell the catnip. It is an olfactory response, appealing via the olfactory glands of nose to a centre in the brain that releases a variety of pleasure-based responses. They say some of these are even sexually based and female cats act as if they are on heat. They rub against things with their heads, meow, purr, roll over suggestively and enjoy being sensuous. The intoxicated behaviour is due to  the effect of a chemical called Nepetalactone coming from the oil in the catnip leaves and stems.

This behaviour lasts for about half an hour or so, according to cat experts. Then they rest for a while. But that was not the case with Oscar. The catnip smell had penetrated the contents of my suitcase – especially the clothes I wore during our visit. Oscar wouldn’t leave me alone. He even slept on my pillow that night. He would constantly jump into the empty suitcase and lick and sniff inside it. I felt like closing the zip at times, to keep the cat inside the bag!

Valerian can also affect cats in strange ways

Valerian is a natural herbal alternative to sleeping pills. It is a strong smelling root and resembles the odour of iffy socks combined with cat pee. The bouquet it releases is due to Valerinone; a chemical very similar to catnip's nepetalactone. The brain takes up the signal and the cat goes into crazy mode. They say that male and female cats respond in the same way to catnip. But females definitely give off more seductive signals as is told by their over affectionate body language in some cases.

I used this theory to good effect when we were staying with a family on an overseas trip. The two plump lady cats were aloof and wanted nothing to do with my friendly overtures. As all cat lovers know, we love to stroke and coo over any cat we see when we are far away from our beloved pets at home. But these two lasses despised me and would slink away, even managing to flatten their obese bodies under a low couch to escape from me.

I noticed a bottle of herbal sleeping pills in the kitchen. I checked the label. Valerian! I took off the lid and took a sniff. The familiar odour was coming from the valerian tablets. I crushed up one between two teaspoons and then rubbed the powder over my feet and up my legs. When I returned to the living room the two cats came straight up to me and flaunted themselves at my feet. There were loud purrs, head rubs and a look of seductive bliss in their eyes. Everybody was surprised to see the turnabout in their behaviour. I said nothing. That night, in bed my husband asked me why I stank of cat piss. Obviously valerian is not a human aphrodisiac!

The peppermint tea reaction

Now we have a lilac Siamese cat called Yindee Dharma.( My user name is Yindee but that was a mistake when I signed up at Info Barrel. Who was to know that what I thought would be a new password would brand me as Yindee instead of Sue Visser.) Yindee is a very inquisitive cat. He knows what he wants and when he wants it. It’s just the vocabulary that is different. Whenever I drink a cup of peppermint tea he makes funny noises and even grunts. He loves to ambush my computer while it is starting up but one day he saw the box of peppermint tea bags on the desk.

At last, he could get hold of some peppermint. He hijacked the tea bags and devoured one of them. The short movie will show you what happened. I managed to remove the bag from his mouth before he swallowed that as well. But once he had eaten the contents of the tea bag he went back to sleep on my desk with his head draped across my computer keyboard in a drunken stupor. Evidently some cats react to both mint and catnip. But they are not the same.

Catnip spray unleashes Yindee’s musical talent

I brought home a sample of catnip spray from the pharmaceutical laboratory. I wanted to test it out on Yindee. It was a colourless, water based solution and I could not smell anything that resembled catnip. I put some of it on the floor and immediately the cat began to lick it and look around for more. I had a sudden idea to switch on the keyboard and spray the new prototype formulation of catnip over a few of the keys. I switched it on and left it set to piano mode.

The movie I took is of exactly what happened after that. Yindee had picked up a crazy catnip signal and was ready to perform his solo act. He walked, rolled and pressed down the keys himself. He even changed the settings of the instruments, created a bit of rhythm and rocked around like a professional. The catnip high had found a new channel for creativity. I laughed so much I could barely keep the camera still. Enjoy the show!