Calming pheromones for cats

What Are Cat Pheromones and How Do They Work? A Complete Guide

*Cool Cat Advice is reader-supported! That means we may earn a small commission through products purchased using links on this page. The price to you remains the same. Here’s how it works.

So, What Are Cat Pheromones? Can They Really Help My Cat?

Cat pheromones are natural chemicals that cats produce to communicate with each other and to mark their territory. Different cat pheromones, including those emitted by the cat’s facial glands, are called “friendly” or “comforting” pheromones.

When cats rub their faces on objects in their environment, they leave behind these pheromones, which can help to create a sense of familiarity and security for your cat. Synthetic pheromones are available in products like Feliway, which can help reduce cat stress and anxiety.

Synthetic pheromone products are beneficial because they help produce a desired response in your cat at a time when they might not be capable of producing the pheromones themselves. For instance, a stressed cat isn’t rubbing its face on the furniture around the house, declaring the home “theirs.” Instead, they’re likely hiding.

Diffusing pheromones helps stimulate your cat to associate the house with a feeling of familiarity and home. Doing so decreases stress, in turn.

What Are Some Common Cat Behavioral Problems You Could Use Pheromone Products To Manage?

Pheromone products can address some common behavioral problems in cats:

  • Urine marking: Some cats may use urine marks to communicate with other cats or mark their territory.
  • Scratching: Cats may scratch furniture or other objects to mark their territory or stretch their muscles.
  • Aggression: Some cats may behave aggressively towards other cats or their owners.
  • Anxiety: Cats may experience stress in various situations, including during car rides, known as cat travel anxiety, when moving to a new home, or during thunderstorms. Your cat may exhibit hiding out meowing excessively.
  • Fearfulness: Some cats may be fearful or shy and avoid interacting with people or other pets.

Types of Cat Pheromones

best calming aid for cats

There are several different cat pheromones, each with unique functions. Here are some of the most common types of cat pheromones:

Facial pheromones: Cats produce the most well-known of their pheromones from glands on their faces. When your cat is rubbing its face on you and purring, it’s actually releasing these pheromones.

Feline appeasing pheromones: Lactating mother cats produce them to calm and reassure their kittens.

Sexual pheromones: Male and female cats produce these pheromones to signal their readiness to mate. Cats also use these to communicate their territory boundaries with other cats.

Alarm pheromones: Cats produce these pheromones in response to a perceived threat or danger. They can signal other cats to be on high alert and can help to promote safety and survival.

Trail pheromones: Cats mark their territory when they walk and rub against objects in their environment.

How Do Pheromones Work in Cats?

Pheromones send chemical signals that communicate information between cats, from their feelings to their territory. Your cat’s sense of smell is more potent than yours, so you can’t smell the pheromones produced between cats, but they sure can. Your cat’s pheromone expression can communicate various information, such as marking their territory, indicating their readiness to mate, or calming their kittens.

Pheromones aren’t just for communication between cats. Some pheromones will calm cats down, such as those produced by lactating mothers to their kittens.

How Do Cats Release Pheromones?

Cats release pheromones through several glands, including their face, paws, and tail. Here are some examples of how cats release pheromones:

Facial pheromones: Cats have scent glands on their face, specifically around their cheeks, chin, and forehead. They can release pheromones onto objects by rubbing their face against them, leaving behind their scent. This behavior is known as bunting or head-butting, and it’s a way for cats to mark their territory and communicate with other cats.

Paw pheromones: When cats stretch their paws and scratch surfaces, they activate scent glands near their paw pads.

Tail pheromones: Did you know cats have scent glands in the base of their tails? They rub their tails against objects and leave behind their scent. Doing this lets other cats know that your cat is nearby.

Cats can also release pheromones in their urine and stool. That’s the main reason why male cats spray. So even though it’s normal behavior, it’s undesirable and may cause such foul odor you won’t keep your cat in the house.

Pheromone Products for Cats

feliway for cats

You can find pheromone products in a variety of forms. The right one for your cat depends on what behavior you’re trying to modulate. The major pheromone products are:

There are several pheromone products available on the market for cats. Here are some of the most common ones:

Feliway: One of the most common and popular products is also considered the best calming aid for cats. Many veterinary hospitals keep it in stock. Feliway for cats is a synthetic version of the facial pheromone cats produce. It comes in several formulations, including sprays, diffusers, and wipes. Feliway products can help reduce cat stress and anxiety and promote harmony in multi-cat households.

Comfort Zone: Comfort Zone is a product very similar to Feliway, which contains synthetic cat pheromones. It comes in sprays, diffusers, and collars and can reduce cat stress and anxiety.

Sentry Calming Collars: Sentry Calming Collars contain a synthetic version of the pheromone produced by lactating mother cats. The collar is worn around your cat’s neck and needs to stay in contact with the cat to keep working. It helps treat a myriad of kitty problems, such as excessive vocalization.

NurtureCALM: NurtureCALM is another pheromone product designed to calm anxious cats and reduce their stress. It comes in several different formulations, including sprays and diffusers.

Feliscratch by Feliway: Feliscratch is a product that treats a particular problem. Synthesized from the pheromones produced by cats when they scratch on surfaces, Feliscratch encourages cats to mark on specific and appropriate surfaces rather than your nice leather chair or door jams.

How Long Does It Take for Cat Pheromones to Work?

