If you have the time, space, and financial ability, there are many benefits to owning more than one cat. The kitties can keep each other company when you’re away, play together, and help each other exercise. However, not all adult cats get along right away, and aggression between housemates can quickly become stressful for you, too.
One strategy for dealing with feline aggression is the use of cat pheromones. In this article, we’ll cover the facts and answer frequently asked questions about using cat pheromones for aggression.
What Are Cat Pheromones?
Pheromones are chemical substances naturally produced by cats that serve as a communication method, detected by scent. Synthetic cat pheromone products like Feliway mimic these natural chemical scents. Cats use the pheromone scent to mark their territory, as a sexual behavior, and to build social bonds between each other.
Scientists have found as many as five separate chemical signals in cat pheromones, all of which serve different purposes.1 Synthetic pheromone products generally contain the version that relates to marking territory.
How Are Cat Pheromones Given?
Synthetic cat pheromones are available as a spray or a room diffuser. You can also find calming collars infused with pheromones. If you’re using a collar, follow the product directions for the best results. Cat pheromone sprays usually take about 15 minutes to reach peak effect.
If you’re trying to calm your cat in the car or at the vet, spray their carrier or a blanket and wait.
Pheromone diffusers function like any other plug-in product. Depending on how much square footage you need to cover, you may need to purchase more than one. The location is key when you’re using a cat pheromone diffuser.
Try to place diffusers in places where your cats spend a lot of their time. If your cats seem to fight in specific spots in your house frequently, try putting a diffuser there.
What Happens If You Miss a Dose?
Cat pheromones aren’t given as a measured dose, so there are really no issues if you “miss” one. However, if your cats respond positively to pheromone therapy for aggression, you might notice an increase in bad behavior if you stop using it.
However, one research study suggested that cat pheromones improved aggression between household cats even after their owners discontinued using the product.2
Potential Side Effects of Cat Pheromones
There are currently no known potential side effects of using cat pheromones. The main concern with using them to manage aggression is that they don’t always work. Every cat responds differently to synthetic pheromones; there’s no way to predict how yours will react until you use the product.
There aren’t many studies evaluating the effectiveness of cat pheromones at this time. The study we mentioned in the previous section concluded that pheromones reduced feline aggression in multi-cat households. Another recent study supports the theory that pheromones help reduce anxiety for cats in carriers.
If cat pheromones aren’t working to reduce aggression and anxiety in your home, you may notice the following signs from one or more of your cats:
- Fighting or signs of injuries
- Excessive vocalizing
- Inappropriate urination
- Overgrooming or self-mutilation
Frequently Asked Questions
What Causes Feline Aggression?
Aggression between cats can have various causes including play aggression, redirected aggression, fear-based aggression, aggression triggered by petting, and aggression due to pain. Your vet can help you narrow down what type of aggression you are dealing with by first ruling out any pain or medical causes for the behavior.
Can Cat Pheromones Stop Aggression on Their Own?
As we learned in previous sections, cat pheromones offer varying levels of effectiveness between individual kitties. Because of that, they are generally most helpful when used as part of a behavior management strategy rather than a single remedy.
What Are Some Other Ways to Manage Feline Aggression?
Managing aggression between cats effectively requires a combination of strategies. Cats should be spayed or neutered to help reduce inter-cat aggression. You can also ward off territorial battles by ensuring you have enough bowls, litter boxes, beds, and toys for each kitty so they don’t need to compete.
Give each cat individual attention from you daily, so they don’t have to fight for your affection. Introduce new cats to the family gradually by keeping them separated, slowly allowing the resident kitties to get used to their new friend’s scent and sound before they meet.
In addition to cat pheromones, your vet may suggest other behavior-modifying medications to manage the aggression. Tricky cases of cat aggression may require the assistance of a feline behavioral specialist. Ask your family vet for a referral if you feel it would be helpful.
Aggression between household cats is a common and sometimes stressful behavior problem. Synthetic cat pheromones can be part of an overall management plan to reduce or eliminate aggression. They’re available in a spray, diffuser, and calming collar, and they have no known side effects but are not effective for all cats. If your cats display aggressive behavior, talk to your veterinarian to determine if pheromones can be helpful.
Featured Image Credit: AnnaKraynova, Shutterstock