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How Cats Reply to Catnip and Different Cat-Attracting Vegetation is Very Particular person, Research Exhibits

New analysis exhibits that cats have a person response to catnip and different cat-attracting crops like silvervine and that, in contrast to massive cats, they don’t take care of perfumes like Obsession for Males.

A grey and white cat chews on a silvervine stick
A cat chews on a silvervine stick. Photograph: Abigail Crawford.

By Zazie Todd PhD

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In case your cat likes catnip, you’ll have seen them sniff it, lick it, roll round on it or close to it, and in any other case appear ecstatic in response to a toy containing contemporary catnip. Then, after some time, the impact wears off.

Analysis has proven that cats can reply in an analogous technique to a number of different substances: valerian, Tatarian honeysuckle, and silver vine (often called matatabi in Japan).  

Now, a brand new research by Dr. Sebastiaan Bol et al. printed in BMC Biology takes this analysis a step additional by investigating precisely how cats behave in response to catnip and comparable crops. The outcomes present that every cat has their very own particular person response—and that it’s the identical for every of the substances they reply to on this manner.

Cats’ responses to crops

In addition to testing catnip, valerian, Tatarian honeysuckle, and silver vine, the researchers added one other plant that cats may reply to, Indian nettle (Acalypha indica). 

Six cats have been examined in their very own dwelling setting at Cowboy Cat Ranch. The plant supplies have been introduced in a sock, with inexperienced tea used as a management. Every cat was introduced with the plant for greater than 100 hours in complete over a time period.

5 of the six cats responded to all 5 of the cat-attracting crops, whereas the remaining cat, Z, responded to all aside from valerian.

Apparently, these cats had taken half within the earlier analysis and at the moment 5 of them had proven no response to catnip. Due to this, the scientists examined 2 completely different manufacturers of catnip, in case the model or freshness made a distinction, however all cats responded to each manufacturers. 

It’s already identified that kittens don’t reply to catnip; in these cats who’re delicate to it, it’s thought to develop as a response at round 5-6 months of age. The outcomes from this research counsel that some cats might develop the response at a later age. Extra analysis is required to analyze this.

That is the primary time it’s been proven scientifically that cats reply to Indian nettle, though it’s identified within the elements of the world the place this plant grows naturally, therefore it’s inclusion within the research. (Certainly, within the Malay language it’s apparently referred to as “excited cat tree”).  

The catnip response

The scientists seemed intimately at how every cat responded to every of the crops. They discovered that cats have completely different responses, with one who primarily sat and rubbed their head on the sock, for instance, whereas one other laid on their facet, rubbed their head, and in addition held, bit, and raked the sock containing catnip. The size of time every cat responded for was additionally completely different.

Nevertheless a selected cat responded to catnip, they behaved the identical with the opposite crops that they responded to. 

The research additionally confirmed that, as was already identified for catnip, cats get used to the crops and cease responding after some time. So it’s a good suggestion to place the toys away for a bit and convey them out a day or two later. 

One other fascinating discovering is that after cats have responded to Tatarian honeysuckle or silver vine, this appears to dam the response to catnip (similar to after they’ve responded to catnip).

Cats’ responses to compounds and chemical substances

So what are the compounds that trigger these responses? In addition to nepetalactone (present in catnip) and different comparable lactones, some cats additionally responded to actinidine (a pyridine).

Dr. Bol advised me,

“Actinidine is an enchanting molecule. It is without doubt one of the many single compounds we discovered to have the ability to elicit the “catnip response”, nevertheless it appears to have an effect on solely few cats. These cats who reply to actinidine actually appear to like it although.”

One other compound that cats responded to is dihydroactinidiolide which, apparently, is present in urine and excretions from purple foxes. It’s not identified why cats would reply to a chemical made by one other mammal.

The compound(s) in Tatarian honeysuckle that cats reply to haven’t, up to now, been recognized. 

Dr. Bol advised me,

“Discovering solutions all the time leads to extra questions. There’s one thing fairly particular about Tatarian honeysuckle, however we will not clarify why.”

Pet cats and fragrances

The cats have been additionally examined with a set of fragrances that massive cats have been discovered to reply to with head rubbing and so on. Watch massive cats reply to Calvin Klein’s Obsession for Males on this video from Nationwide Geographic.  

However the pet cats didn’t reply to Obsession for Males, Drakkar Noir, L’Air du Temps, or Paco Rabanne for Homme—apart from one cat who responded to Drakkar Noir, however solely after the perfume-sprayed fabric had been left within the room for some hours. 

We don’t know the substances of specific fragrances, nevertheless it’s doable that massive cats reply to the perfumes due to a compound referred to as civetone which is present in secretions from the anal glands of the civet cat. It is generally utilized in perfumes due to its musky odor.

So every of the pet cats was examined with a set of gear that contained both civetone or synthetic civet (the scientists didn’t get precise civet for moral causes). 

Not one of the pet cats responded to civetone or comparable chemical substances.

So regardless of the one cat favored about Drakkar Noir, it wasn’t that. 

In truth, cats have a tendency to not like sturdy scents; learn extra about what your cat’s nostril is aware of

Tips on how to strive the crops with your personal cat

It may be enjoyable to strive these crops along with your cat to see in the event that they reply or not. In case your cat doesn’t like catnip, they might nonetheless like a few of these different crops.

Silver vine (as a stick or powder) and valerian are more and more accessible in cat toys. Tatarian honeysuckle is out there from the Cat Home in Calgary. I don’t know of any industrial supply of Indian nettle for cats.

House Kitty Categorical sells a full cat-drug sampler toy that permits you to strive honeysuckle, a valerian root/lemongrass combine, silver vine, and naturally catnip with your personal cat.

The scientists who did this analysis level out that these substances should not like medication in your cat, regardless of the widespread parlance of e.g. “meowjuana.” Certainly, they are saying such language could also be detrimental if it places some folks off making an attempt these crops with their cat. Cats don’t change into addicted or undergo withdrawal signs from these crops, and you may cease the response any time just by taking the plant away. 


The scientists write that, 

“A lot concerning the ‘catnip response’ nonetheless appears riddled in thriller. We’re clueless as to what the rationale for, or organic response is and why it is just seen in felines.”

Though solely six cats took half on this research, the outcomes are very detailed. The paper exhibits that cats reply to quite a few completely different molecules and it additionally exhibits the individuality of the feline response to cat-attracting crops. 

The complete paper is open entry and might be learn by way of the hyperlink beneath. You’ll be able to watch the primary creator, Dr. Sebastiaan Bol, speaking about this analysis on cat-attracting crops on this Youtube video.  

Helpful hyperlinks:


Bol, S., Scaffidi, A., Bunnik, E.M. et al. Behavioral variations amongst home cats within the response to cat-attracting crops and their unstable compounds reveal a possible distinct mechanism of motion for actinidine. BMC Biol 20, 192 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12915-022-01369-1 

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