Tony Travis ajt at
Mon Jun 14 12:32:34 EST 1993

Constantine A Lapasha (calfor at wrote:
: ajt at (Tony Travis) writes:

: [lots of stuff ommitted...]

: >...  The fact that the
: >cats seem to get intoxicated is no more significant than some animals
: >getting drunk by gorging rotting fruit is it?
: [...]

: But the intoxicating effect of "rotting fruit" is due to ethanol intoxication
: from yeast fermentation (natural) of the sugars in the fruit.  It's still
: unclear to me what physiological effects the active substances in catnip
: are having on the cat.

As with cats and catnip, the animals intoxicated by ethanol in rotting
fruit are seen to seek it out and 'enjoy' the experience (if not the
morning afterwards...) so it is not an entirely random phenomenon.

If a cat confuses the odour of the mint with other, feline, signals it
would presumably have the same physiological effect as the pheromone it
is being confused with.

If the bogus (!) signal is greatly amplified by the high concentration
of active substances released as the cat crushes a plant the positive
feedback urging the cat to scent-mark in reply to the chemical message
would result in a frenzy of activity leading to a [cat]atonic state :-)

There is a serious point here, of course, in that signals produced by
one species may be accidentally mis-interpreted by another.

What colour are rose petals to a honey bee?  What we see in the visible
region of the spectrum is _not_ what attracts pollenating insects to
the flowers is it?  Many insects see flower petals in the UV region of
the spectrum - most gardeners do not.

Another possibility that gives rather more credit to the cat (which is
an intelligent creature after all) is that cats learn to roll in mint
as they do in dust to control fleas or other pests in their fur.  This
would explain why a chemical with insecticidal properties produced by
the mint attracts cats: the smile on the cat's face may just be relief!

Cats learn quickly: my cats can detect the shape of a flea-spray
container at 1000 paces ... I'm sure they know all about catnip.

Dr. A.J.Travis,                       |  JANET: <ajt at>
Rowett Research Institute,            |  other: <ajt at>
Greenburn Road, Bucksburn,            |  phone: +44 (0)224 712751
Aberdeen, AB2 9SB. UK.                |    fax: +44 (0)224 715349

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