July 4th, 2010

How Do We Know That Catnip Makes Cats Hallucinate?

So I just bought a replacement scratch pad for my cats, and it came with some catnip. On a whim I decided to look up "catnip" on Wikipedia -- because just what the hell is that stuff anyway? -- which is where I discovered to my surprise/delight that "The plant terpenoid nepetalactone is the main chemical constituent of the essential oil of Nepeta cataria and acts as a feline attractant. This chemical enters the feline's nose, and produces semi-hallucinogenic effects on the cat."

Whoa, wait just a minute there. Semi-hallucinogenic? Holy crap.

Anyway, several hours later, when I had finally stopped chuckling at the thought of making my cats hallucinate, I started wondering: Hold on. How would they even know something like that anyway? What, did they run some clinical trials and give the cats a follow-up questionnaire or something? I went looking for answers.

I.e., I googled "catnip hallucinogen."

And came up with a thread about the potential psychotropic effects of catnip not on cats, but on people. For example, this one caught my eye:

"Hello good sirs, madams. I have just smoked a big bowl of catnip out of my marijuana smoking water pipe. Being a doctor of brain surgery i have decided that catnip gets you high. I have an ounce of catnip and we are going to smoke all of it ill respond soon enough. if it doesnt work for you then f*ck your sh*t"

Well geez, I thought, if a doctor of brain surgery says it works, this must be for real.

But then I read:

"you have got to be fist fucking me. All you big floppy donkey dicks that claimed I would get high from this here cat mother fuckin nip can warmly accept my t bag in appreciation for your lies. fuck you( however, the expirience is well worth the unclimatic result because it's funny as shit telling people that you just smoked catnip. p.s. to the kid who said he regularly smokes catnip, you are the biggest fuck ass of all time."

Makes it sound a bit more dubious. Though really who are you going to trust, a doctor of brain surgery or just some random guy on the internet?

This individual makes a valid point, I thought:

"why the hell wold you even smoke it to see if the effect is the same as for a cat? When's the last time you saw a cat smoking it? If you were trying to see if it worked for humans, wouldn't you just eat it or rub it around your face?"

And apparently this is not some isolated phenomenon either, as this news story demonstrates:

"In at least one Twin Cities pet shop, it takes a note from his parents nowadays for a teenager to lay in any big supply of catnip. Owners of other stores have taken to questioning their youthful customers closely about large-scale purchases. They know the reason for the sudden popularity of catnip in the Twin Cities and nationwide -- and it isn’t the one a young man gave the owner of a Hennepin Av. pet shop: 'I have,' he explained, 'a GREAT, BIG cat.' The fact is, the kids are smoking the stuff, apparently in dubious pursuit of a low-budget thrill."

Seriously people, what the hell?

Anyway, I still haven't found an answer to my question about how do we know that catnip makes cats hallucinate.