Cats and catnip – it’s not all about euphoria and enjoyment
Once we wrote about cats are big fans of catnip. You can find many videos where cats go crazy after inhaling and rubbing their faces on plants or other objects that contain the smell of catnip.
Now we know that the substances of this plant can have different effects on cats. But basically, the trick of this effect is that catnip substances have a lot in common with purr pheromones. And as a consequence, this similarity encourages cats to mate.
You can observe different effects after your pet smells catnip. Some will be awake as after an energy drink, while others may become very gentle, calm and affectionate animals.
What else does science have to say?
Recent research by Japanese biologists has proven that not only the similarity of pheromones plays a role and cats do not interact with the plant just for the euphoria. The fact is that catnip also contains an enzyme/substance that can repel mosquitoes and other insects.
A substance called “nepetalactol” binds to cat receptors and creates a chemical defense (coating) against the bites of various insects and pests.
Studies have been done where biologists observed two groups of cats. Some of them were in contact with the plant and thus repelled the flying creepers, while the others (who did not use the substance) were more vulnerable to attack by the bloodsuckers.
Then scientists tried to block the receptors that bind to “nepetalactol” and it turned out that the furry predators continue to show interest in the cherished plant. It’s just that their contact is not so demonstrative anymore, they moved to rub the plant with their body parts and face.
In addition, similar research results were obtained in the case of larger members of the feline family – jaguars and tigers.
There is even a company that has shown interest in creating a remedy for mosquito bites. And what’s more interesting is that they are willing to figure out the feline gene that repels other pests in connection with nepetalactol.
You can read more about the study and comments by one of the researchers, Masao Miyazaki.