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Dear John:

I have a cat that recently turned 7 years old, he has been acting really strange. He has always acted possessive of me, sits at my feet and watches my boyfriend of 3 years if we are sitting on the couch together. About 3 months ago I went and bought him a catnip scratch post. It came with an extra bag of catnip, I must admit we have been giving him generous amounts as he looks so cute when he gets some.

My boyfriend and I are beginning to think that it is effecting him in some way, as he turns weird! Lately after rolling in the catnip he will come over to my boyfriend as if to lure him in, will play cute and roll on his back for attention and rub up against him and then out of nowhere will start clawing at him. Then the rest of the night either he will sit at my feet and stare or will go into our kitchen and stare at us, it is almost creepy!  Would you possibly be able to help me in this matter or give me some explanation as to what is going on with him? – Morley

Dear Morley,

It can be difficult for those living with a cat with a substance abuse problem but you and your boyfriend do not have to allow Cheech to abuse you or others in their life physically or mentally.

60 % of cats are genetically predisposed toward being attracted to catnip. Kittens under the age of a couple of months will not react to catnip at all. Catnipaholicism initially it starts with a little social sniffing, licking or chewing of the herb. Besides household cats, catnip also affects some of the wild cats such as lions, bobcats, etc. As with most addictions, the addict believes they can restrict their use to social events but for many before long they yearn it throughout the day, stashing catnip in hidden areas and using it privately.

However the signs of a high are unmistakable. The cat will be shaking and/or rolling his head, rubbing his chin and cheek against things or as your boyfriend has discovered rubbing his body against people. A  catnipaholic’s reaction to catnip lasts for 5-15 minutes and then they won’t be able to get high for an hour or more.

Ironically for the most part their owners are the ones that first introduce their cats to catnip, although the herb does grow wild and some cats come upon it naturally. It is a legal drug in most countries and is considered harmless without long term effects. Driving or using heavy machinery, hunting birds and baiting dogs while high on catnip is not recommended.

There have been several celebrity cats that have found themselves in trouble due to this type of addiction. Duchess the elegant cat that starred in the blockbuster hit the Aristocats was one such cat. She was late on the set on many occasions claiming dehydration and exhaustion but those in the industry knew better and her problem eventually became public. Sylvester the cat’s career faded into obscurity as a result of his addiction to catnip. Ironically much to the delight of audiences everywhere, the Cat in the Hat made a career by harnessing the zaniness that the drug brought out in him.

It seems that your cat’s drug of choice is reducing his inhibitions, allowing him to feel free to entice your boyfriend within striking range so that he can attempt to eliminate the competition for your affections. Unfortunately Cheech will likely have to hit rock bottom, admit he has a problem and seek out a treatment program. Until then your boyfriend should start avoiding Cheech when he is high or I guess you could just stop giving him catnip.

-John Wade 

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