上野山 怜子




Why do cats love catnip and silver vine (Matatabi in Japanese)?


Domestic cats (Felis silvestris catus) and other felids display a characteristic response against catnip (Nepeta cataria) and silver vine (Actinidia polygama), wherein they lick and chew the plants, rub their faces and heads against them, and roll on them. Both plants contain chemicals called iridoids that are known to be the key to evoking this unique response. Cat owners give their cats these plants-filled toys to make them high. While this response is well-known, its biological significance and underlying mechanism have long been a mystery. I have been fascinated by this feline response and thus trying to uncover its behavioral function and molecular mechanism in Prof. Masao Miyazaki’s lab since October 2018. 

Our major findings:


We found that self-anointing (rubbing) behavior transfers iridoids onto the feline fur where they repel mosquitoes and helps to protect cats against mosquito bites.

Uenoyama, R., Miyazaki, T., Hurst, J.L., Beynon, R.J., Adachi, M., Murooka, T., Onoda, I, Miyazawa, Y., Katayama, R., Yamashita, T., Kaneko, S., Nishikawa, T., and Miyazaki, M. The characteristic response of domestic cats to plant iridoids allows them to gain chemical defense against mosquitoes. (2021) Science Advances 7(4) eabd9135. DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abd9135.


 We found that the plant-damaging behavior of cats plays an important role in gaining pest-repellency effectively. Feline licking and chewing increases the emission of mosquito repellent iridoids from both catnip and silver vine while also diversifying iridoids in silver vine. Cats show an equivalently prolonged response to the low level of complex cocktail of iridoids in damaged silver vine and to the much higher level of a single iridoid in damaged catnip. Furthermore, the complex iridoid in damaged silver vine repels mosquitoes at low concentration. 

Uenoyama, R., Miyazaki, T., Adachi, M., Nishikawa, T., Hurst, J.L., and Miyazaki, M. Domestic cat damage to plant leaves containing iridoids enhances chemical repellency to pests. (2022) iScience DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.isci.2022.104455


Our latest paper shows the safety of silver vine by statistical analyses of behavioral data and blood tests and the most suitable harvest and drying methods of silver vine for producing an effective olfactory enrichment for cats.

Uenoyama, R., Ooka, S., Miyazaki, T., Mizumoto, H., Nishikawa, T., Hurst, J.L., and Miyazaki, M. Assessing the safety and suitability of using silver vine as an olfactory enrichment for cats. (2023) iScience DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.isci.2023.107848 

Education and Academic Career

April 2013 - March 2016


Iwate Prefectural Morioka Daiichi High School

April 2016 - March 2020


Department of Biological Chemistry and Food Sciences, Faculty of Agriculture, Iwate University

April 2020 - March 2022

岩手大学大学院総合科学研究科農学専攻応用生物化学コース 修士課程

Division of Agriculture, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Iwate University

April 2022 -

岩手大学大学院連合農学研究科生物資源科学専攻生物分子機能学連合講座 博士課程

Department of Bioresources Science, United Graduate School of Agricultural Sciences (UGAS), Iwate University

April 2022 -


Research Fellow (DC1) of Japan Society for Promotion of Science (JSPS)


Research Grants