How Pheromone Products Can Help You and Your Pets Live a Happier Life

I’m going to start out by saying this: Feliway (for cats) has drastically improved the lives of our cats, Elliott & Maxwell (it’s better if you just learn their names now since I will talk about them excessively…as all cat owners do, right?).  Coming from a research background, I’ve learned to look at things objectively, and by observation and data collection, it’s obvious that Feliway has helped to reduce aggressive and anxious behaviors, loud vocalizations at all hours of the night, and has even helped to take our stress levels down from no longer dealing with various behavioral problems.

Additionally, I know of several cat and dog owners who use Feliway/Adaptil to help with reducing anxious behaviors, aggression towards other animals in the home, scratching, spraying, and various litter box behaviors.

That being said, let’s talk a little bit about what pheromones are and how using Feliway/Adaptil may improve the lives of the pets (and people) in your home.

What are Pheromones? 

Pheromones are species-specific, chemical substances produced from glands located around the mouth, chin, forehead, and cheeks, that are released into the environment by an animal, which affects the behavior and/or physiology in animals of the same species.  Even bees, rabbits, squid, moths, and mice use pheromones to communicate!  Crazy, right?!

Feliway (for cats) is a product containing the man-made version of feline facial pheromones either as a spray or as a diffuser.  This product has been used to help reduce stress during various situations (e.g, visitors, moving, & visits to the vet), and to help reduce scratching of furniture, urine spraying, over-grooming, and hiding. If you ever see your cat (s) rubbing his/her face on places, objects, and other people, they aren’t just being crazy cats (believe it or not), but are essentially saying, “This is my territory and I’m safe here”.

Adaptil (for dogs) contains the pheromone that’s produced during lactation to help puppies to bond with their mother and help improve their learning of new experiences. This product has been shown to help dogs learn to cope with new and/or stressful situations, being away from their owner, dealing with previously feared events such as loud noises (e.g., fireworks), traveling, going to the groomer, interacting with new people or pets, and visits to the vet.

 Where can Pheromone Products be Purchased?

You can purchase Feliway and Adaptil online or at your local pet store(s); however, I must add that they are not cheap.  If you go the diffuser route (usually the best way to go), pheromones will be continuously released throughout the day/night, which means diffusers will need to be replaced on a monthly basis.  If you decide to purchase spray, then you may need to replace it once every 2 months or so (depending on how frequently you use it).  Another consideration to make is how involved you will be in this process.  For example, if you work 12 hours/day, then you won’t be home to spray Feliway/Adaptil when needed.  On the other hand, if you work from home, then using the spray may be a good option for you.

I cannot stress enough that the price is worth it!  I’m not one to spend a lot of money, but seeing the behavioral changes was (and still is) incredible.  We observed a decrease in aggressive behaviors fairly quickly between Elliott & Max, as well as a general reduction of anxious, and territorial, behaviors.

Will Pheromone Products Fix All Behavioral Problems?

Sadly, I can’t say for sure whether they will eliminate all of the behaviors you’d like to get rid of.  Sometimes there are additional measures that need to be taken before behaviors will change.  Some examples include modification of the behavior(s) of the owner(s), increasing the number of litter boxes in the home, arranging furniture differently, providing activities and toys, and the list could go on.  Owners are responsible for providing an enriching environment for their pets.  For example, it’s not fair to get angry at a dog that engages in problem behaviors due to the owner never being home, not having enough chew toys, or not getting enough exercise to burn off excess energy.  Nor is it fair to attempt to modify the behavior of an animal that is in physical pain.

That being said, an important consideration is to ALWAYS RULE OUT HEALTH ISSUES before implementing a strategy to reduce negative behavior(s) with your pets.  You never know if they’re experiencing pain from a health issue until you bring them in to get checked out.  For example, when I used to work with kids and they engaged in challenging behaviors (e.g., screaming, lashing out, etc.), we would make sure they were checked by a healthcare professional prior to implementing any behavioral interventions.  You would be amazed at how often their behaviors were caused by pain they were experiencing (usually GI issues or tooth pain), but they didn’t know how to express it appropriately.  If your pet is acting different, get them checked out before you do anything else.

Lastly, if your pet is engaging in negative behaviors, here are a few things to consider (even if you decide to use Feliway/Adaptil):

Litter Boxes: If you own multiple cats, then you need more than 1 litter box.  Make sure to clean litter boxes frequently (meaning DAILY) and place them in areas your cat is comfortable in.  Provide 1-2 inches of unscented litter (usually preferred over scented litter) rather than 3-4 inches.

Scratchers: When dealing with scratching behaviors, the best strategy is not to try to stop your cat from scratching, but instead to teach your cat where and what to scratch. Make sure to provide your cat with appropriate, cat-attractive surfaces and objects to scratch, such as scratching posts and cardboard scratchers.  It’s important to figure out what your cat prefers.  Do they like vertical scratching posts?  Do they like horizontal scratchers?  Do they prefer cardboard surfaces over carpeted ones?  These are all very important things to consider for your feline friend(s)!

Toys/Activities: Maybe your cat/dog doesn’t prefer the toys you’ve purchased or the activities you attempt to engage them in.  Maybe they’re bored of staring at the same ball you bought years ago. I can’t tell you how many toys I’ve bought that our cats won’t touch (they will usually play with the materials they are wrapped in), or how frequently we rotate toys to help prevent boredom. However, when we do find a toy or activity they enjoy, they tend to run around like maniacs, do fancy parkour moves around the apartment, make chirping noises, and bolt from one room to the next.  The key is finding what toys and activities your pet prefers, and prevent boredom by rotating toys and activities on a regular basis.

In conclusion (I could write forever on behavioral strategies), if you’ve ruled out health issues with your veterinarian and have addressed the issues I’ve listed above, and negative behaviors are continuing, using Feliway/Adaptil may be a great option for you to consider.

Until next time,

Ayriel, and the Ohana Animal Hospital Team

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