The Unified Catnip Theory Revealed

Okay, here is the Unified Catnip Theory (and rationale) in brief. I'll do a longer post in a day or so that gives more details, with links to the science stuff. Catnip is Nepeta cataria

The chemical that cats respond to is nepetalactone. It is well documented that nepetalactone is effective as an insect repellent. There is evidence that chemicals from other several other plants, including mint and strawberry (strawberry leaves and stems, not the fruit) also repel insects, and possibly mites and ticks. So, my theory (or more properly hypothesis) is that when cats roll around in catnip (and other such stuff) they are liberally applying a natural insect repellent just everywhere they can manage- all over the fur on face, ears and body. 

 The reaction is triggered by the smell of nepatalactone (for catnip), or other insect repelling substances from other plants (for mint, strawberry leaves, etc.). Quoted from this link: "Researchers report that nepetalactone, the essential oil in catnip that gives the plant its characteristic odor, is about ten times more effective at repelling mosquitoes than DEET — the compound used in most commercial insect repellents." 

 I can attest to the fact that cats can be just as much victims of mosquitoes as we humans are- saw some poor kittehs in Hawaii who had really suffered- face and ears totally covered with scabs from bites, and had lost a lot of hair from persistent scratching. Ouch. Sorry for such an image on a "feel good kitteh blog", but it did make an impression on me. Poor kittehs! 

So, now on to the YouTubes: just imagine that the kittehs are liberally applying a mossie repellent. Smart kittehs! 

 Stoned Cold Frodo Baggins (0:29) 

 

 Cat Nip Tumble (0:13) 

 

 Direct links are here and here. p.s. 

There are more than several though not quite a gazillion YouTubes with cats reacting to all manner of catnip stuff- dried catnip, catnip toys, catnip scratch pads, etc. etc. Don't think I haven't looked at those! I have. *g* But, I chose the above YTs because they showed cats and actual catnip plants, or bits of plants (I couldn't resist including the "catnip tumble").

Comments

  1. An insect repellent?! Who knew... other than the kittehs, I mean... I guess next spring I'll have to plant up a couple of pots of catnip and mint for Hoover and his neighborhood pals who hang out in the garden. (Can't risk planting the mint family in the ground here — it'll take over the world!)

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  2. Hi VG, this is a great post. Thanks for this. My post on catnip was nowhere near as good. But I did one on Growing Catnip. I think it's legal!!

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  3. Michael,

    no need to apologize for your post.

    I just came at the catnip thing from a completely different angle, with insider knowledge about insects and the whys and wherefores etc.

    I did a sabbatical with Tom Eisner at Cornell, who is revered in the insect world and beyond. Wrote a book with him and wife Maria, also a stellar scientist, about various insect/ plant chemicals, defenses, and such during that time. Or, to put it more correctly, I added my neurobiological expertise, and some firm editing skills to what could well been written without my contribution.

    Anyway "nepetalactone" kinda rolls of the tongue at this point!

    When I was doing research for this post a good while back, I found something to the effect that the genus name- Nepeta (Nepeta cataria)was in reference to a town in Italy Nepete that specialized in growing the plant. No idea how to find that particular link now, but this is one: (not to say this is the "original" link- there are so many derivative links on the net, it's hard to know what's what.

    Catnip (Nepeta cataria)

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