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- Not a substitute for professional veterinary help.
When your cat is anxious, you probably know it! Constant meowing is hard to ignore. So are “accidents” outside the box or on your bed, or bald patches from nervous overgrooming. Multi-cat homes might see aggressive behaviors such as hissing, yowling, and fighting. Once you’ve checked with your veterinarian to rule out a medical issue, one of the first de-stressing solutions worth trying is cat calming pheromones.
Cat calming pheromones are synthetic versions of the pheromones cats use to calm themselves and their kittens. The best-known cat calming pheromone product, Feliway, is a synthetic version of the pheromone that cats leave behind when they rub their mouths against your leg (or a favorite toy) to mark a “safe space.” Other brands, like Sentry, use synthetic versions of the pheromone mother cats give off to calm their kittens.
Cat calming pheromones can sometimes reduce anxiety-related behaviors such as overgrooming, excessive meowing or pacing, and inappropriate urination or spraying. Researchers found Feliway to be effective in reducing aggression in multi-cat households; it is also often used to calm things down when introducing a new cat to other pets. You can also use a pheromone spray on a cat carrier to calm your cat for travel.
To be effective, synthetic pheromones need to be reapplied frequently (much the way your cat will repeatedly mark a spot). You can spray areas every few days or purchase a plug-in diffuser that wafts the synthetic pheromone throughout a room. While the diffuser is convenient, there are often complaints that the heated liquids leak or damage walls. You can also buy a collar for your cat that’s infused with pheromones—the collar remains effective for about 30 days.
Pheromones, including synthetic ones, are species-specific. While cats can smell the pheromones particular to them, others, such as humans or dogs, won’t notice them.
- Reduced activity
- Escape attempts
- Unusual, potentially injurious, movements
- Licking and biting at self
- Sudden urination/urination outside the litter box
- Sudden bowel movements/bowel movements outside the litter box
- Loss of appetite
- Destructive, aggressive behavior
These behaviors can also be caused by illness, so be sure to check in with your veterinarian as a first step. Once health issues are ruled out, however, the next step is to try to pinpoint what’s upsetting your cat. That will help you decide how to go about treating your kitty’s anxious behavior.
If the problem is a new cat in the household, check out the American Humane Society’s fact sheet, “Introducing Cats to Cats.”
If you have a one-cat household, it can be very challenging to figure out what has your kitty upset. Take a look at whether there have been any changes in their environment. That can include new food, different litter, a new housemate, noise from a construction project next door, or a barking dog in a neighbor’s yard. Or it could be the absence of something familiar—has someone has left your household, or are you working long days at the office? These are all things that can upset cats, who are extremely sensitive to changes around them—even a new piece of furniture.
Since you likely can’t do much about the source of your cat’s upset, tools like cat calming pheromones can help by reducing their sensitivity.
There are a few different products with cat calming pheromones on the market; Feliway is one of the oldest, it’s been around since 2001.
These collars release synthetic cat calming pheromones that mimic what mothers produce to soothe their kittens. They’re designed to reduce or eliminate stress-related behavior such as inappropriate marking, destructive behavior, clawing, and aggression. They make it easier for nervous cats to handle travel, thunderstorms, fireworks, and new social situations. The collar is active for up to 30 days.Shop on Chewy
This cat calming pheromones spray is designed for the car or crate—perfect for heading to the vet or taking your cat on a road trip—spritz it 10 minutes in advance.Shop on Chewy
This starter kit includes a plug-in diffuser (good for 12 months) and one bottle that contains a month’s supply of cat calming pheromones. Plug in the diffuser and it will spread pheromones throughout the room of your choice.Shop on Chewy
These individually packaged travel wipes infused with calming pheromones are perfect for when you’re transporting your cat but don’t want to carry or use an aerosol spray. Use them to wipe down your kitty’s carrier or the interior of your car. Reapply every four or five hours to maintain a calming environment.Shop on Chewy
If cat calming pheromones, whether sprayed, diffused, or released through a collar, aren’t soothing your stressed-out cat, don’t give up. First, talk with your vet. They can provide information about prescription diets, anti-anxiety medication, and behavioral training.
When dealing with aggression in a multi-cat household, keep in mind that both the instigator and the victim are experiencing anxiety. The pet experts at WebMD have some great insights into handling this type of behavior.
Bach Rescue Remedy is a non-pheromone-based, over-the-counter herbal solution that many pet parents swear by. Just add a few drops to their water bowl.
Anxiety jackets are another option. The ThunderShirt, originally designed for dogs, now has a version just for cats (after cat parents started buying the smallest sizes of the dog style for their cats). Some cat owners report excellent results using this anxiety jacket, originally designed for dogs but adapted for felines:
The cat-sized ThunderShirt is marketed as effective for more than 80% of cats. In addition to helping your cat stay calm during storms, fireworks, and other stressful situations, it can help control inappropriate scratching, marking, and meowing. The cat ThunderShirt comes in three sizes; size up if your cat falls between two sizes.Shop on Chewy
- What to Do About Your Cat’s Anxiety
- How to Soothe Your Anxious Cat: ThunderShirts and Other Tools
- How to Keep Your Cat Calm (and Safe) During Fireworks
- Why Do Cats Rub Against You?
Featured image via jeongmin park/Pixabay