Cat Pheromones for Calming. How They Work

Wendy new cat from a shelter hiding under a table

Wendy, a new cat from a shelter hiding under a table while she acclimatises to her new home. Photo by Alan

This is a brief explanation why manufactured, artificial cat pheromones are meant to calm down anxious cats, for whatever reason. The major reason why people buy products like Feliway® is to make cats get along better in households where there is more than one cat. The age old problem of introducing a new cat to a home. Will he get along? Or will there be aggression? The latter can happen quite easily because we don’t make sure cats get along before we put them together. When it does not work out we try cat pheromone therapy as a more natural alternative to prozac. By the way, if any cat owner gives their cat prozac because he is aggressive towards another cat in the home, (s)he is mad in my opinion. Side effects in cats of prozac.

There are different types of cat pheromones, which are molecules carrying a scent from glands, typically in the cat’s cheeks, which transmit a signal to the receiving cat. The form of communication from a pheromone can be comprehensive and complicated. For example in humans women can detect whether a man will produce strong offspring if she mates with him through his pheromones! Apparently human pheromones carry information about immune system compatibility in terms of best effect. It is all about survival of the species and a woman’s desire that her children carry on the family line.

Correct me if I am wrong but the two pheromones that are used to calm cats are:

  1. Nursing pheromone
  2. Territorial marker pheromone

The first is meant – I say “meant” because I am not sure they are that successful – to calm an adult cat by sending him a signal in a pheromone that tells him that he is a kitten and in the presence of his mother. Mother’s give out the nursing pheromone to offspring to reassure them. The nursing pheromone in the home should reassure and calm cats who are aggressive towards each other. That is the theory.

The second pheromone is meant to calm a cat by sending him a signal that he is in his own territory and is therefore secure. That sense of security should calm him. The problem is he is confronted with a cat he does not like! There may be conflicting emotions as a result. I have no idea. I don’t think, to be honest, if the manufacturers fully know how it works either.

It seems a bit hit and miss because it is unnatural. It is trying to force calmness upon a cat who has good reason to feel agitated. Can this work? Also are artificial pheromones effective? I thought that pheromones where totally unique to each individual cat. If I am correct how can a generic, artificial pheromone work in the same way?

Possible causes of agitation:

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Cat Pheromones for Calming. How They Work — 50 Comments

  1. I think it’s far better to find out the cause of a cat’s anxiety and try to put it right. But Feliway does have its uses I suppose for short term anxiety, such as a trip to the vets etc, IF it works. We did try it with Walt’s anxiety problem after a bereavement and life changes but it didn’t make a scrap of difference.
    It’s very expensive too, maybe just another money maker for the firm and for vets to sell at a profit.

    • but it didn’t make a scrap of difference.

      This is what I thought would happen. I don’t really believe in it but a lot of people look for fixes like pheromones for “cat behavior problems” rather than solving the underlying problem as you say.

  2. I didn’t know where to post this, so I just picked a spot.

    Just popping in for a moment to wish all of our feline moms a happy mother’s day. This many be only observed here in the U.S., but it’s very important.

    To our boys here, same to you. Like it or not, you are “moms” too.

    • Dee, is this a cat’s Mother’s Day meaning a day to celebrate the person who looks after cats or do we mean an actual cat who is nursing or has raised her offspring? Sorry be so ignorant about this!

      • Mother’s Day is a celebration honoring mothers and motherhood, maternal bonds, and the influence of mothers in society. It is celebrated on various days in many parts of the world, most commonly in spring.

        Not to be confused with Womens’ Day, that is celebrated in countries other than ours.

        It’s a presidentially approved holiday per Woodrow Wilson in 1914.

        It’s a very big deal here.

        • We have mother’s day here too. I think it was in March (my mum’s dead so I tend to forget the date). I thought you meant there was a special feline version of it 😉

  3. You’ve got that right, Ruth. The reception areas in your vets’ clinics over there are probably mirror images of the ones over here, with their dozens of bottles of vitamin pills on display: fish-oil capsules (riddled with mercury and PCBs),joint ‘supplements,’ ‘hair
    ball’ remedies, dentifrices which – if you tried them out on your cat would trigger a massive stroke – elderly cat ‘rejuvenators,’ etc. No doubt your cupboard looks like mine. The rubbish I bought over the years still sits here
    untouched. My cats, like yours, wouldn’t think of ingesting this stuff with its peculiar flavors & odors.

