Do Other Animals 'Get High'?

Do non-human animals ever eat toxic plants for the sole purpose of altering their brain chemistry as a means of entertainment?


I’ve heard it said that Catmint(Catnip - Nepeta Spp) has an effect on cats similar to that of Cannabis with humans.

Cats don’t eat catnip, though, they sniff it and roll in it. I would also say that its effect is nothing like cannabis; catnip seems to be quite stimulating, inducing in most cats (that I’ve seen) a degree of manic behavior, and in one cat of my acquaintance frenzy and tetany.

To clarify for the OP, cats will seek out a “catnip” toy again and again. Whether or not they remember that that specific toy will make them “high” and return to it for that reason, I imagine, would be hard to prove.

There is a species of African bat that engages in mass feeding on figs at precisely the time that the figs are fermenting. There are significant levels of alcohol in the figs, and the bats do exhibit intoxicated behavior.


“It was a woman drove me to drink and I didn’t even have the decency to thank her.” ~ W.C. Fields ~

Many animals will become intoxicated eating fermented fruit.

Pyracantha bushes will lead to a lot of plastered birds when the berries ripen. It can be rather detrimental to the birds, as it leaves them unable to evade predators. The city of San Francisco has had a problem with drunken birds in the past because they planted pyracantha extensively as an ornamental. It’s happened in other cities as well, and many people who have planted them as home landscaping have observed the phenomenon.

I disagree.

I’ve had 4 cats. Each rolled and played in the catnip in addition to eating it.

My husband bought a potted catnip plant once, along with a bunch of other kitchen herb plants, and set it outside. Within a couple of days, it was eaten down to bare stems. None of the other herbs was touched. We didn’t actually see a cat do this, but I can’t imagine what else it could have been.

I’ve heard that not all cats go for catnip. I don’t know if there is a catnip ‘gene’ in cats but where some will go nuts for it (as my two cats do) some regard it with complete indifference.

I have heard that cattle will sometimes eat something called ‘locoweed’. I don’t know if that’s the real name but it is descriptive of how the cows behave after munching on the stuff. Whether the cattle seek it out or (more likely) just happen to get a mouthful inadvertently I couldn’t say.

Koala Bears, I’ve been told, are so mellow at least in part because they are perpetually stoned. Koala Bears eat Eucalyptus which is toxic to most animals but Koala Bears are able to metabolise the leaves. However, a side effect is likely somewhat of an altered state for the animal. Again, Koala Bears don’t seek out this food for the purpose of getting high…it’s just what they happen to eat regardless of what else is around.

I have known several dogs that loved beer. I couldn’t say if they just liked the taste, wanted to do what their owner was doing or enjoyed getting drunk (it was clear they got a buzz) but it was funny to watch.

I can’t imagine any animal eating anything with the intent of getting high, because they’re not intelligent enough to make the connection between the eating and the high. Catnip is different because the effect is immediate.

I should have poked around first.

The notion that birds become drunken from eating fermented pyracantha berries is widely disseminated, but it seems it is not universally accepted, nor, seemingly, discredited. Clearly, SOMETHING happens to the birds, but it may just be a result of them totally stuffing themselves, according to some sources. I would think it would be easy to determine the alcoholic content of the berries, if not the birds. Maybe one of the resident ornithologists actually knows?

cats and dogs can get stoned on marijuana as well, so I’m told.

My cat definitely makes the connection between catnip and getting high. I have a spray can of catnip, and as soon as I take it off the shelf he gets excited and starts meowing.

Do they buy it from dealers or grow it themselves?

my cats LOVE the 'nip. Yep, the second they hear the bag crinkle they start meowing and stare at me. Sometimes it a painful meow…like “give it to me NOW!”
They roll, scratch, lick and eat the stuff.

little jonesers.

I have heard that elephants in the wild go out of their way to find fruit which have been fermenting on the ground long enough to become alcoholic, eat them, and become intoxicated. No cite for this I’m aftaid.

You mean like slurring their speech and stumbling around in an alley going “hic!” while a trombone plays glissandoes in the background?

Catnip is in the mint family, as is Salvia, which is a mild hallucinogen that is quite popular among humans at the moment (because it hasn’t been made illegal yet), so I wouldn’t be surprised if tabby was getting a buzz from it. Just a guess though

Also, I’ve known dogs that have loved and hated marijuana. My close friend’s terrier can smell it from across the room and will start nosing the pocket it’s in immediately.

I wonder if other animals like raccoons or rabbits like catnip. Do dogs like it? My dog seems to be inclined to eat anything :slight_smile:

Anyone have any info on the effects/draw of catnip on non-cats?

I’ve heard the elephants eating rotting fruit one too, apples if I’m not mistaken (which I may well be)… are there apples where elephants wander?

I also beleive that pretty much any organism does have the intellegence (if that’s what’s involved) to associate eating a certain food in a certain condition to a raw physical/mental sensation - it’s a pretty basic connection. If bird can get sick eating something and learn not to eat it, why couldn’t they associate eating another thing with feeling high?

This assumes that the animals in question liked the sensation of disorientation and mental imparement; lots of animals are very concentrated and in tune with what’s around them and may freak out if they’re unable to escape or run/fly properly. I know I wouldn’t want to be stumbling around the Serrengetti at 3am pissed out of my mind asking the circling hyenas for directions back to my tent :eek:!!