Cat Catnip

Catnip and silver vine have actually been called feline attractant plants. Cat enthusiasts use dry leaves of these plants and toys stuffed with the leaves to provide happiness to their family pet felines. How does this work? What is the biological significance of the responsive behavior? A research study group at Iwate University, Nagoya University, Kyoto University, and University of Liverpool discovered that the behavior had more practical reasons than getting bliss.

” The first appearance of silver vine (” Matatabi” in Japanese) as a cat attractant in literature in Japan dates back to more than 300 years back. A folklore Ukiyo-e drawn in 1859 reveals a group of mice trying to lure some felines with a smell of silver vine.

The research group initially determined the active component of silver vine that causes the response. They separated compounds from extract of silver vine leaves and administrated each of them to felines to take a look at the action.

” We applied nepetalactol to lab paper filters and tested with eighteen laboratory and seventeen feral cats. We also checked the substance with bigger, non-domestic felines (jaguar, Amur leopard, and Eurasian lynx). We concluded nepetalactol is responsible for the typical feline response to silver vine,” stated Reiko Uenoyama, the paper’s first author.

The 2nd crucial finding by the scientists is the biological system of the response by feline animals to silver vine. “We evaluated β-endorphin levels before and after nepetalactol-induced reaction in cat blood.

Does this mean cats play with silver vine to get euphoria? Does silver vine has another function to felines? The research group believed that the plant has another biologically important function as the reaction was currently shown in feline animals when they evolved from other types about 10 million years earlier.

Cat Silver Vine

A cat responds to silver vine leaves. Credit: Masao Miyazaki & Reiko Uenoyama

” On the basis of some reports that nepetalactone, the feline attractant in catnip, has mosquito repellent activity, we thought that the reaction permits felines to move plant’s nepetalactol or nepetalactone on their fur for security versus mosquitoes.

To take a look at whether cats purposefully move nepetalactol, the research group placed paper filters with nepetalactol on various parts of the feline cage (flooring, walls and ceiling). Felines rubbed their faces and heads on the paper regardless of the place of the nepetalactol paper, they did not reveal the typical rolling when the paper was placed on a wall or ceiling.

” Next, we tested the mosquito repellent home of nepetalactol on felines. To see whether mosquitoes react the exact same in a more natural setting, we compared the mosquito reaction between felines that reacted to silver vine leaves and nonresponsive cats. From these results, we found that the felines’ reaction to silver vine is chemical defense versus mosquitoes, and possibly against viruses and parasitic bugs.

Miyazaki and his coworkers see lots of possibilities to utilize the findings in research and useful application. “Why is this response limited to felines? Why do not non-feline animals react to the plant? To discover responses, we wish to recognize the gene accountable for the reaction. The findings of this research study may be utilized in various applications, consisting of development of new mosquito repellant products.”

Reference: 20 January 2021, Science Advances
DOI: 10.1126/ sciadv.abd9135

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