The Topic: The Monkey Marketplace
The Guest: Laurie Santos
Lions love catnip.
They will roll around and lick and do all the things a house cat does when handed a toy filled with the psychedelic kitty-cat plant. Not all big cats are equally susceptible to the plant’s chemical powers, and within a single species some respond more than others, including house cats. I bet it’s a real bummer to learn your pet cat is immune to catnip, but that’s genetics for you.
This cross-species sharing of behaviors among cats goes beyond tripping balls after huffing exotic spices. Big cats from the wilderness, like jaguars and tigers and leopards, exhibit many of the same behaviors you see every day in tiny cats who live in human apartments and backyards around the world. That cute little kneading of the paws? Yep. That weird face rubbing thing. Same. If you’ve been to a zoo and watched big cats at play, you’ve probably noticed many similarities there as well. They share a common ancestor a few million years back, and some things got passed down to both lines in their bodies and in their brains. They aren’t identical though, natural selection tinkered with them separately and got different results, otherwise you’d see more people in the park walking pumas on leashes.