    Of course placebos work like a charm on people. Was listening to a radio broadcast one day about a test administered to a bunch of volunteers who were told that a certain taste-treat had fewer calories than the second treat whereas, in reality, the fist was HIGHER in calories than the second. Yet the volunteers didn’t a gain an ounce eating the first. Go explain. ‘As a man thinketh…’ sayeth the Bible. Too bad that doesn’t work with cancer. My poor father fell into the ‘creative visualization’ hoax during his final months of life.

    As for all these vet remedies, though, while you’ve explained time and again that steroid injections reduce ‘inflammation,’ (inflammation of WHAT?), the ones the vet gave McWee cost $35.00 and never did a thing for my poor old man.

    The most hilarious greeting card I ever saw had this close-up caricature-sketch of a turkey on the front: hopelessly vacant, beady eyes, lower eyelids hanging loose to reveal these red crescents of epithelium, doofus gaze into the mists, dangling wattles – the whole nine miles of turkeyhood and (underneath) the word ‘BEFORE.’ Inside, wben you open the card, is this close-up caricature-sketch of a turkey, hopelessly vacant, beady eyes, lower eyelids hanging loose to reveal these red crescents of epithelium, dangling wattles, doofus gaze into the mists, and the word AFTER. Which pretty well sums up the Grand Scheme, no? At least from this end.

    Anyhow, the ‘pheromones’ sound like another variation of the perennial snake-oil song & dance.
    _____________________________
    Fun visiting with you yesterday. Am so confoundedly mad after our visit, though. Got home yesterday afternoon and inadvertently knocked over a three-foot tall glass vase (along the lines of a funerary urn) that exploded like shrapnel when it hit the floor. One hour later, dropped and broke my beloved Vision Glass frying pan, the only non-toxic cooking utensil on the planet. Three years ago, I found this dream of a frying pan for two bucks at Salvation Army. And now it’s gone.
    ________________________
    Another great article you posted today, pal Ruthie – as are all the ones you’ve recently written. Will visit again Tues. when the library opens. Pet your magnificent little men, and hi to Babz.
    xxx

  4. Dee – Not sure if you live in Florida, but you’re brave if you do. While it’d be an earthly paradise to be surrounded by citrus orchards, the hurricanes would finish me. It gusted to 140 mph out here on the coast in 2007 – and the horror of it all was enough to turn agnostics into Bible-thumping Holy Rollers. A mere zephyr, of course, compared to what you have down there.

    But since you brought up Mother’s Day, don’t know if you have Safeway stores in your neck of the bayous but, if you have (assuming, that is, you’re a Floridian), yesterday I was stopped in my tracks by this orchid on display in their floral section. It was a phalenopsis (sp) (moth orchid) with clusters of thigh-high blossoming stems, and the blooms were a delicate cineraria-blue. You’ve never seen anything more ravishing – until, on closer examination, you read the label. As you might guess, the plant had been watered with blue dye….as atrocious as dyeing poodles pink and blue. And yet, it was vulgarly gorgeous. The orchid was set in an oversized rectangular planter, with other blue-flowering plants at the base, the planter wrapped in billowing yards of iridescent, laser-blue foil and swaddled in blue ribbons. And the price? Oh…

    Anyway, if you live in Florida and they have Safeway stores down there, you may have seen the same plant for sale. A jolt of eye-candy, and as uncouth as spraying poinsettias with metallic glitter.

    Happy Mother’s day to you too, and everyone else with glabrous or fur-kids.

    ievers. n bloom or in fruitou’re brave if you do! While it’d be wonder

    ful to be wonderful to be surrounded by citrus orchards, I’d be petrified of the hurricanes.

