For several years Feliway has been available at pet stores, vet hospitals, and online retailers. You may know it has something to do with cat behavior, but you might not know much more than that. It may surprise you to know that Feliway is actually a formulated cat pheromone product.
Reasons Why Your Cat Might Be Stressed
What Is Feliway?
Classic Feliway is an exact replication of the familiarization facial pheromone in cats. When your cat rubs her cheeks on an object, a behavior called bunting, she is rubbing this pheromone on the object. It’s your cat’s way of saying, ‘this is mine, this is my space, I feel safe here.’ Classic Feliway comes in plug-in diffuser formulations, sprays, and even wipes. The diffusers can cover up to 750 sq. ft. and can last up to 30 days, making them the most economical home products. Sprays can be used on carriers and bedding. If you volunteer a lot with shelter or foster cats you can even apply the wipes to yourself to reassure new and fearful cats.
After the initial release of Classic Feliway, Feliway Multicat was released onto the market. The pheromone in Multicat is not the same as the pheromone in Feliway Classic. Instead, it is a synthetic formulation of the pheromone mother cats release while they nurse their kittens.
Does Feliway Work?
From the beginning, Feliway was marketed to help with undesirable, in-home behaviors that manifest because of stress. Behaviors like going outside of the box, inter-cat aggression, or destructive behavior/scratching can all be the result of medical concerns but they can also be behavioral problems as well. Researchers have done studies over the years to test the claims of Feliway. These studies have shown that there is no physiological (that is, relating to heart rate, respiratory rate, blood pressure, etc.) differences in cats that are exposed to Feliway versus a placebo.
However, the more veterinary behaviorists learn about cat (and dog) behavior, the more it is understood that there is no one product that is 100 percent effective. There is no 'magic bullet'. Rather, behavior medicine is more effective when a multi-modal treatment approach is taken. In other words, the best treatment for a behavioral concern involves multiple therapeutic avenues.
What Can I Use to Improve Results With Feliway?
Although Feliway on its own may not show a discernible change in cat behavior, pairing it with other anti-anxiety therapies may help you to see more of a positive effect. Nutraceuticals are over-the-counter pharmaceutical alternatives that claim to have pharmaceutical benefits. Behavioral nutraceuticals include products like Zylkene (hydrolyzed milk protein from cows), Anxitane (L-Theanine, an amino acid found in green tea leaves), and Composure chews (treats that contain a blend of colostrum, L-Theanine, and thiamine). There are also special diets that your vet can prescribe. Diets like Royal Canin’s Calm and Hill’s c/d stress can help your cat with her anxieties at home. The Hill’s c/d stress specifically helps with cats that suffer from pandora syndrome (sometimes also termed FLUTD or FIC). Of course, there are also actual pharmaceuticals that can help with behavior problems. Your vet may choose to prescribe a behavioral medication for your cat.
Get to the Root of the Problem
Determining the cause for your cat’s stress would, obviously, be the best place to start in fixing the problem. Cats can go outside of the box for something as simple as not liking the type of litter, the box being too dirty, or even just not being able to get in because the sides are too high for their arthritic joints. Your vet can talk to you about your litter box set up and help troubleshoot anything that you can try to adjust. Providing more resources, that is, more water bowls, more comfortable sleeping areas, and more scratching surfaces can help with both inter-cat aggression as well as destructive scratching.
Cats enjoy being up off the floor. It's why they jump on counters and tables all the time. So providing 'vertical surfaces', that is things like cat trees, cat shelves, etc. can help deter counter jumping as well as providing even more resources in the home. Vertical surfaces can also provide 'alternate routes' in areas that can get crowded in a multi-cat home. If you're struggling with inter-cat aggression in your multi-cat home, try and pinpoint where in the house most of the scuffles occur. If it's an area that can get a bit crowded if more than one cat is present (i.e. hallways and stairwells) providing vertical surfaces can make that area seem less crowded for your cats.
If you're not seeing the results you would like with Feliway in your home, talk to your vet about what you can add to the mix. Sometimes something as simple as providing another litter box or moving a cat scratcher to a more stable and accessible location is enough to fix a behavioral problem. Your vet is there to help you and your cat figure out how to live stress-free.
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DePorter TL, Bledsoe DL, Beck A, Ollivier E. Evaluation of the efficacy of an appeasing pheromone diffuser product vs placebo for management of feline aggression in multi-cat households: a pilot study. J Feline Med Surg. 2021;21(4):293-305. doi:10.1177/1098612X18774437