Why Do Cats Go Crazy About Catnip?

When your feline friend rubs, rolls, chews and licks catnip leaves, it’s not just playful fun caused by intoxicating properties of the plant. This behavior leads to the release of certain compounds that can protect cats from pesky mosquitoes. research from Japan.

Compounds called iridoids found in catnip leaves (Nepeta cataria) and silver vine plants (Actinidia polygama) act as an insect repellent because they are released when cats rub their bodies against the leaves. the same team found in a study published last year.

Catnip, sometimes referred to as catnip, and silver vine are flowering plants with fragrant leaves that grow in many places around the world. Dry catnip and silver vine leaves are also used in cat toys.

groups last studies have shown that the way cats lick and chew leaves causes the release of 10 times more of these compounds, and damaged leaves make the insect repellent properties more effective.

Using 16 cats, the researchers compared feline responses to undamaged silvery grapevine leaves and leaves that had been crushed and torn by hand. Cats showed a longer interest in interacting with damaged leaves. than whole leaves.

Then, to test whether the felines specifically responded to iridoids, the cats were given meals with pure nepetalactone and nepetalactol, the key active compounds in catnip and silvervine, respectively.

“Cats respond similarly to iridoid cocktails and natural plants, except for chewing,” said Masao Miyazaki, professor Department of Biological Chemistry and Food Sciences at Iwate University in Japan, according to a press release. “They lick chemicals off plastic dishes, rub against them, and roll over.”

The cat in the study rolled on the leaves of a silvery vine.

According to the study, it is the smell of the plant that triggers the behavior.

“When the iridoids cocktails were applied to the bottom of the plates, which were then sealed with a punctured plastic lid, the cats continued to lick and chew even though they could not come into direct contact with the chemicals,” Miyazaki said. “This means that licking and chewing is an instinctive behavior caused by olfactory stimulation of the iridoids.”

In the case of the silver vine, leaf damage caused the release of other iridoids.

Galapagos tortoises were thought to be extinct until a single woman discovered them.

“Nepetalactol makes up more than 90% of the total iridoids in undamaged leaves, but in damaged leaves this figure drops to about 45% as other iridoids increase significantly,” he said. “The altered mixture of iridoids to match damaged leaves contributed to a much longer response in cats.”

The study says the work could help identify plant enzymes that could be used as insect repellents in humans.

Miyazaki said that catnip and silver vine are not dangerous to cats and are not addictive. The plants probably made the cats feel “euphoric,” he explained via email.

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