Do Pheromone Diffusers Work?

feliway-multicat

Products containing artificial pheromones can be an important tool for dealing with feline behavior problems, whether it’s territorial aggression, urinary marking, or simply a stressful trip to the vet. Cats naturally emit these pheromones. They are used to mark their territory as safe and secure by rubbing the side of their face against against furniture, or even against you.

When a cat smells a pheromone emitted by its own species, it triggers a natural response from her endocrine system which then releases calming chemicals. Artificial facial pheromones mimic cats’ natural pheromones and create a sense of security in their environment.  Products containing these artificial pheromones can be used to help comfort and reassure cats while they cope with a challenging situation and help prevent or reduce the stress caused by a change in their environment. They can also help restore peace in multicat households.

The best known pheromone products are made by Ceva Animal Health under the brand name Feliway. There are two versions of Feliway.

Feliway Classic

The original Feliway, now sold as “classic”, is a synthetic copy of the feline facial pheromone used by cats to mark their territory as safe and secure. By mimicking the cat’s natural facial pheromone, Feliway creates a state of familiarity and security in the cat’s local environment. Feliway helps reduce or prevent unwanted behaviors such as scratching, peeing outside the litter box, and hiding.

Feliway MultiCat

Feliway MultiCat is a synthetic copy of the feline appeasing pheromone mother cats produce during lactation. It provides a calming effect on cats of all ages, and can help cats in multicat households feel more safe and secure with their surroundings by reducing tension and aggression between cats.

New study shows efficacy of pheromones in managing inter-cat aggression

A recent study looked at determining whether the use of feline appeasing pheromone in a multi-cat household reduced intercat aggression. 45 households containing between 2 and 5 cats with a history of intercat aggression were enrolled in the study.

Households were randomized to receive 2 plug-in diffusers containing either the pheromone or a placebo. Owners were instructed to run these within the house for 28 days. Owners also received training on the use to behavioral modification techniques.

Of the 45 cats enrolled in the study, 42 completed it as per protocol. 17 were treated with the active pheromone, and 25 with placebo. At the end of the study, all households were asked “‘Generally, do you find that your cats are getting along better?” 84.2% of treatment group households answered “yes” compared to only 64% in the control group. While this may not seem like a convincing difference, it is statistically significant.

Even though the study results may be limited by a lot of factors, such as the number, gender and age of cats in each household, the size of each house, and specifics of the dynamics between the cats, I think the findings still support the use of pheromones to help manage feline aggression.

For more information about the study, please visit the Winn Feline Foundation blog.

My take on pheromone products

I recommend Feliway to my clients and readers as a first line of defense for behavioral problems with mostly positive results. Most often, what I hear is “I don’t know whether it’s working or not, but when the diffuser runs out, my cats start having issues.” It’s important to understand the difference between the available products.

Which pheromone product should you use?

The two brands I’m most familiar with are Feliway and ComfortZone. Anecdotal feedback from my clients suggests that the original Feliway line produces better results than the Comfort Zone line. Feline veterinarian Dr. Andrea Tasi, of Just Cats Naturally, a house-call based, feline-exclusive practice dedicated to a holistic, individualized approach to each cat, concurs. “I always advise my client to spend the money for the Feliway product,” she says.  “All the original studies demonstrating fewer stress related behaviors in veterinary clinic cages that were pretreated with Feliway were done with the original product with a higher concentration of pheromones.”

Feliway and Comfort Zone with Feliway products are available from Amazon – and Amazon’s prices are the lowest I’ve been able to find anywhere. Once you’ve purchased the diffuser kit, you can buy refills for additional savings. Diffusers should be replaced very six months for best results.

Have you used pheromone diffusers? Please share your experience in a comment.

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*FTC Disclosure: The Conscious Cat is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to products on Amazon. This means that if you decide to purchase through any of our links, we get a small commission. We only spread the word about products and services we’ve either used or would use ourselves.

