feliway-multicat

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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.

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 Fear Free website.

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.

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

This post was first published in 2018 and has been updated.

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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.

31 Comments on Do Pheromone Diffusers Work?

  1. Recently our usually very rambunctious and confident two-year-old kitty Jennifer has started showing some personality changes characterized by some accidents outside her box and extensive hiding. The first thing we thought was a medical problem because she has never gone outside her box in her whole life so we immediately took her to the vet to get her checked out, absolutely nothing wrong. Nothing whatsoever has changed in the household, we have three other cats and a guide dog she has been around her whole life. We decided to try the Feliway defuser to see if it calms both her and Siva our youngest male cat who can be a bit pushy and dominating, it’s only been a few days so not sure yet if it is helping. Our vet has prescribed Prozac to see if this helps her as well. We definitely would like our confident and playful Jennifer back.

  2. I have one very anxious cat (FrostFire) that I literally have to use the classic version for, and another (SpitFire) that if it’s just she and I all is well, she loves other cats, but her sister hates her. Running the multincat seems to help their interactions, but also help her not constantly attack my inhome support persons that she’s known most of her life, but also they typical had been around more when changes where happening. And Spit is a cat that will literally tell you what she thinks of anything even within the home moving. Anyway we have determined that both are needed, one closer to SpitFire the classic closer to FrostFire. However I’m very curious about the new one Feliway has out, “optimum” diffuser. What in the world does that mean? I searched through the web site and felt it lacking in info on the new product, oh course I’m sure it’s not going to be a replacement for both, but it would be nice to know it’s aims and how it compares to the product already out.

  3. In all the feral, less socialized and traumatized rescued cats I have fostered, and in my own “permanent” household including integrated fosters prior to adoption and a few who never socialized enough to be adopted, I have never seen any success with diffusers. As someone mentioned above, they might be more effective if there were more diffusers throughout the space, but even in my bathroom, which is my foster room, I’ve not seen a change when I added one to the mix of other things I use for socializing and calming.

    But the pheromones themselves are still very valuable. The cheek pheromone used intensively in a stressful circumstance, like getting into a carrier, visiting the vet, or first exploring a new area, works wonders for a concentrated period of time by wiping down or spraying the carrier or a blanket, the exam table, doorframes, even the floor where it’s all unfamiliar to the cat. I’ve even used it on my hands or my shins when approaching unsocialized cats I’m fostering. I will also use it on traps when I’m working on TNR, or trying to trap an escaped cat.

    The mother cat pheromone is essential with some of my less socialized cats, but I use calming collars rather than diffusers or sprays. They get a constant dose over time that way, similar to what they experience being socialized by their mother, and it also works for the other cats around who aren’t wearing one. It’s worked with integrating former feral cats to the house, non-recognition aggression among a family of cats, territorial aggression or urinating for indoor cats who see outdoor cats in their territory outdoors, and sometimes for a cat with a somewhat fearful nature to take the edge off for a while. For instance, Basil is a little traumatized each spring when we first open the windows and sounds of cars and people seem to be in the house, so he gets a calming collar in April or May. It’s good for a month but still has an effect after that time, and it’s long enough that he gets used to the change in his environment.

  4. The Feliway diffuser worked really well for Amelie. When we brought Amelie and Merlin home as kittens, our elderly border collie treated them like puppies and Amelie was really bonded with her “dog mom”. When her dog mom crossed over, Amelie had a really hard time with grief. Amelie’s vet suggested trying the diffuser before medication. I used it for about 2.5 months and Amelie was able to come around to feeling better. I know it was the diffuser that helped her take the initial steps to feeling better because without it, her behaviour returned to being very withdrawn.

    • That’s an interesting use of the diffuser, Ais, thank you for sharing. I had not heard of it being used in this context. I love that it worked so well for Amelie.

  5. I used the multi-cat one when I first got Lulu because Kiki was stressing so bad. It seemed to work to keep her a little bit calmer. I think it would have worked better if I could have afforded a couple units to distribute the scent through the house better.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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?

    • 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?”

      • 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.

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

  10. 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.

  11. 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…

  12. 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.

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

  13. 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.

  14. 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 .

  15. 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.

    • 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!

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