When cats chew catnip it releases mosquito-repelling chemicals

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When cats lick and chew catnip or silver vine crops, larger ranges of insect-repelling iridoid chemical substances are launched



Life



14 June 2022

A cat sniffing a catnip plant

Nils Jacobi/Shutterstock

By chewing and spitting out catnip and silver vine leaves, cats trigger larger concentrations of natural insect repellents to be launched from the crops, suggesting a potential purpose for the unusual behaviour they induce in felines.

Each catnip (Nepeta cataria) and silver vine (Actinidia polygama) produce chemical substances from a bunch known as iridoids that repel mosquitoes, flies, roaches and presumably different bugs or mites.

Most cats, however, seem like intoxicated by their scent, usually licking, chewing and rubbing their our bodies on the crops.

Masao Miyazaki at Iwate College in Japan and his colleagues puzzled why cats have these reactions. Final yr, they discovered that when cats rub their heads in these plant leaves, they coat themselves in nepetalactol, an iridoid compound that repels mosquitoes.

The scientists had been nonetheless inquisitive about why cats chew and spit out the leaves, nevertheless. Cats swallow little of the catnip and silver vine that they lick and chew, so the analysis group suspected that the animals weren’t getting a medicinal impact from swallowing the crops.

Noticing that torn and crumpled catnip and silver vine have a a lot stronger odour, the group determined to check the concentrations of iridoids in leaves both crushed by cats’ mouths or crumpled and ripped by human fingers.


The broken leaves of farmed catnip crops emitted 20 occasions extra iridoids into the air in contrast with undamaged leaves, says Miyazaki. Emissions from wild silver vine crops had been 10-fold larger when the leaves had been chewed by cats and as much as 40-fold larger once they had been chopped up by people – though the rationale for that distinction isn’t but recognized, he provides.

Between the 2 sorts of crops, the broken catnip launched about 40 occasions extra iridoids into the identical area than broken silver vine did. However silver vine accommodates a greater variety of iridoids than catnip, which seems to make up for its decrease concentrations, says Miyazaki.

The emissions from each crops successfully repelled younger feminine Asian tiger mosquitoes (Aedes albopictus) within the laboratory, and the eight take a look at cats all equally rubbed, licked and rolled on perforated plastic bins stuffed with both catnip or silver vine.

The findings recommend that the broken crops might supply an efficient mosquito repellent for anybody – not simply cats, says Miyazaki, including that he himself had no bites on his personal arm after rubbing it with broken silver vine leaves.

Nonetheless, the research doesn’t show that repelling bugs is the rationale for the cats’ behaviour – it might simply be a coincidence.

Journal reference: iScience , DOI: 10.1016/j.isci.2022.104455

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