The Surprising Reason Cats Love to Roll Around in Catnip — and It's Not Just for the High

If you own a cat, you’ve probably been tempted to see their reaction to catnip, the naturally growing herb that provokes a rather frenzied response. Some cats enjoy pawing, licking, or chewing the catnip before rolling around in it. So, what causes that reaction? It may not be just the “high” your feline is after. Instead, your cat may be looking to take advantage of the surprising ability of catnip to act as an organic pesticide. A new study has revealed that catnip helps to stave off damage from insects. When a cat slices and dices the plants, molecules known as iridoids are released, covering the cat in a plume of natural repellent. The iridoids are especially effective against mosquitoes. Of course, the main draw for cats remains the euphoric effect, which is also due to the nepetalactone — a molecule that protect plants from herbivorous insects. That molecule is picked up by the cat’s olfactory receptors in their nose, prompting mania. It’s not quite clear whether a cat is trying to go for more of a high in rolling around in the catnip or whether it instinctively knows it can help ward off pests, but it’s clear the kitty version of pot has some wholesome advantages.