20 Comments on Do Pheromone Diffusers Work?

  1. Natalie Hall
    July 30, 2018 at 8:28 am (2 months ago)

    My daughter has a very anxious rescue cat who is confined to a single room (don’t worry, she is well cared for and has a catio out the window for fresh air and bird viewing). When stressed, she poops on the bed and hisses. The Comfort Zone diffuser works wonders. The result is immediate (I can always tell when it needs a refill by her hissing). By maintaining constant Comfort Zone, her life and mine are serene.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      July 30, 2018 at 9:35 am (2 months ago)

      Thank you for sharing your experience, Natalie.

      Reply
  2. Elizabeth Metcalf
    July 17, 2018 at 4:39 pm (2 months ago)

    Hi, I have used Feliway before BUT there is a wildlife person on Facebook who also used it and the plug in one leaked and and one of her rescue cats somehow got it on his fur. Feliway is denying the claim but the vet confirmed it was the product. The vet bill so far is at least 3 to 5 thousand dollars right now. You can probably find this on Facebook via Frosty the Frozen kitten or Hollywood. Just thought you should at least find out about this.

    Reply
  3. Anna
    July 13, 2018 at 4:47 pm (2 months ago)

    They’ve worked great for my cat. Thanks for posting!

    Reply
  4. Marge
    July 13, 2018 at 12:26 pm (2 months ago)

    two questions for Ingrid – it seems like every time I post to a new topic lately I have to (re)confirm – is this something new? Also, just now posting to Suzanne it rejected initially saying it “look like I already said that”, which is not true – I posted previously a comment on using pheromones, but this comment was about using double-sided tape. It did not remove my comment in the box, so I added “2” to my name and the post happened… what’s up with that?

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      July 13, 2018 at 3:59 pm (2 months ago)

      It probably already recorded your comment, and you hit “comment” again so the system thought it was a duplicate comment. I’m not sure what you mean by “reconfirming?”

      Reply
      • Marge
        July 13, 2018 at 4:13 pm (2 months ago)

        When I post a comment, mainly with a different discussion, I get an email that requires me to “confirm” following? I have already deleted them all or I would provide a clearer explanation.
        As for duplicate posting – the original was July 9, to the main article, then another on the 9th falling under someone else’s and your post, which was fine. This one today did NOT post, it was still in the comment box when I hit back button after it reporting it was a duplicate. I added 2 to my name (which did not post) ahhh, whatever, not a big deal. The confirming thing is annoying. If I get it again, I’ll send it to you.

        Reply
  5. Kim
    July 9, 2018 at 11:00 am (2 months ago)

    I have used thunder ease and comfort zone. Both have helped with my cat household but prefer thunder ease

    Reply
  6. Rmpl
    July 9, 2018 at 10:40 am (2 months ago)

    ThunderEase works the best in terms of multicat diffusers for my 2 girls.

    Reply
  7. Serbella McGee
    July 9, 2018 at 10:07 am (2 months ago)

    Years ago I tried the regular Feliway on my girl Samirah, when she was angry at me and wanted to kill me on several occasions. It didn’t work on her. Ten years of abuse was too much for her to overcome at that point. She became less fearful of me in her own time, three months later, without the Feliway.

    Recently I tried Feliway on my boy Loki. He hates being groomed, hates being picked up, hates having his feet touched. Maine Coons like Loki can yark up massive hairballs. He needs to be brushed once a week. The vet disagrees with me, but she’s not the one cleaning up after him. Feliway didn’t work with him either. Oddly enough, what seems to be working with him is clicker training and his favorite treats. He’s not a lap cat, never will be and I don’t expect him to be, but he doesn’t startle like he did before and apparently enjoys it when I run the Zoom Groom over his fur. Baby steps.

    Reply
  8. Marge
    July 9, 2018 at 9:21 am (2 months ago)

    I have not tried the multi-cat product, but have tried the regular/classic one multiple times. All I can say is that while it seems to work for some people and their cats, it never worked for me/us. If one has issues in a cat or between cats, certainly give it a try (has to be used for at least one month I believe) and if it works, keep using it. As someone else noted, if it seems to be working and you can stop using it to see if issues arise again. If so, I would keep using it. If you do not see any improvement in a month or maybe even two, I would not waste any more money on it (is it possible that some of these “tests” were done during that introduction period where cats eventually figure out their hierarchy and calm down on their own? The kitties who really did not get along here never did change, so using screens to keep them separated worked!)

