From the numerous behaviors of cats that are cute beyond belief, these animals’ affection towards catnip (aka catmint) is what raises some people’s eyebrows. Our feline and fury friends find immense pleasure in playing around and chewing catnip, but why does that happen?
According to CNN, new research from Japan shows that catnip can be beneficial for the health of cats by protecting them against mosquitoes. That works by the iridoid compounds getting released by the plant that will work as a shield against the insects along with Actinidia polygama, the silver vine of the plant. These anti-mosquito substances are released when the cats rub their bodies to the catnip.
The behavior of 16 cats was surveyed
To come to a new conclusion, researchers observed the behavior of 16 cats toward intact silver vine leaves, as well as to leaves that the scientists tore. The felines had proven to be more interested in touching the leaves that were damaged.
The next step was to see if the cats were reacting to the iridoids, so the animals received dishes containing important active compounds for catnip and silver vine. Masao Miyazaki, who is a professor at Iwate University in Japan, explained that except for chewing, the felines showed the same behavior toward natural plants and iridoid cocktails.
Miyazaki also explained as CNN quotes:
When iridoid cocktails were applied on the bottom of dishes that were then covered by a punctured plastic cover, cats still exhibited licking and chewing even though they couldn’t contact the chemicals directly,
This means that licking and chewing is an instinctive behavior elicited by olfactory stimulation of iridoids.
According to Purina, nepetalactone, the main ingredient in catnip, is able to stimulate certain brain chemicals that are related to happiness and mood.