Catnip Makes Good Bug Repellent

Medscape Staff

June 15, 2022

Catnip not only can get a cat intoxicated, but it can protect them from mosquitoes, according to Japanese chemists and both Iwate and Nagoya Universities.

What to Know:

  • Catnip and its Asian counterpart, silvervine, not only have intoxicative properties but also contain the compounds nepetalactol and nepetalactone, which are iridoids that protect the plants from pests.

  • Cats rub and roll against these plants, transferring iridoids to their fur that in turn repels mosquitoes.

  • Damaged silvervine emits a relatively low amount of complex iridoids while damaged catnip emits a high amount of the predominant iridoid nepetalactone.

  • Feline olfactory and behavioral sensitivity is fine-tuned to detect plant-specific iridoid production to help them maximize the mosquito repellency gained from their damage to the plant.

  • The more the cat damages a plant by rubbing, rolling, licking, and chewing, the higher amounts of strong insect repellents are released and the more the cats seem to be encouraged to do more.

This is a summary of the article “Domestic cat damage to plant leaves containing iridoids enhances chemical repellency to pests,” published by iScience on June 14, 2022. The full article can be found on

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