    The first time these products were tried, the cat who “needed” it most peed on it. So much for that! I have tried it for cats that do not get along, stress related issues, vet/car rides and found no improvement. Given how expensive they are, I won’t be buying them again.

    At our current location, screen doors installed between kitchen and hallway (two entry points) are used to separate those who do not get along (used this method to split last house too.) Two others are in a separate room. It IS necessary as several of the cats would get into nasty fights. I did have two who could be on either side of the screen doors, but one has passed, so just the one can be on the side she wants when I am here to let her out.

    So, again, it is worth a try. It does seem to work for some people/cats, but not others. Maybe it is like catnip – seems like most cats respond to it, but there are some who have no interest…

    Reply
  9. Jennette
    July 9, 2018 at 8:45 am (2 months ago)

    I tried them for maybe a year and I don’t think it did anything for my house.bi have 4 with different ages and don’t always get along. I’ve seen more success with catification, routine play and mealtimes, enrichment activities such as group training of high fives and treats and going outside on the harness. My concern with these products is not doing any of the enrichment or behavior modifications and just hoping plugging this in will solve all problems. These plug ins may help in conjunction with routine play time and other enrichment things.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      July 9, 2018 at 11:00 am (2 months ago)

      You are absolutely right, Jennette – pheromone products are not meant to be used instead of behavioral modification and training, but to support it.

      Reply
  10. Connie Fischer
    July 9, 2018 at 7:12 am (2 months ago)

    I have 3 kitties and live in southwest Florida where we have lots of summer thunderstorms. These storms terrify our kitties and I work very hard to find ways to calm them. Last summer, I used these diffusers all the time. I don’t feel that I can say that they helped. They are very expensive and as I didn’t see any real improvement with their reactions to the thunderstorms, I don’t buy them anymore. However, I will say that our local Gulf Coast Humane Society told me they use them year round in their kitty rooms. I’m not saying they don’t work, but they just didn’t seem to do so for our kitties. I do hope they work for others.

    Reply
  11. Lyn
    July 9, 2018 at 6:58 am (2 months ago)

    I have been using this in my multi cat household for some time and it works well. I do worry that I may secretly BE a cat, as I can smell it.

    I use it in their bedrooms at night (5 cats, 2 bedrooms). Our house is too open plan for other use. Timmy (the cat) likes to sit near the diffuser.

    I have just tried the scratch distraction product which does not seem to be so successful .

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      July 9, 2018 at 11:01 am (2 months ago)

      I can smell them, too, Lyn – especially when they’re new. Maybe we are cats! 🙂

      Reply
      • Marge
        July 9, 2018 at 3:31 pm (2 months ago)

        #me2 … guess it was not my imagination… meeeeOwwwww… =^..^=

        Reply
        • Eastside Cats
          July 9, 2018 at 5:28 pm (2 months ago)

          The Hubby could smell them, and he hated it! Even though I left the diffusers in for a month, in the end we didn’t see any difference in the cats, and The Hubby didn’t want them plugged in anymore.

          Reply
  12. Suzanne
    July 9, 2018 at 6:30 am (2 months ago)

    My cat doesn’t seem to like Feliway. When I diffused it, there was no difference in her behaviour. I now have a Feliway spray to keep her from scratching in certain places and because my behaviorist thought it would help my cat to get used to being held but it seemed to have the opposite effect.

    Reply
    • Marge
      July 13, 2018 at 12:21 pm (2 months ago)

      Another option for inappropriate (for you that is!) scratching is a double-sided tape made for this. Before finding that I had found what worked for one cat was taping or stapling empty cereal boxes opened up to the area he was scratching (door frames) – it did work, but looked like crap! Unclear why he did not like it, but it was working.

      I have used the tape with success – it deters the scratching and doesn’t really look too bad… You might not have to use it forever, just long enough to let him/her find another place (provide something they like) to take out their angst!

      Reply

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