2005-10-13 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets...

by Joanne Anderson

Pets, Pets, Pets...


by Joanne Anderson

Catnip. I found the universal cure-all. It’s been right under everyone’s nose. It’s too late for the Nobel Prize in Medicine this year. That’s OK. I can wait. Actually I wasn’t thinking about cats when I made this discovery. Instead I was seeking herbal aids for insomnia "for a friend". It seems that throughout history catnip has been used as a remedy for just about every ailment or nuisance. Cats have known this all along. No wonder they have such a good time when they play with the leaves. They’re mocking our ignorance.

Catnip (Nepeta cataria) is a perennial member of the mint family that grows in temperate regions around the globe. It gets its name because of the peculiar effect it has on most felines. About 80% of all cats possess a genetic trait- a specific receptor above the palate that reacts to one ingredient- nepetalactone- whose scent causes them to act in that silly way. Most lions, pumas, and leopards react to catnip, but tigers don’t. After the initial frenzy, the inebriated cat stays relaxed for several hours.

Thankfully catnip doesn’t provoke such foolish behavior in people but it does have many medicinal qualities. The ancient Greeks and Romans grew it for their cats, and in the 13th C. The English used it for cooking. They rubbed the leaves on meat, and sprinkled them in salads, sauces and stew. Catnip tea was popular before Chinese tea was available. In 1597 written accounts appeared praising the herb as a relief for stomach aches, cramps, stress, and insomnia. The pioneers brought seeds to America. Early settlers believed that catnip could make kind people mean so the dried roots were fed to hangmen and executioners.

Vidal gets an extreme makeoverVidal gets an extreme makeover

The herb has about 10 different chemicals with healing properties. According to various holistic websites, catnip has also been used to reduce fevers, cough, and colic. Topically it’s been used for teething pain; as a compress for bruises, sprains and bug bites; as liniment for arthritis; as eyewash for allergies and bloodshot eyes; as hair rinse for scalp irritation; and as salve for hemorrhoids. At the Colonial CVS catnip was the Midol for menstrual distress and the Ritalin for hyperactive kids. This herb is also a source of Vitamins A and C so it’s been used to treat scurvy. It can help eliminate toxins from the body, and oil in the plant is an appetite stimulant beneficial to anorexics.

We’re not done yet. Catnip is a natural repellent to insects. Some gardeners plant it among their flowers to keep the harmful bugs away. Scientists at Iowa State University found that the "n……chemical" repels cockroaches. Nothing marketed does that. Catnip is also said to repel rats and mice so a strong spray of it on crops might well keep all vermin away. Catnip leaves rubbed on a pet’s coat often should deter fleas. A product called Nature’s Herbal Natural Mosquito & Insect Shield has a formula based on the Iowa State research. It contains catnip oil and other chemical repellents. The manufacturers claim it’s 10 times more powerful than DEET without the dangerous side effects. They say that pesky bugs don’t see you; they smell the carbon dioxide you give off with their hairy sensors. That sneaky "n…. chemical" in the spray fools them into thinking you’re a plant instead of a breathing being. The label warns: "May cause excitability if used on cats." Gee, I wonder why.

Here comes the hippie and Age of Aquarius hooey. There was some undocumented talk in the ‘60s that if you smoked catnip, you’d get a mild psychoactive high. About 15 years ago my friend fired a kid working at her pet food store because he was selling bags of catnip as marijuana to his gullible friends. Astrologers say catnip is bound to Venus and Water. You can carry it in sachets to attract good luck but don’t gather the leaves when Venus is in the Tenth, Eleventh, or Twelfth House. I can hear my acceptance speech in Stockholm: "Esteemed committee, I’m eternally grateful, but regret I cannot accept my Nobel Prize for the catnip cure-all this evening. I’ll be back for it when Venus is in the Ninth House."

Our poster dog photos from Babylon Town Shelter (643-9270) Lamar St. W. Babylon do not follow the usual format this week because there’s been a mysterious influx of 7 similar strays- severely, matted, male white Shihtzus (or small Lhasas) over the last few weeks. Three came in via the 1st Precinct and were pictured here on 9/29. They were adopted. Four more were found wandering near O’Connor St. N.Babylon . All have been sedated and shaved for humane reasons. In this photo you can see the latest one "Vidal Sassoon" getting his makeover from Kristin and Bonnie, (even though the shelter staff is seriously short-handed with the loss of 2 part time kennel attendants. They need more help.). "Vidal" was in the worst condition, found with a lady’s round hair brush tangled in his mats. He is still petrified. "Vidal" wants someone to reassure him that his life will be much better now.

All the Shihtzus have a similar structure so they’re probably related. Anyone with any information about where these dogs are coming from, please contact the shelter or me at the BEACON. There’s a big difference between the abuse/neglect cases you see on TV in shows like "Animal Precinct" and the ones you see in municipal shelters. The ASPCA agents usually know who to help or prosecute; shelter horror stories are typically from unknown origins.

Our other poster dog is "Mariah" in Cage 61. This sweet, small Belgian shepherd mix is the victim of a divorce. You can see her posing by the shelter windows decorated with harvest designs. The shelter would like to thank artist Karen Silver of N. Babylon for her lovely paintings.

•Females: "Lucky"- a tan smoothie in Cage 87; a black German shepherd in Cage 57.

•Males: "Frankie"- the brindle pup in Cage 43; a new Husky in Cage19.

•Cats & Kittens: a whole kit and caboodle of cuties.

•Snoopy Fest- Sat. 10/15 at Farmingdale College. We will have Babylon Shelter dogs for adoption at this fantastic event that benefits Canine Companions for Independence. There’s a costume contest for your dog too. Call 1 (800)572-BARK.

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