Continuing with the theme of animals that like to get high or drunk.
Did you know cats are irresistibly drawn to the plant Nepeta cataria? Of course, I'm talking about catnip. This one might seem obvious, but perhaps you don't know the whole story.
This plant also affects many wild cats, including lions and tigers, though the effects haven't been widely studied in wild cats.
Catnip, a plant in the mint family, is native to Europe, Asia, and Africa, and was brought to North America (and other places) by settlers. Now it grows in many areas around the world as a weed and in people's herb gardens.
Catnip contains an oil called nepetalactone, which enters a cat's nasal tissues and stimulate's the sensory neurons. These cells then send messages to neurons in the olfactory bulb, which then sends signals to two areas of the brain, the amygdala and hypothalamus. The amygdala helps control the cat's behaviors, and the hypothalamus stimulates a sexual response in the cat.
Basically, this causes the cat to display behaviors of a female in heat (even if the cat is male). The cat will rub its head on the plant, roll around on the ground, make sexy cat sounds, and salivate. This lasts for about ten minutes, then the cat becomes immune to the effects for about thirty minutes, after which it may start all over if the cat still has access to the plant.
Interestingly, this response is genetic, and it happens to only about 75% of cats. It is not thought to be dangerous to the cat and is not addictive.
Well, perhaps it's not physically addictive, but cats are repeatedly attracted to catnip, and they seem to enjoy the effect.
By the way... don't bother trying. Catnip does not affect humans.
- Cat and catnip - DepositPhotos
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