Juno the Olive-Obsessed Kitty


Juno the Olive-Obsessed Kitty

Several years ago I was contacted by Susan, one of my radio listeners in New Hampshire, with a question that remains a fascinating phenomenon.

My two year old cat Juno steals Kalamata olives. Not only does he steal them, he will scream and beg for them if he sees me eating them or smells them in the room. He’ll gnaw on my fingers if he knows I’ve held one. He is normally a very composed furry gentleman. Once Juno secures an olive he literally goes wild — he shakes with excitement and devours the olive in an ecstatic frenzy. I’ve never witnessed such behavior. Days after consuming an olive and, with a wistful look on his face, Juno will even lick the floor where it once was. Is this a nutrition issue? Is my kitty missing an essential nutrient in his diet? Juno receives three small cans of food daily and has a water fountain which is always on and clean, as well as fresh tap water placed in a dish daily. We keep a steady crop of cat grass available, and he gets dried protein treats about once a month, for fun. I’d welcome your thoughts, Tracie. Should I give him olives, or refrain? What could be driving this obsession of his?

Since other radio listeners had mentioned their kitties being nuts about olives, I looked for a scientific explanation for Juno’s olive mania.

“Green olives (Olea europaea) and pimentos (Capsicum annuum) contain isoprenoids, which are structurally similar to the active chemical in catnip methylcyclopentane monoterpene nepetalactone. The chemical in the essential oil of these plants binds to receptors in the cat’s vomeronasal organ and has a similar effect on the same receptors that are responsible for getting her high on catnip. The vomeronasal organ is what cats (and most other animals, with the exception of humans) use to sense pheromones. This part of a kitty’s nose/brain is where the nepetalactone in catnip stimulates pheromone receptors, accounting for the mind-altering effect a cat can experience, resulting in “space-kitty.”

bowl of olives

I remembered that back when I first got the question about Juno’s olive obsession, I had put the question to Jackson Galaxy (proud to say I knew him way before he achieved fame and acclaim as Cat Daddy). Funnily enough, he came back with the same explanation about pussycats and olives, with a more down-to-earth explanation. Jackson said:

“Believe it or not, this story is commonplace. Reason being, both in varieties of green olives, like Kalamatas, and in pimentos, there are high levels of certain compounds that actually resemble pheromones. There’s a lot of scientific mumbo-jumbo that I’m sure nobody (like me!) is interested in reading, but the bottom line is that these olives have components in their essential oils that cause a reaction very similar to catnip. Yes, Juno is ‘olive-high.’ And no, there is nothing “bad” in kalamatas, although they are pretty well empty in terms of the nutrition they offer. Susan may be trying to make a connection between what Juno might lack in his diet and the olive-eating (like when animals eat dirt, for example), when in reality Juno is just looking for a cheap thrill!”

There appears to be no toxicity to olives (although one of my listeners mentioned diarrhea) but they don’t have the Happy Making effect on every cat. Another treat you can consider for your cat – that is also much-needed environmental enrichment, is to put some freeze dried protein treats inside a good dispenser toy and let your kitty put her brain to good use trying to extricate the tasty morsels!

–Tracie Hotchner

photo credits: CeresB via photopin ccpedrosimoes7 via photopin cc

13 thoughts on “Juno the Olive-Obsessed Kitty

  1. Alex

    I use the Kirkland Signature Maintenance Cat Food (from Costco). My cat *loves* it, but do you know if it is healthy for him? It looks like it is, but I’m no nutrition expert :)

    1. Tracie Hotchner Post author

      No dry food from any company is healthy- it is “kitty crack” and all dry food is supremely dreadful for cats, who are obligate carnivores and cannot properly digest highly processed carbohydrates. Please feed quality canned food with high protein and very very low carbs- Halo pate, Weruva Paw Lickin’ chicken and many others are terrific.

      1. Mickie Westfall

        You say that dry cat food is like “kitty crack”, but how do I get my spoiled 8 month old cat to eat anything other than dry? I rescued her as a 7 week old kitten from a very abusive home, where she sustained a possible broken jaw, hip, and busted tail. I nursed her back to health by hand/bottle feeding her and bought only the best soft can food. Then one day she stopped eating it, she just stopped completely. She will go days without eating until I place hard food in her dish then she will devour it. My vet says the hard is better because it will keep her teeth healthy. Do you have any suggestions on what to try? I was feeding her Fansy Feast when she stopped, so I switched to Friskies which she enjoyed for a bit then stopped. Now I feed her Purina Indoor Delights dry and she eats fine every day. She also has just started a fetish with running water,, and the need to only drink from a tap? Any suggestions?

        1. Tracie Hotchner Post author

          Mickie I’m going to invite you on CAT CHAT with Dr. Elizabeth Hodgkins and myself very soon so we can help you- and others – understand the addictive (by design) qualities of dry cat food and all the ways you can get your kitty into “rehab” and learn how to enjoy healthy wet food.

          1. crystal thomas

            My cat Tigger is o e of the calmest cat’s I have ever known.. But out of my 4 rescues, he is the only one she eats Bananas, he goes crazy for them… I have heard of cats eating weird things before but bananas??? Please help maybe Jackson Galaxy might know, although I think he would like to meet my Tigger, he is one of the most trust worthy loveable cats ever!!!

  2. Louise

    Just as a word of warning – when my cat was a kitten, he had to have a (very expensive) operation to remove an olive stone that was blocking off his intestine. He’d scavenged the olive from a neighbour’s compost. So, while the olives themselves might not be harmful, the stones can cause an obstruction that can be fatal if not rectified.

    1. Tracie Hotchner Post author

      This is great advice from a cat lover in the U.K. – thank you Louise for telling us about your scary (and costly) brush with an olive pit. I would never have considered that!

  3. tammy

    my cat sammy reacts the same way goes crazy when i get green olives out… she roles on them then eats them… my other cat teebow dont react to them

  4. Susan K

    my boy cat gets bladder infections and is on the spendy prescription only get-it-only-from-the-vet “Sci Diet” dry / canned food – is there any way around this ? ? i have 3 cats so i have to feed them all the same thing

  5. Katie Kat

    I’m glad to hear that olives are not toxic! I used to have a fun sandy red ginger kitty who love olives… but he was picky and liked the green ones best. He also like green beans.

  6. Barbara

    My cat Cloie is the same way about only wanting dry cat food,has stopped eating can food, and wants water only from faucet,my outher cat is fine with eating dry or can food, and drinking wter out of bowl,I clean their bowls 2x aday, I’m woried!

  7. Tracie Hotchner Post author

    please write to me at radiopetlady@gmail.com so i can invite you on CAT CHAT with Dr Elizabeth and myself and you can learn how dry food is part of the very problem with your kitty! Dr E’s book YOUR CAT explains exactly why “kitty crack” is the problem with stones and crystals, not the cure.

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