As you might be aware, perennial herb catnip is pretty much irresistible to any cat as well as other members of the feline family.
This is because it’s a psychoactive treat that gives them drooling, pawing and overall, intense pleasure.
Seeing how many cats don’t just roll around amongst the foliage to get these effects but instead also tear and crumble the leaves, scientists decided to look into why this act of destruction happens.
With that being said, a new study published in iScience proves that this action could have a medicinal purpose.
The damage done to the leaves of this plant manages to release insect repelling compounds into the air, successfully bathing the kitty in this naturally occurring pesticide.
In other words, bruising and crumpling the catnip leaves can release enough nepetalactone and nepetalactol to even repel mosquitoes and this has also been proven in the past by different studies.
Now, researchers wish to find out if the chewing or biting instincts are also able to provide extra benefits and were actions done on purpose or if they are simply signs the cat is enjoying itself.
So, they used 16 lab cats to find out, watching their behavior when cocktails of catnip and other plants with similar effects were placed in Petri dishes in front of their cages.
There were other tests conducted by the team as well in order to learn all about the extent of these plants’ insect repellent properties.
And sure enough, it became clear that the damage done to the leaves by the cats was indeed able to also get the party started faster for them.
Animal behavior researcher from Iwate University in Japan, and the lead author of the study, Masao Miyazaki stated that “We found that physical damage of silver vine by cats promoted the immediate emission of total iridoids, which was 10-fold higher than from intact leaves.”
The total concentration was higher and the mix of iridoids in silver vine was also more complex, which meant the repellent was stronger even in lower concentrations.
The cats exposed to the more potent mixtures were also affected for a longer period of time.
Miyazaki shares that “Nepetalactol accounts for over 90 percent of total iridoids in intact leaves, but this drops to about 45 percent in damaged leaves as other iridoids greatly increase. The altered iridoid mixture corresponding to damaged leaves promoted a much more prolonged response in cats.”