Scientists: Catnip activates cats' opioid receptors like heroin does in people, also acts as mosquito repellent

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Interestingly, it also turns out that the compound in catnip that attracts cats, nepetalactone, happens to repel mosquitos.

If I’d known this sooner, I wouldn’t have let my kitteh roll around in it alone!


Also called “cat mint.” It’s also great in iced tea as a mellower form of mint. It grows easily in the garden, too. Pop a handful (rinsed) in your water bottle before heading out and it gives your water a very pleasant taste.

Yeah, I’m not making it up:


Hmm. Rub catnip on myself to keep away the mozzies, and immediately be assaulted by cats. Decisions, decisions… :smiley:


Does this mean that cats can go into withdrawal, similar to withdrawal from opioid use? If so, is cruel to supply it to them?


Supposedly good as a diuretic, for lowering fevers, and to aid in sleeping. Or so my grandmother insisted, but her medical education was limited to being a backwoods hill-person.


Does it explain why some cats go nuts over it and others could hardly care less? I’ve seen both behaviors in my kitties over the years.

Also curious how cats naturally limit their exposure/indulgence. From what I’ve witnessed, my cats will play around with it for a little while but never seem to overdose. I would assume that if it had a true narcotic effect like opioids for humans then we’d see cats with unhealthy relationships with the stuff.


My three Manx all don’t care about it at all. They all love to lick and eat it but no crazy freak out (much to my disappointment)

Anecdotal for sure, but I wonder if different breeds have something to do with it.

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Not a scientist, but I believe “catnip” and “cat mint” are specifically two different plants. At least, that’s how I’ve always understood it, having grown both before.

“Cat mint” has smaller leaves and purple flowers, and way more “minty” scent.

“Catnip” has much larger leaves, large white flowers, and more “skunk” odor to it.

FWIW, any mint that I’ve grown here (spearmint, chocolate mint, etc.) has been just as effective as catnip as a mosquito repellent.

Steam distillation is simple to do mid-summer, when you’ve got more herbs than you know what to do with. Putting a little bit into rubbing alcohol (and then into a spray bottle) makes a nicely-scented spray that you won’t mind putting on if you’re doing yard work.


Obligatory PSA on the dangers of catnip:



“Archer! What happened?”


“I was testing a new mosquito repellent!”


A mosquito repellent and cat attractant in one! What’s not to love?


I’ve also never seen a cat react to it as if it were heroin. They act energetic and silly, far from sitting and staring at one of their toes after puking.


If you haven’t seen any of Jason Willis’s other work, it’s brilliant!


Jason is one of my friends. We both live in Tucson. He was one of the better DJs on my unlicensed FM station, Radio Limbo, way back in the previous century.


We used to have cats go through the yard at regular intervals. I finally realized the prolific mint/lambs ear-like plant in the front yard was catnip. This now makes me think the plant in front was responsible for the naps they were taking in the back - especially in a garden bed that got full sun.

That’s right. My house was the neighborhood opium den.


No kidding? Cool! I’ve been a fan of his work ever since I ran across his long-lamented Scar Stuff blog 15 years ago, and check in on his website every now and then to see if he’s posted any cool new material. And weirdly, just a few years ago he responded out of the blue to a question I had posted on Library Thing about a book I was looking for - he was probably as surprised as I was when I asked “wait, are you THE Jason Willis?” :laughing: Crazy!


Why am I thinking this might be a mistake in neighborhoods with lots of cats?


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