Q: What’s wrong with my cat who refuses to get high over catnip? I’ve had many cats in my life and they’ve all gone crazy over catnip. What’s wrong, and is this something I can fix? —S. J., Tampa, Florida
A: There’s nothing that is broken. So, no, you can’t fix it. Estimates range, but up to a third or so of all cats aren’t influenced by the hallucinogenic and narcotic-like effects of catnip. Poor babies.
Cats affected may vocalize, others scratch, some might do somersaults and/or race around, others act “chill.” A small percentage actually become aggressive. Your cat apparently couldn’t care less. I have no advice about how to change that. The genetic key that turns cats onto the herb is turned off in your cat. And I don’t know where that key is kept.
Honeysuckle and valerian make safe alternatives, and while the extreme response may not occur, the scents are clearly enjoyed by many cats, even some who don’t enjoy catnip. You can purchase honeysuckle in spray form for use on toys, or you can purchase valerian tea bags and tie them inside an old sock and give this to your cat to play with. There’s also some evidence that valerian can help to ease anxiety in anxious cats.