JAVMA News logo

March 01, 2021

In Short

Published on
information-circle This article is more than 3 years old

Catnip, silver vine activate cat opioid systems, repel mosquitoes

Catnip and silver vine send cats into bliss by activating their opioid system, according to a recent study. Rubbing their faces against the plants also may help defend them against mosquitoes.

Researchers described that pair of findings in an article published Jan. 20 in Science Advances. The researchers examined the effects of exposing domestic cats and zoo felids to the plants and two compounds within them: nepetalactone in catnip and nepetalactol in silver vine.

The studies included exposing domestic cats to chemically synthesized nepetalactol equal to the amount found in 10 silver vine leaves. The researchers found the cats had elevated plasma beta-endorphin concentrations, which activate the opioid system and, in humans, produce rewarding and euphoric effects. The researchers also found fewer Aedes albopictus mosquitoes landed on the heads of nepetalactol-treated cats versus controls.

“The rubbing and rolling response transfers nepetalactol from the plant leaves onto the cat’s face and head where it acts as a mosquito repellent, finally revealing the likely biological significance of this enigmatic feline behavior, first observed more than 300 years ago,” the article states.

The researchers also found nepetalactol exposure produced similar behavioral responses in domestic cats, Amur leopards, jaguars, and Eurasian lynxes.

Phi Zeta presents 2020 research awards

Phi Zeta, the international honor society of veterinary medicine, recently presented the 2020 Research Manuscript Awards.

Dr. Guo
Dr. Lee-Jae “Jack” Guo

The award in basic sciences went to Dr. Lee-Jae “Jack” Guo, a 2006 veterinary graduate of National Chung Hsing University in Taiwan, of the Eta chapter of Phi Zeta at Texas A&M University. His winning paper was “Natural history of cardiomyopathy in adult dogs with Golden Retriever muscular dystrophy.” Dr. Guo pursued preclinical training in cardiac surgery in the field of artificial organs at Texas A&M University and completed his doctoral degree in biomedical sciences in 2019. His doctoral research focused on understanding cardiomyopathy in dogs and boys with Duchenne muscular dystrophy and further investigating novel treatments.

Dr. Thurber
Dr. Mary Thurber

The award in clinical sciences went to Dr. Mary Thurber (Wisconsin ’14) of the Lambda chapter of Phi Zeta at the University of California-Davis. Her winning paper was “Reference intervals for acute phase proteins for koalas (Phascolarctos cinereus) at the San Diego Zoo.” She completed a residency in zoological medicine at UC-Davis and San Diego Zoo Global. Dr. Thurber is a diplomate of the American College of Zoological Medicine. She was a staff veterinarian at the Oakland Zoo for a year prior to joining the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine as a clinical instructor in zoological medicine.

Foundation funds studies on effects of diet in feline kidney health

The EveryCat Health Foundation, formerly the Winn Feline Foundation, announced in January that it has awarded two grants as part of a special funding opportunity co-sponsored by Nestlé Purina Petcare and Mars Petcare for research into the effects that dietary phosphorus and calcium-to-phosphorus ratio have on renal health in cats.

The foundation awarded $49,950 for the study “Investigating the genetic basis of total body phosphate overload in cats with mild azotemic chronic kidney disease.” The principal investigator is Dr. Rebecca Geddes of the University of London. This study’s aim is to use new genome sequencing technologies to identify genetic variants in phosphate transporters and other genes.

The foundation awarded $34,563 for the study “Impact of feline circadian rhythms on phosphorus and parathyroid hormone concentrations.” The principal investigator is Dr. Andrea Fascetti of the University of California-Davis. The purpose of this study is to determine and characterize the circadian rhythm of phosphorus concentrations in healthy cats fed a consistent, complete, and balanced diet.

Please send comments and story ideas to JAVMANewsatavma [dot] org (JAVMANews[at]avma[dot]org).