Pheromonotherapy - Cat
Pheromones are natural substances produced and excreted by cats that alter emotional states and behaviour. Pheromones may be used to reduce problem behaviour in cats, either using synthetic analogues of natural pheromones or scent collected directly from pheromone producing parts of the cat (face and flanks).
The commonest commercially available preparations include a synthetic analogue of the F3 fraction of feline facial marking pheromone. It is claimed that the effect of pheromones on distinct behaviours can be explained by stress reduction. In contrast to pharmacological treatment of behavioural conditions, no side effects have been reported using pheromones. Synthetic pheromones can be used externally in the form of either a diffuser or spray. The simultaneous use of pheromonotherapy and anti-anxiety medications may produce a faster resolution of conditions than if either were to be used alone. Pheromonotherapy can also be a useful adjunct for treatment of behavioural problems in older pets, or those with already existing medical conditions where pharmacological treatment may cause adverse effects due to interactions with existing medication. In addition there is no minimum recommended age for the use of pheromones in young pets.
Feliway is a synthetic analogue of the F3 fraction of the feline facial marking pheromone. It may be used to reduce general anxiety in stressful situations (such as moving house, transport, presence of other animals) so that the home or environment is less threatening. It has been particularly beneficial in cases of mild-moderate cat to cat aggression within the same household and in supporting cohabitation and alleviating tension in multicat households. It is thought to provide a sense of reassurance for cats in new or stressful circumstances. F3 can also be used to help control urine spraying in the home by cats .
The use of F3 diffusers (Feliway) can simulate the effect of dense facial marking within an environment, whilst the cats re-establish their own marks and exchange odours that identify them, usually a behaviour carried out when the cat feels relaxed in their environment. In a recent meta-analysis of treatments for feline urine spray marking in the home, Feliway was found to produce a 90% reduction in spraying after a 4 week period.
F3 diffusers must be used at a rate of 1 per 50-70m2, in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. They should be left switched on at all times and must not be moved from room to room. Diffusers should be installed strategically, one in each of the locations where individual cats or factions of cats spend time. Installing a single diffuser in a hallway between rooms will not generally produce an effect in the rooms. The refill should be replaced every 28 days.
When F3 diffusers are first installed the cats should be kept away from the diffuser for the first 1-2 hours to prevent them from potentially spraying onto the diffuser in reaction to this new object. If a diffuser becomes contaminated with urine it should be thoroughly cleaned, otherwise it will release urine odours along with the F3. Some diffusers may need to be thrown away if this occurs. If a cat is repeatedly urine marking on the diffuser it should be moved to a higher location where the cat cannot reach it if possible.
F3 spray can be used as a deterrent for urine spraying or scratch marking in the home: one squirt is applied daily to the urine or claw marking location after cleaning to remove respectively the urine or the interdigital pheromones applied during scratching. An alternative scratching post should be provided nearby.
Felifriend is a synthetic analogue of the F4 fraction of feline facial marks. F4 is used by cats to mark familiar individuals. When the synthetic analogue is applied to unfamiliar individuals this can increase the cat’s tendency to approach and show affiliative behaviour. This can also be useful because it reduces escape responses. Combinations of pheromone therapies are especially helpful when the target of aggression is a member of the family or regular visitor to the household of a cat that has been recently re-homed.
There is some evidence that synthetic F4 may be useful for preventing inter-cat aggression within the household . It can also be used to reduce fear of unfamiliar people and other animals and for helping with the introduction of a new member of the household. In a professional context such as veterinary clinics, catteries or hairdressers the pheromone can be applied to the individual handling the cat to provide a positive first contact with the cat  .
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This article has been expert reviewed by Jon Bowen BVetMed DipAS(CABC) MRCVS.
Date reviewed: August 28, 2014
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