    • Sylvia, now that you have learned your *lesson* and will forever steer clear of that flamin’ blue Phaelenopsis, please do look for a pink-striated pure creamy white one with tiny, fragile yellow veins. [That description was not so good, but it’ll do.] They are rare, and worth fussing over. Have you tried breeding Phaelenopsis orchids? Do! <3

    • No Safeways here, Sylvia.
      And, yes, I am in very tropical Florida.
      But, I admire any flora. I’m assuming the orchids were live. Beautiful but take such care.
      I am, totally, against cut flowers.
      Happy Mother’s Day to you too.

  5. Why use the synthetic pheromone products, at all? I’ve found that there is nothing more soothing to my cat that a shirt I’ve worn, placed in the bottom of the cat carrier when going to the mean ol’ vet clinic. (And I have used Feliway products in the past, but why “almost” waste your money.

    Okay, Michael. I am going to hopefully publish my opin on the use of synth pheromones on your site. Don’t waste your money unless it helps YOUR anxiety. The cats would much rather you give them an article of clothing from the top half of your being. your body. Now. As far as introducing a new fellow into the home of YOUR EXISTING cats, just use common sense. Isolate the kitty for a few days to a week, in a room that you can close off. Make sure while giving your established domained cats as much attention as you can muster, while struggling with the desire to give the new little guy/gal lots of affection and nurture, to pay attention to what is going on between them all. Socialization is everything [don’t we know, as humans]. This doesn’t even have to be said amongst PoC individuals. Keep it simple, and pay attention . That’s all you need.

    • Thanks Cal. Good advice. But what about trying to ensure compatibility in the first place. When people live together they make sure they are compatible but often we just place cats together in the same home without any thoughts on this.

  6. Apologies, should have mentioned that having a 1/2″ or 1cm crack under the door is all that they need to smell/taste/touch each other. And, do refrain yourself from giving the newfoundling the brunt of your attention.

  7. The pheromone used in calming cats is the hypothetical Feline Facial Pheromone, that is used for territorial marking (cheek-marking). I tried using a Feliway diffusers, but I’m one of those individuals who can smell it – to me it has a nauseating soapy smell – and I had to stop using it as it was making me feel sick. I spoke to the makers who were surprised I could smell anything from the supposedly odourless diffuser! I had to add a scented oil to the diffuser in order to use it, but I’ve no idea if it was effective after my addition.

    • I tried using a Feliway diffusers, but I’m one of those individuals who can smell it

      Sarah, you are a cat! I always thought that 😉 Thanks for your input. Always welcome.

    • LOL! Lavender? When you spoke to the company did you have time to ask any other questions? Specifically about the chemistry? They use just one chain? two? nothing more? I know very little about this chemistry, boviously.

    • Sarah, have you tried tightening up the torso? I have not, but am thinking that it may work for some cats, esp. those who are used to having a firm stroke on the chest while being petted. What do you think?

        • Well, I’m not sure of the advertising on the box, “grooming,” but my intuition tells me that this will work well for certain personalities/conditions. Feedback?

            • I went back and read comments in the wonder shirt article. It was an interesting debate indeed. Honestly, I’m not sure if that shirt helped Daisy, or if it helped me feel like I was doing something productive. I’ll never know until I meet her on the rainbow bridge. But I can say Bigfoot comes and lays at my side, pawing at my arm to give him a squeeze. We both fall asleep with him against my side, my arm along his back, tucked in tight. It is way more personal than the thundershirt, and it works for him. Cats are as individual as we are. What works for the goose, may not for the gander!

        • This is an alternative way to calm cats but equally problematic and we don’t really know why it works (sometimes). Also do you want you cat wearing clothes all day long?

  8. Sarah, what do you do with a hyper active cat? This is the first one I’ve ever dealt with. Meds are out of the question. Shrimpster is tired of being toyed with. The kitten, Feeny aka Marco Polo, was neutered late and cannot stop himself from humping Shrimp. The testosterone is slowly waining, but I am not certain that he will ever stop this behavior. I have had to scold him and condition him to hop back into his little willow basket. [You can imagine perhaps. This is NOT fun for any one of us.] What do you do?

