Species-characteristic responses to catnip by undomesticated felids

J. O. Hill, E. J. Pavlik, G. L. Smith, G. M. Burghardt, P. B. Coulson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Thirty-three large felids belonging to six different species were exposed to catnip and catnip extract. The species-characteristic response to catnip and the sensitivity of the response to various concentrations of catnip were examined. Putative relationships between catnip sensitivity, species range, age, estrous cycle, and behavioral complexity are discussed. The behavioral response to catnip shown by the domestic cat is seen in several different large felids. Lions and jaguars were extremely sensitive to catnip compared to tigers, cougars, and bobcats, who gave little or no response. Both males and females of the same species tested alike. Reproductive-age adults were more sensitive than either aged or immature animals. It was quantitatively demonstrated that catnip responsiveness is not limited to the domestic cat, that it is not limited to the female, and that it varies dramatically between species and age of felids.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)239-253
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Chemical Ecology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1976


  • behavior
  • catnip
  • felines
  • olfaction
  • sensitivity
  • threshold response

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Biochemistry


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