Published by: Ingrid King. Last Updated on: February 2, 2023 by Crystal Uys
Products containing artificial pheromones can be an important tool for dealing with feline behavior problems, whether it’s territorial aggression, urinary marking, or simply a stressful trip to the vet. Cats naturally emit these pheromones. They are used to mark their territory as safe and secure by rubbing the side of their face against against furniture, or even against you.
When a cat smells a pheromone emitted by its own species, it triggers a natural response from its endocrine system which then releases calming chemicals. Artificial facial pheromones mimic cats’ natural pheromones and create a sense of security in their environment. Products containing these artificial pheromones can be used to help comfort and reassure cats while they cope with a challenging situation and help prevent or reduce the stress caused by a change in their environment. They can also help restore peace in multicat households.
The best known pheromone products are made by Ceva Animal Health under the brand name Feliway. There are two versions of Feliway.
The original Feliway, now sold as “classic”, is a synthetic copy of the feline facial pheromone used by cats to mark their territory as safe and secure. By mimicking the cat’s natural facial pheromone, Feliway creates a state of familiarity and security in the cat’s local environment. Feliway helps reduce or prevent unwanted behaviors such as scratching, peeing outside the litter box, and hiding.
Feliway MultiCat is a synthetic copy of the feline appeasing pheromone mother cats produce during lactation. It provides a calming effect on cats of all ages, and can help cats in multicat households feel more safe and secure with their surroundings by reducing tension and aggression between cats.
Study shows efficacy of pheromones in managing inter-cat aggression
A recent study looked at determining whether the use of feline appeasing pheromone in a multi-cat household reduced intercat aggression. 45 households containing between 2 and 5 cats with a history of intercat aggression were enrolled in the study.
Households were randomized to receive 2 plug-in diffusers containing either the pheromone or a placebo. Owners were instructed to run these within the house for 28 days. Owners also received training on the use of behavioral modification techniques.
Of the 45 cats enrolled in the study, 42 completed it as per protocol. 17 were treated with the active pheromone, and 25 with placebo. At the end of the study, all households were asked “’Generally, do you find that your cats are getting along better?” 84.2% of treatment group households answered “yes” compared to only 64% in the control group. While this may not seem like a convincing difference, it is statistically significant.
Even though the study results may be limited by a lot of factors, such as the number, gender and age of cats in each household, the size of each house, and specifics of the dynamics between the cats, I think the findings still support the use of pheromones to help manage feline aggression.
For more information about the study, please visit the Fear Free website.
My take on pheromone products
I recommend Feliway to my clients and readers as a first line of defense for behavioral problems with mostly positive results. Most often, what I hear is “I don’t know whether it’s working or not, but when the diffuser runs out, my cats start having issues.” It’s important to understand the difference between the available products.
Which pheromone product should you use?
The two brands I’m most familiar with are Feliway and ComfortZone. Anecdotal feedback from my clients suggests that the original Feliway line produces better results than the Comfort Zone line. Feline veterinarian Dr. Andrea Tasi, of Just Cats Naturally, a house-call based, feline-exclusive practice dedicated to a holistic, individualized approach to each cat, concurs. “I always advise my client to spend the money for the Feliway product,” she says. “All the original studies demonstrating fewer stress-related behaviors in veterinary clinic cages that were pretreated with Feliway were done with the original product with a higher concentration of pheromones.”
Feliway and Comfort Zone with Feliway products are available from Amazon – and Amazon’s prices are the lowest I’ve been able to find anywhere. Once you’ve purchased the diffuser kit, you can buy refills for additional savings. Diffusers should be replaced very six months for best results.
Have you used pheromone diffusers? Please share your experience in a comment.
Ingrid King is an award-winning author, former veterinary hospital manager, and veterinary journalist who is passionate about cats.