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Note: pure nepetalactone will not enable you to create a cat army.
August 15, 2012 5:43 AM   Subscribe

Do you like cats? Do you enjoy chemistry? Do you appreciate having contraptions sitting around that look a lot like you are working with dangerous and/or illegal substances? If so, here's a detailed DIY guide to steam-distilling concentrated catnip.
"A note about safety. Yes, it is safe to use this extract on cats. I have looked into it, and there are a number of studies (very interesting in their own right) using pure nepetalactone on cats in experiments trying to figure out why it causes them to go bonkers. The upshot is that it's pretty safe. In the last of the references below, the LD50 of nepetalactone was determined to be 1550 mg/kg (about the same as aspirin), meaning you would have to force feed your average 5 kg cat ~8 grams in order to cause it any harm. So as long as you are reasonable with the extract it should pose no harm."
posted by quin (24 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm reading this with my cat on my lap, knowing I'd never even try this, but sad about the yard surgery that ended in a complete amputation of the giant overgrown catnip shrubbery next to the house. Luckily, the cats haven't been told about the procedure.
posted by Ghidorah at 6:03 AM on August 15, 2012


I dunno, the catnip we have growing smells like minty cannabis. If the house is going to smell like I'm making magic butter, I may as well be making magic butter.

Which, of course, is not to say that this isn't super-cool. Because it is.
posted by uncleozzy at 6:05 AM on August 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Note: pure nepetalactone will not enable you to create a cat army.
posted by zamboni at 6:05 AM on August 15, 2012


I was hoping that this was instructions on how to raise cats up from their Essential Salts, so your cat army would be easily transportable, but, alas, no.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:25 AM on August 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


raise cats up from their Essential Salts

I say to you again, do not pick up any which you cannot put downe (because ye little bugger has its claws embedded in thy arm againe).
posted by zamboni at 6:38 AM on August 15, 2012 [12 favorites]


Posted by: some guy in a pork pie hat known only as Micenberg
posted by Rhomboid at 6:54 AM on August 15, 2012 [13 favorites]


So: all that, or you can just buy catnip oil that's already 80% pure? I mean, I respect that this is really about process more than results. But dang.
posted by penduluum at 6:58 AM on August 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Respect the chemistry.
posted by Egg Shen at 7:02 AM on August 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


Too bad you can't use benzene for this. Toluene is such a pain in the ass to reduce.
posted by bonehead at 7:22 AM on August 15, 2012


The many cat army disclaimers probably weren't necessary - remember those British army films of soldiers on LSD? Hallucinogens and combat-ready troops just don't mix properly.
posted by Curious Artificer at 7:30 AM on August 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Why not just use ethyl acetate? Better extracting agent and even less toxic.

He could also combine the brine wash with the bicarb wash, skipping that last extraction. And calcium chloride would probably be a better drying agent (no filtration required, but you might see coordination to that ester group).
posted by Orange Pamplemousse at 7:32 AM on August 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


For those of you without cats, there may be some function pest-repellent uses of nepetalactone.

Wikipedia: "Nepetalactone is a mosquito and fly repellent. Oil isolated from catnip by steam distillation is a repellent against insects, in particular mosquitoes, cockroaches and termites. Research suggests that in a test tube, distilled nepetalactone repels mosquitoes ten times more effectively than DEET, the active ingredient in most insect repellents, but that it is not as effective a repellent when used on the skin."

Do you appreciate having contraptions sitting around that look a lot like you are working with dangerous and/or illegal substances?

I was doing a reflux extraction of some herbs (and I have lab glassware) in the basement of a rental unit once. After I was finished, I left it setup overnight and came back to a note from my landlord along the lines of "This appears to be a meth lab. This needs to be gone now." Thankfully, she accepted my explanation, but that could have ended poorly.
posted by nTeleKy at 7:43 AM on August 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Folks should be aware of the dangers of catnip (previously).
posted by exogenous at 7:56 AM on August 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


"...LD50 of nepetalactone was determined to be 1550 mg/kg (about the same as aspirin), meaning you would have to force feed your average 5 kg cat ~8 grams in order to cause it any harm."

This is such a frustrating misunderstanding of toxicity. LD50 is the lethal dose to 50% of cats. This doesn't mean you can't have an LD1 that is a much lesser amount (lethal to 1%) or that there doesn't exist harm below the level of lethality.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 8:02 AM on August 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


I had a hard enough time explaining to my mom what all those Ziploc bags of green leaves were doing in my freezer. (Someone told me it was the best way to keep catnip fresh and away from the cat!)
posted by JoanArkham at 8:03 AM on August 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


I recently cut some catnip down in my yard. Yesterday, before leaving for work and knowing the place needed vacuumed anyway, I threw a stalk of it into my front hallway for my sibling cats, Oliver and Rusty, to play with.

I returned later to a scene of decadence and depravity, with shredded catnip strewn throughout the house, the entire home redolent with catnip smell, and both cats lying on their backs in the middle of my bed, feet in the air, drooling. It was a regular feline opium den.

Distilling the stuff would be creating the equivalent of crack. Best to refrain.
posted by kinnakeet at 8:43 AM on August 15, 2012 [7 favorites]


Apparently cats who have fresh catnip growing in their own personal herb bed eventually get all 'meh' about catnip, but my father-in-law's cat still goes ca-crazy over the stuff. Depravity indeed!

Drying catnip and then bringing the 'nip out in the winter after the herbs have gone dormant is still a ca-trip, though.
posted by BlueHorse at 9:17 AM on August 15, 2012


Sounds like you should definitely keep this stuff away from OS-X
posted by TedW at 9:25 AM on August 15, 2012


The secret to my animal magnetism is that I bathe in pure nepetalactone.
posted by TwelveTwo at 9:41 AM on August 15, 2012


"catnip oil" that is available from botanical stores is essentially just nepetalactone, and it is widely used in homeopathic medicine. More details later.

I ain't taking even the most basic science advice from someone who doesn't understand that this is meaningless. Nepetalactone might be used in homoeopathic 'medicine', but the amount of nepetalactone contained in a typical homoeopathic product is exactly the same as the amount of botulinum toxin it contains - fuck all. The fact that nepetalactone is used at some point in casting a magic spell on sugar pills sold by quacks doesn't tell me anything about its safety.

Ahh...that's better.
posted by howfar at 1:57 PM on August 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


This is clearly a spinoff pitch from [Br]eaking [Ba]d. [Cr]anking [Ca]t ?
posted by localroger at 2:37 PM on August 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


I WAS MAKING CATNIP OIL YOUR HONOUR.
posted by Catch at 7:05 PM on August 15, 2012


I finally got to see catnip in action recently on a friend's cat. I was super disappointed that the cat did not appear to get high or give a shit about anything (I'd been promised by the friend that she "runs around a lot"). She pretty much just sat there quietly like she was a stoner. Bo-ring and disappointing, y'all.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:17 PM on August 15, 2012


I'm petting a cat as I read this.
posted by mike3k at 10:54 PM on August 15, 2012


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