Pheromones are chemicals that modify the behavior of animals. Pheromones are crucial to the interactions of many invertebrate species. The roles that pheromones play in the lives of more complicated animals, such as mammals, are not well understood.
Two common commercially available pheromone formulas are marketed to veterinarians and pet owners. Feline facial pheromone, known commonly as Feliway, is purported to have a calming effect on cats. The product is supposed to reduce anxiety and unwanted behaviors (such as fighting and house soiling) that are associated with anxiety. Dog-appeasing pheromone (DAP) is purported to have a similar effect on canine companions.
The use of the products makes sense in theory. But do they really work? Does science back up the use of these products? To paraphrase a character from Jerry Maguire, show me the study!
The study was released in the June 15, 2010 Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. A review of scientific literature surrounding pheromones was performed. It looks like pheromone products may be a waste of money.
Results–Studies provided insufficient evidence of the effectiveness of feline facial pheromone for management of idiopathic cystitis or calming of cats during [veterinary procedures] and lack of support for reducing stress in hospitalized cats. Only 1 study yielded sufficient evidence that dog-appeasing pheromone reduces fear or anxiety in dogs during training. Six studies yielded insufficient evidence of the effectiveness of dog-appeasing pheromone for the treatment of [a variety of problems].
Conclusions and Clinical Relevance–11 of the 14 reports reviewed provided insufficient evidence and 1 provided lack of support for effectiveness of pheromones for the treatment of undesirable behavior in cats and dogs. (J Am Vet Med Assoc 2010;236:1308-1316)
Are Feliway and DAP simply modern day snake oils? That remains to be seen. But the products aren’t looking so good right now.