Cats Attracted to Menthol, Catnip, and Other Mints

Cats Attracted to Menthol, Catnip, and Other Mints
Many cats have a gene that attracts them to mint. (sophiecat/Shutterstock)
Q: Why is my cat Nala attracted to menthol? I like its coolness, so I buy shower gel and skin creams that contain menthol. Occasionally, I also use a menthol ointment on my sore muscles. Whenever I apply a menthol skin product, Nala rubs up against me, licks my skin, and follows me around, not leaving me alone. What’s this all about?
A: Menthol is derived from mint leaves, and many cats have a gene that attracts them to mint. Catnip is also a member of the mint family; offer Nala some and enjoy her response.

Fortunately, menthol is safe at the small doses Nala ingests when she licks your skin. Larger doses are a problem, so keep your products secured in the medicine cabinet to prevent her from chewing the containers and consuming their contents.

Lions, tigers, and other big cats are attracted to menthol, too. Some zookeepers apply a menthol-containing ointment such as Vicks VapoRub to surfaces inside the cat enclosures to entertain the great cats.

Q: My dog Misty had been licking and scooting her behind across the carpet, leaving a brown streak. I took her to the veterinarian who emptied her anal sacs but said they would probably refill every month or two.

I want to empty them myself to avoid taking her to the animal hospital so often. Please tell me how to accomplish this.

A: Dogs have two anal sacs beneath the skin near the anus. The sacs are lined by anal glands that produce a foul-smelling liquid which is released through ducts at the anus. Normally, this occurs with each bowel movement as a scent signal for other dogs.

However, some dogs’ anal sacs don’t empty as they should. When Misty’s sacs fill, the uncomfortable swelling causes her to lick her anus and scoot her behind on the ground in an attempt to empty them.

The problem is most common in small dogs, dogs that are overweight, those that have neurologic problems affecting the hind end, and dogs whose anal sac ducts formed abnormally.

If ignored, impacted anal sacs can become infected or rupture, causing bleeding and pain.

To empty them, you'll need exam gloves from the pharmacy and some lubricant, such as K-Y Jelly or Vaseline.

Insert your gloved and well-lubricated finger into Misty’s anus. Place your thumb on the outside at the 4:00-5:00 position and then at the 7:00-8:00 location. If her anal sacs are full, you should feel a grapelike bulge between your finger and thumb.

Gently squeeze the base of the “grape” between your finger and thumb. If you’re doing it right, material should exit from the anal sac duct opening.

Normal anal sac material is a foul-smelling beige liquid, but if it’s been too long since Misty’s sacs were emptied, the material will be thick and brown. If the discharge is bloody, Misty should see her veterinarian.

Clean up with baby wipes and perhaps some grooming spray to soften the odor. Then praise Misty and offer her a treat so she'll be happy to have you empty her anal sacs again in a month or two.

If you have any difficulty, ask your veterinarian for help.

Lee Pickett, VMD, practices companion animal medicine in North Carolina. Contact her at Copyright 2024 Lee Pickett, VMD. Distributed by
Related Topics