[quote="Jon Carroll of the San Francisco Chronicle]As every schoolchild knows, catnip, Nepeta cataria, is a member of the mint family whose dried leaves smell a little like alfalfa. That is, to humans it smells like alfalfa; cats think it smells like heaven on earth.
The active ingredient in catnip, nepetalactone, is chemically similar to some hallucinogens. However, no matter how hard you sniff it, you will not begin to see pretty sparks at the end of your fingers and realize that life goes on within us and without us and that this apple is just the earth itself in an edible form and humans too are just temporary constructs produced by the chemicals in the earth. Because you are not a cat.
Science does not know why catnip works only on cats. Or, if science knows, it hasn't sent me the memo. Nor does science know why catnip does not work on all cats. I suspect science has been off studying decay-preventing dentifrices and has no time left for important stuff, like developing a comprehensive theory of catnip.
Tracy brought home a catnip banana for Archie. Why a banana? That sounds like the set-up for a joke, although I'm not sure what the punch line is.
Anyway: a curving yellow bundle of catnip. We were going to give it to him, but he anticipated us by getting it out of her purse. We yelled in surprise, and he dashed out the door and down the stairs and into the basement.
"He has a highly developed sense of right and wrong," I said. "Even when he's not wrong."
So we went out on the porch and called him back. He looked surprised, like a thief who unexpectedly receives a good citizenship award. He came back into the kitchen and stalked the banana. He became hyperalert. He knew he was about to sink into intoxication, and he knew his enemies could take advantage of him in that condition. He wanted to make sure there were no enemies present.
(There have never been enemies in the kitchen, not once in Archie's eight years of life. And yet he is constantly on guard, often treating us, his loyal feeders and groomers, as though we meant him harm. It is very annoying, although I don't see it changing any time soon.)
He approached the banana. He sniffed the banana. He rubbed his face in the banana. He fell on his side and grabbed the banana between his front paws. He rolled over. He wiggled like a cat possessed. Suddenly he stopped, clutched his banana to his bosom, and peered suspiciously at the room. Was someone coming to take his banana? He squinted. Maybe, maybe not. Best to -- oops, there's that irresistible scent again. Grab and roll, grab and roll.
Suddenly, he abandoned the banana and walked away. Sure, he can quit any time. It's a matter of will power. No problem. Wait, maybe that banana is going somewhere. Best to be near it at all times. Best to -- OH MY GOD, there's that smell again. Oh oh oh oh, roll chew cuddle yum. And for fun: disembowel.
I am not sure why the urge to disembowel, to dig with the back feet while clutching the object of affection with the front feet, is so tied to pleasure. Well, I am sure, but I don't want to think about it. My forearm has been disemboweled many times, and it's not fun. Sometimes the handling of cats and the handling of bees has a lot in common. I need one of those cool white costumes with the special disemboweling-proof gauntlets.
Archie paused again. He seemed to be coming to his senses. He looked up alertly and then, whoops, back to banana worship. He was powerless over catnip and his life was becoming unmanageable. It would have been good if he could admit it, but studies have shown that cats do not do well in 12-step programs. Cats make no mistakes and owe no amends, at least in the view of the cats.
Science says that the "catnip response" lasts for about 6 minutes, with the "intense period" lasting for 2 to 3 minutes. Oh yes, and I never stayed up all night making tiny paper hats and crying. Archie's "intense period" lasted for a good 20 minutes. He finally left the banana on the floor and went outside to compose himself.
A used catnip toy is not a pretty thing. It looks like a crack house artifact. It was damp and dirty and sticky. I had to remove it from plain view, and that's a job you do not want to volunteer for. If a person had used that banana, it would have given him a useful morning-after jolt and made him wonder how he could ever have sunk that low. Archie experienced no such emotions. Cats know no shame, literally. Shame is for the higher mammals. Shame is replaced in cats by "where's my food?" Everything is replaced in cats by "where's my food?"
You may wonder where our other cat, Bucket, was when all this was taking place. We wonder too.
You know what's really good? Take a little catnip and mix it with a little Campari, and then pour it over ice and add 9 ounces of Jack Daniels. You hardly notice the catnip.
They call me mellow yellow, urp urp urp, they call me email@example.com
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Should we try that recipie in the bar?
Lose your legs--Become a merit badge.
Remember, you're just a make-believe soldier in an artificial army.
"So many people have so little clue and there's only a finite amount of patience in the world!" --International Incident.