Cats and dogs can get addicted to drugs.
Cats, it appears, are the more susceptible of the two species and can become addicted to a range of hallucinogenic substances.
Their number one narcotic is catnip, a mint-like plant which contains an oil called hepetalactone. Not all cats are sensitive to hepetalactone, but those who are experience a hallucinogenic reaction that sends them on a “trip”. A “tripping” cat can display a wide range of strange symptoms, from rolling on its side, to twitching and leaping in the air animatedly.
Catnip doesn’t usually do any long-lasting damage to the cat. A trip generally lasts for around ten minutes. Afterwards the cat returns to its normal, “sober” state. Prolonged use of the drug, however, can leave cats chronically “spaced out” and unaware of their surroundings. If cats are given Catnip or, another hallucinogenic, Valerian internally they act as tranquilisers, or “downers” rather than uppers. No one has yet successfully explained why this is.
In Japan, cats get high on the matatabi plant, which also contains a hallucinatory oil. Cats who have been affected by matatabi have been seen lying on their backs with their legs in the air.
Addiction can run in the genes.
A cat’s reaction to catnip is largely inherited from its parents. A kitten with only one parent sensitive to the drug has a 50-50 chance of developing the sensitivity when it reaches maturity. A kitten with both parents sensitive have at least a 75 per cent chance of growing sensitive to it.
Dogs get high on cannabis.
Vets have reported cases where pets have accidentally ingested their owners’ supplies of marijuana. In one a cross collie bitch that had swallowed a 2 gram chunk of cannabis resin became clumsy and un-co-ordinated. It also became obsessed with staring in its reflection in a shiny metal dustbin.
Another dog, a Staffordshire bull terrier bitch, ran around the room snapping at thin air after ‘passively’ breathing in a joint.
We shouldn't feel too superior about all this, however. We're not above having the odd addiction - including dogs, it appears. One study found that 54 per cent of dog owners admitted they were hooked on their pets in the way a smoker, alcoholic or junkie is reliant on their drug.