The time it takes for cat pheromones to work can vary depending on the individual cat and the specific behavior issue. Because these synthetic pheromones mimic natural pheromones, these products provide immediate relief for cats experiencing stress or anxiety. Still, it can take a few days to a few weeks to see significant improvement in behavior.

For example, Feliway spray products start working immediately after your cat is exposed. The room diffuser Feliway products may take longer. The company recommends giving it a month before determining if it’s working.

It’s important to note that pheromone products are not a magic solution to all behavior issues. You may need to use other behavior modification techniques, such as positive reinforcement training or environmental changes, to achieve long-term results.

How Do Pheromone Products Work? Are They Even Effective?

Pheromone products mimic your cat’s natural pheromones. By having them for your cat to sense, you can reap the same benefits as if your cat has naturally produced them. For instance, having Feliscratch on the scratching post your cat should be using encourages them to use it because the pheromones are “calling” your cat to the post.

Studies on the use of pheromone products in cats have shown promise. In one study, using Feliway decreased stress in cats. In another article, The Open Journal of Veterinary Medicine published that pheromones decreased behavioral problems in cats, including urine spraying and inter-cat conflict.

Using Cat Pheromones for Behavior Issues

When cats are stressed or feel threatened, they may act out. You might notice your cat hiding or urinating outside their litter box. The good news is you can use pheromones to reduce stress and help decrease signs of anxiety.

How Can Pheromones Help My Cat’s Behavioral Problems?

Spraying: Cats may spray urine to mark their territory or as a sign of stress or anxiety. Pheromone products such as Feliway or Comfort Zone can help to reduce stress and promote a sense of calm, which may help to minimize spraying behavior. By mimicking the pheromones that cats naturally produce when they feel safe and secure, these products can help to create a more comfortable environment for your cat.

Scratching: Cats instinctively scratch but may not constantly scratch in appropriate places. Pheromone products such as Feliscratch by Feliway can help to encourage cats to mark on appropriate surfaces, such as scratching posts, while discouraging inappropriate scratching behavior. Feliscratch contains synthetic pheromones that mimic the pheromones that cats naturally produce when they rub on surfaces, which can help to redirect your cat’s scratching behavior.

Aggression: Your cat may show signs of aggression for various reasons, including fear. Calming pheromones for cats can help reduce your cat’s stress levels, which will, in turn, reduce signs of aggression that relate to anxiety.

Do Pheromones Work for Aggressive Cats?

Pheromone products may help reduce aggressive behavior in some cats. It’s important to understand that not all cases of aggression are equal, and your cat might not respond to a pheromone product.

Pheromones like Feliway or Comfort Zone are most helpful if your cat’s aggression is triggered by fear or anxiety. These products can help to reduce stress and promote a sense of calm. By reducing stress levels, these products may be able to help reduce aggressive behavior that is related to fear or anxiety.

However, pheromone products may be less effective if the aggression is related to territorial behavior. Other behavior modification techniques, such as positive reinforcement training or environmental changes, may be needed in these cases. Your veterinarian may even prescribe medication for your cat.

Real-life Success Stories of Pheromone Use in Cats

Okay, so you’re probably wondering if this stuff works. I get it: I was skeptical at first, too. Let me tell you about Maddie the Ragdoll.

Maddie was a rescue kitty with a history of urinating outside the litter pan. She was anxious when she came home, hiding under tables and shelves for days.

We got Feliway diffusers and placed them in the main rooms of our house. After a few days, Maddie was willing to come out of hiding. She even started purring and making noise!

We set her litter pan up near a Feliway diffuser (and added cat-attract litter). Within a few weeks, Maddie interacted with the family, ate happily, and urinated within her litter box.

Tips for Using Pheromone Products to Address Your Cat’s Behavior

There are some definite tips for using pheromone products in cats successfully.

First, you must pick the best product for your situation. A collar may be a better option if your furniture blocks diffusers. If you need a quicker-acting product, consider Feliway spray.

Pheromone products take time and require consistent use to be effective. You’ll also need to follow the directions. Ensure you pick the right place to set up a diffuser; it won’t do any good if you’ve got it in a room your cat never enters.

Pheromones work best when you use them with other techniques, such as training. Your veterinarian should be able to create a comprehensive treatment plan for your cat, which may include medication, pheromones, and even probiotics like Calming Care.

Choosing the Right Pheromone Product for Your Cat

When selecting a pheromone product for your cat, there are several factors to consider, including:

Behavior issue: Different pheromone products address specific behavior issues. For example, suppose your cat is scratching furniture. In that case, a product encouraging your cat to mark a particular scratching post or pad may be helpful. A calming pheromone product may be more appropriate if your cat is anxious or fearful.

Delivery method: You must decide which product time is most compatible and convenient for your lifestyle. Wipes and sprays can be applied quickly and take little time to work. On the other hand, a diffuser may take longer, but you just have to plug the product in and replace it when it’s empty.

It’s also important to note that pheromone products are not a one-size-fits-all solution and may not be effective for all cats or all behavior issues. Consult a veterinarian or animal behaviorist for guidance on selecting the most appropriate pheromone product for your cat’s needs.

Final Thoughts

If you have a stressed cat, you can use pheromones as one part of the approach to helping them decrease their anxiety levels. They can be a useful option in both single and multiple-cat households. If your cat is showing behavior concerns, talk to your veterinarian about possible treatments and see if Feliway for cats or another pheromone for cats could be a practical option.

Author

Samantha Devine, Veterinarian

Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine