I thought my cat Sophie wasn’t going to behave crazy again since the day I got rid of catnip in the house, and also all her catnip-stuffed toys. I had to take this extreme measurement when I found out her litter box accidents were related to catnip. But I was wrong, getting rid of catnip in the house didn’t cut it for the simple reason that there are other mint smells that are present all over the house. These mints odors also have the capability to turn my cat (and other cats) crazy just like if she was eating catnip. The good news is that not all cats react like this to mints or menthol, but if you are reading this article most likely your cat is showing this behavior.
Why Are Cats Obsessed with Mint Smells?
The thing is that catnip is a plant derived from the mint family and most cats are attracted to the mint smell, either coming from the catnip or other mints. Cats just can’t tell catnip apart from other mint odors, so that’s what’s happening with my cat. I documented my cat’s reaction in one of these instances so you can see clearly what her reaction looks like, similar to being under the catnip effect. This article is a way to warn you of all the possibilities where your cat could be exposed to these substances in your home which could pose a risk for your pet. Menthol is also a derivative of mint and causes cats to be attracted just as much. The following events took place in my house with my cat Sophie.
The first fail: IcyHot
I started to have muscle pain in my anterior leg area that hasn’t recovered yet so I bought the IcyHot roll-on and started using it on my leg. Right after doing this, my cat Sophie who was sitting on the couch at that moment acted like I was calling her so she jumped off and came to me to start sniffing all around me. She finally found the source of the smell and started rubbing her body against it. I became suspicious of this behavior so I locked myself in the bathroom and checked online to find out that cats are attracted to the active ingredient which is menthol (IcyHot has 10% of menthol). Menthol is a derivative of mint herb but can also be produced in a lab with synthetic sources. Also, IcyHot contains salicylates which are very toxic to cats if they are exposed in large amounts. Obviously, after reading all this information I panicked and cleaned my leg as much as I could to eliminate the exposure of my cat to this ointment. Even with my leg clean my cat still kept rubbing her body against my leg. I thought to document this moment on a video when she could still smell the residue odor of menthol on my leg, licking and rubbing her body, purring as if she was under the effect of catnip.
My cat Sophie reacting to the IcyHot menthol residue smell on my leg
My Great Idea that Didn’t Work either: Biofreeze patches
After ditching the idea of using IcyHot to relieve my pain I decided to get Biofreeze patches. I thought that patches do not expose the active ingredient as it is covered with a sort of sheet that seals the medication, leaving it all inside. This was the perfect solution for me and my cat, right? Wrong! It is effective that Biofreeze patches don’t expose the medicine to the outside but the patches somehow let the menthol smell leak because they are made from a material that allows the skin to breathe. I learned this lesson the hard way because only minutes after I had put the patch on my leg my cat’s radar was all over my leg again (sigh).
I thought about wrapping my leg with the patch on but I read is not recommended so I had to remove the patch while trying to keep my cat away from my leg which was really hard. She was like crazy in love with the patch. So I had to deeply wash my leg because the patch left much more medicine on. I have to say that it was extremely hard to get rid of the menthol odor this patch left on my leg. And if you use one of these patches on your neck or back and you happen to lay down or sit on a couch you will leave that menthol odor on those surfaces too and your cat will go like crazy rubbing its body and head on those areas, like under the influence of catnip (learn the risk of this below).
The Bad Part is Not the Rubbing and Purring
It wouldn’t really be a big problem for cats to act crazily obsessed with mentholated topical pain ointments if they don’t get to ingest them. The subsequent problem (that no cat owner wants to deal with) is that these menthol or mint smells have the same effect in some cats as the one of catnip, which is peeing wherever they feel like, either on the carpet, on the floor, the couch, etc. This is a hormonal reaction to mint herbs that makes them urinate like when they ingest catnip. My article about catnip and litter box accidents explains this better. This is what happened with my cat Sophie, I started smelling a tiny little smell of urine on the couch. Oh well, I guess my experience will help others to avoid these situations with their cats so they don’t have to go through the same.
But There’s More: The Tea Experience
After what happened with these pain relievers I stopped using all this stuff and focused on alternative therapy. This was my ultimate solution for the catnip-type effect of these medicines. But my problem wouldn’t end here. About a month after my cat’s encounter with the menthol nightmare I realized the kitchen is not free of trouble. I was drinking a peppermint tea so I put the peppermint tea bag on the plate as I was drinking the tea. My cat happened to be near me and she started sniffing the tea bag! I was thinking, “Oh no, here we go again”. So yes, peppermint tea will also get your cat crazy. But this time I didn’t give up my peppermint tea, I just started to discarding of the bag right away. If you drink peppermint tea don’t leave a used tea bag exposed to your cat, your fluffy could eat the whole bag if you give him enough time. This could really upset your cat’s stomach. The attraction to peppermint is because the leaves contain Nepetalactone which mimics a sex hormone in cats, making cats highly attracted to this compound. Nepetalactone is the active ingredient in Catnip (Source).
This is my experience being a cat owner trying to relieve leg pain and trying to enjoy peppermint tea. I hope you can learn from my story so this way you won’t expose your cat to these harmful components unnecessarily. But keep in mind that not all cats react to mint odors this way and yours might not be affected by it, let’s hope not.