Catnip not only to get high: it’s a mosquito repellent for cats

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Feeling bored with your entertainment options? Go to the pet store and buy crushed catnip leaves or silver vine chew sticks, and also buy a cat if you don’t have one.

Or borrow one from a friend if you can’t responsibly commit to caring for a vulnerable creature.

Open the leaves or sticks when you get home and the cat will continue like Al Pacino to plant his face in a mountain of cocaine like he did at the end of Scarface.

Gimme Gimme Gimme.

And when catnip kicks in, it rolls around on the ground in a euphoric haze. He will appear to see visions. He’s just… well that’s just a hoot to watch.

After about 15 minutes, the cat is in a drunken and unresponsive state. And the fun is over.

This is old news. What’s up?

New study finds that when cats rub catnip or silver vine on their face and the top of their head (so cute!), It’s not just to create a buzz – they’re protecting themselves, too, on purpose mosquito bites.

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In other words, catnip is like an Aerogard spray – with mind-altering benefits.

And cats seem to know it, according to researchers at Iwate University, Nagoya University, Kyoto University and University of Liverpool.

How did the researchers test this idea?

Researchers first confirmed that the active ingredient in catnip and silver vine is a chemical called nepetalactol.

According to Professor Masao Miyazaki of Iwate University, a leader of the research project: “We applied nepetalactol to lab paper filters and tested with 18 lab cats and 17 feral cats. They showed the typical response to the silver vine.

They also tested the chemical on big cats: Jaguar, Amur leopard and Eurasian lynx.

They too demonstrated a euphoric response, followed by zoning.

“We concluded that nepetalactol is responsible for the typical feline reaction to silver vine,” say the authors.

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Further tests confirmed that “the silver vine activates the nervous system responsible for the euphoric reaction”.

What about mosquitoes?

Scientists have known for years that nepetalactone, an essential oil that serves as a catnip attractant in catnip, has powerful insecticidal properties.

A 2001 University of Iowa study found that nepetalactone is “about 10 times more effective at repelling mosquitoes than DEET, the compound used in most commercial insect repellents.”

The discovery was reported at the 222nd National Meeting of the American Chemical Society.

Two years earlier, the same researchers found that catnip also repels cockroaches.

The new study confirmed that nepetalactol serves as both an insecticide and a euphoric.

But the question remained: did cats know that catnip and silver vine had these protective properties?

To examine whether cats “deliberately transfer nepetalactol into their bodies, the researchers placed paper filters laced with neetalactol on different parts of the cat’s cage (floor, walls and ceiling).”

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Although the cats rubbed their face and head on the paper regardless of where the neetalactol paper was placed, “they did not show the typical curl when the paper was placed on a wall or ceiling.”

This seems to suggest that cats need to have full body immersion to experience euphoria.

The scientists concluded that the most important function of the rubbing behavior was to apply the chemical to these parts of the feline fur. So maybe the function of all this face planting is primarily to protect the cat from pests.

Well, yes, maybe. But that doesn’t necessarily mean the cat is acting with these intentions.

The attractive properties of the plant could simply encourage the cat to protect itself.

So where does that leave us? No more experiments with cats and crazy substances. Yay!