Cat owners everywhere have given their beloved pets catnip at one point or another. Some cats react to the catnip by rolling around or by having a sudden burst of activity thanks to the herb. In fact, the substance is even used in a lot of toys marketed towards cats in an effort to make them more appealing. However, while your cat’s reaction to catnip may be funny to watch, an expert is now warning cat lovers away from giving their pets this herb.
Debra Merskin, a professor at the University of Oregon, is warning animal owners who give their cats catnip that it is an unethical decision for their pets, according to her opinion piece on the matter via The Conversation.
According to Merskin, catnip “induces changes in cat behavior.” Studies have shown that approximately 70 percent of cats are affected by catnip. And of those cats affected, it creates a “five- to 15-minute marijuana- kind of effect.”
“In my view, it’s worth considering whether giving a mood-altering substance to a pet is ethical,” Debra said in her article.
One of Merskin’s concerns regarding catnip, which goes by the botanical name of Nepeta cataria, is that cats are not getting this substance in its natural plant form and are often receiving highly concentrated doses via sprays and oils containing catnip.
Cats are not usually affected by the effects of catnip until they reach sexual maturity at around six months of age and some side effects can include rolling around, salivating, and at times, fighting with other cats. According to Merskin, it is also unclear if there is any given medical benefit for cats who use catnip.
As for whether catnip should be given to cats comes down to a matter of moral ethics, according to Debra Merskin. And this point has been argued by many different people.
Julia Tanner, a philosopher from Durham University, insists that “it would be arbitrary to deny animals with similar capacities a similar level of moral consideration.”
Meanwhile, a professor of bioethics, Peter Singer, believes that humans should not use their own species as a measure of worth when comparing with themselves against their pets.
In addition, Merskin heads to Reddit as examples to the online debate over the ethics surrounding cats and catnip. When one commenter likened catnip to “a few beers after work,” another commenter from an Alcoholics Anonymous family disagreed with the statement being made about catnip use being harmless.
Debra Merskin also asked the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) organization for their opinion on the matter.
“PETA is all for treating cat companions to reasonable amounts of high-quality catnip – and for keeping them indoors, where they’ll be safe from cars, contagious diseases, predators, and cruel humans and able to enjoy toys (including those filled with catnip) for years to come.”
Of course, as with any ethical argument, people will have to think about their stance on the matter and make an educated decision on whether they will be giving their cats catnip in the future.