    • Scolding a cat is wrong and a waste of time. Cat don’t know what they are doing is unacceptable to us humans, punishment confuses them and eventually makes them nervous around the person doing it.
      The only way to treat a cat is to distract him every time he does ‘wrong’
      When he approaches Shrimp you should gently pick him up without saying a word and distract him, give him something to play with, throw a catnip toy for him to chase, or a ball and when he does that you praise him using his name ‘Good boy Feeny’ saying it over and over.
      With a bit of time and patience he will stop going to hump Shrimp because cats are very intelligent and want to please you.

      • Thanks for replying, Ruth. Points well taken, especially about the positive/nurturing reinforcement. I will not scold him again. Pick him up and distract him with something pleasant. wow. I believe that you hit the nail on the head. Thanks!

      • Funny thing is about this young’un, Ruth is that he NEVER gives up. lol his feisty little ‘un behavior just makes me want to cuddle him all the more! xx

        Ruth, I have to take him to Pitts Veterinary Hosp. in a few mintues. I hate the you know what in placing him in the cat carrier thing.

        • Hi Caroline, our time difference means I’ve just seen your comment, so if I ever don’t reply straight away, that’s why. I usually go off my computer around 6pm our time.
          I’m wondering how it went at Dr Pitts? Yes it’s horrible having to put cats in carriers, I hate it too, I dread going to the vets as much as our boyz do!
          Good on you, positive reinforcement will work, honestly! Rewards for good behaviour really is the best way to treat cats and they soon learn that and how to get their reward 😉

          • Shrimpster would not leave the carrier, once on the exam table. 😉
            Dr. Pitts and I together had to coax him out. And then the scale failed, so that he couldn’t be weighed. of course, I already knew how much heft he carried on his furry little body 😉

            • Oh dear! Our Jozef is like that, we have to take him in a cat box that the lid comes off, to get him out. Walter just goes all floppy and hopeless.
              Oh the joy of when it’s over and you can take them back home.

  9. Caroline – Thank you! I have a seething revulsion for misspelled words, and thought ‘Phalenopsis’ looked a mite peculiar. Trouble is, have an abridged dictionary, and couldn’t exit this screen and look up the word on the Net w/o losing the screen babble. Typos are one thing — and they’re easy to do on this format. At least they are for me. But what is so dire, in the years I’ve been on PoC, on and off, I’ve misspelled Amory (Armory), Mother Teresa (Theresa) and Kevorkian (Kervorkian). And, oh man…………
    misspellings are worse than spinach stuck to the front teeth.

    NO! Am astonished you’ve hybridized moth orchids! Would think they take about four-five years to bloom. Am pretty sure the Cattleyas take six or more. Had a Wardian case full of Catts. and a few Phal. years ago, and bought them all from Jones and Scully, which has collapsed into ruin over the years. Very sad.

    Today I went back to Safeway to see if they’d sold all their Mother’s Day floral arrangements – and yes — they were gone. Must have needed a truck to haul home that blue phaElenopsis which – for all its novelty – was as horrendous, in its way, as the artistic productions of Thomas Kinkade and A.L. Webber.

    Better curb this patter on a cat-site. Bye.

    • You drove that plant spike in, as if a plant would ever need one. 😉 Thanks, for planting that willowy spike in my skull. Do you, too, have friends who admire Thomas Kinkade? Must be fun to live in a glass menagerie, wouldn’t you say. Oh! I just did 😀

  10. Howdy Dee –

    We’re on the same page. Also dislike cut flowers.
    The Phal., however, holds its blooms for weeks, and some of them – think it’s the species – have a faint, to-die-for, ethereal fragrance.

    Hope you had a nice one too. Am no longer a mother to anyone – (well, actually someone – but it would stand your hair on end to know, so keep the details under my hat). In a nutshell, no Mother’s Day festivities around here. Drat.

    Heard on satellite radio that Australia is known for its innovative architects and engineers, and one of them has developed a modular home that is one hundred percent HURRICANE PROOF. They REFUSE TO BLOW OVER!

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