How cats make the most of their catnip


Cats are, often, a mystery, even to those who know them best. Why do they sleep so much? Why do they want your full attention one minute, none the next? how can they find their way Back House after being stranded miles away years, Writer Haruki Murakami, known for putting cats in his novels and essays, once confessed I don’t know why he does this; A cat “slips naturally,” he said.

Another mystery: Why do cats love catnip? When exposed to a plant belonging to the mint family, majority Domestic cats will lick it, rub it, chew on it, and roll in it. They are full of enthusiasm, rising above the baggage. They also go wild for other plants, notably silver vine, which is not closely related to catnip but elicits a feline response, including big cats such as jaguars and tigers.

For years, this behavior was another conundrum concerning the cat. but one new studypublished Tuesday in the journal iScience, suggests the reaction of catnip and silver vine may be explained by worm repellent influence Iridoids, chemicals in plants that induce high.

Researchers led by Masao Miyazaki, an animal behavior scientist at Iwate University in Japan, found that when the plant was harmed by cats, the amount of these iridoids released by the plant increased by more than 2,000 percent. So perhaps kitty’s high offers an evolutionary advantage: keeping blood-sucking insects at bay.

Kristin Vitale, a cat behavior specialist at Unity College who was not involved with the research, noted that the study built on strong previous work. Last year the same lab published a study which found that Cats Will Do Their Best To Coat Themselves In DEET-Like Iridoids, whether by rolling over chemicals or getting up to nudge them with your cheeks. “This indicates that the cat may benefit from physically keeping the compounds on its body,” Dr. Vitale said.

Carlo Siracusa, an animal behaviorist at the University of Pennsylvania who was not involved in the research, agreed. “The evidence shows they want to impregnate their bodies with the smell,” he said. But, he added, “Keep in mind that a large proportion of cats do not show this behavior. So why would they have been selected that way?”

Bug-repellent iridoids, as an evolutionary adaptation Perhaps do more to help cats avoid bug bites than to protect plants from herbivorous insects. Plants often produce a burning sensation when damaged, which helps ward off attackers, and they emit other chemicals that transmit danger to their neighbors. “Plants are masters of chemical warfare,” said Marco Gallio, a neurobiologist at Northwestern University who was not affiliated with the new study.

Last year, Dr. Gallio and his colleagues published a report The primary bug repellent in catnip, nepetalactone, binds to a receptor protein that causes irritation in mosquitoes and related insects. The receptor, which is also present in humans and cats, can be turned off by tear gas. But Dr. Gallio found that although nepetalactone had no negative effect on humans and sent felines into spasms of ecstasy, it did activate this particular receptor (called TRPA1) in several insects – their for cats. An added bonus for walking around in the drug of choice.

In their most recent study, Dr. Miyazaki and colleagues measured the chemical composition of the air just above the leaves of catnip and silver vine – both intact and damaged. They then measured iridoid levels in the leaves themselves. They found that catnip leaves by cats released at least 20 times more nepetalactone than intact leaves, while damaged silver vine leaves released at least eight times the amount of the same iridoids than intact leaves. The cats’ interaction with the silver vine also changed the composition of the plant’s bug-repellent cocktail, making it even more potent.

After rubbing their faces and bodies against the plants, cats are sure to get coated in a strong layer of insect begonias.

This finding, paired with previous research by Dr. Miyazaki and his team, supports nascent claims that at least part of the benefits of the kitty catnip craze are to ward off mosquitoes and flies. Such behavior, known as “self-consecration”, would not be the first of its kind in the animal kingdom. Mexican spider monkeys are known smear yourself with variegated leaves, possibly to serve a social or sexual purpose, and often elephant rub off toxins on their spine.

Nevertheless, many questions remain to be answered, including why only kittens display an enthusiastic response to catnip and silver vine, and why only a few do. Dr. Gallio, while excited about the new study, offered a cautious approach. “I do not know?” They said. “I wasn’t there to see evolution happen.”


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