Winn Feline Foundation recently published the results of a small study that sheds light on clinically proven results when using pheromones to ease feline stress when being handled at home or around veterinary visits or any travel. A cat’s sometimes violent objection to being handled in certain ways or by a stranger, being placed into a carrier and riding in a car often results in lack of care, even surrender to a shelter or euthanasia.
Those who’ve used and swear by the efficacy of certain treatments are often surprised when clinical studies don’t prove the results. For instance, a recent study of the use of lysine to treat feline upper respiratory conditions didn’t prove the lysine acted as expected, and in fact seemed to have no effect at all, though many of us use it for cat with chronic herpes symptoms, to help ease URI symptoms in any cat, or to help maintain general health as an immune booster in community cats.
Cat pheromones and Feliway in particular, however, have proven to work and show a promise for more study in their use.
Pereira JS, Fragoso S, Beck A, Lavigne S, Varejão AS, et al. Improving the feline veterinary consultation: the usefulness of Feliway spray in reducing cats’ stress. J Feline Med Surg. 2016 Dec;18(12):959-964.
The use of pheromones has come into play in under study for both humans and animals, and in the case of stressed or frightened cats, one particular pheromone many of us know as Feliway is often recommended and quite often successful in helping calm stressed cats or treating cats who are aggressive or urinating inappropriately. The most common pheromone used and the one that’s in Feliway is feline “facial pheromone fraction F3” which is what cats are swiping onto you and other things when they rub their faces against something.
Many professionals and cat handlers use and recommend Feliway and the use of pheromones and though it’s clear they do work as expected there haven’t been any clinical studies of to determine how they work or the best conditions and applications.
This study was fairly small including 87 cats, and was conducted as a randomized, double blinded, placebo controlled, crossover trial. Cats were taken to very similar exam rooms over time and divided into three groups who received a spray of Feliway, or a placebo, or no spray at all, on the exam table 15 minutes before the exam. Owners, clinicians and assessors were blinded to which cats were in which group. Rooms were thoroughly cleaned between cats.
The results were very positive for the use of pheromones, with cats in the Feliway group showing lower stress scores and being easier to handle by clinicians, and owners noting their cats were easier to handle.
These study results show that further clinical study would benefit cats and people in reducing stress all around with the use of a low-cost treatment, easy to administer, that has few side effects.
The article also references a 2004 study on the use of synthetic facial pheromones to help cats suffering from urinary tract infections and found a trend in the cats receiving the pheromone treatments that showed symptoms for fewer days than those without pheromones.
Read the abstract of the study on the Winn Feline Foundation website.
I use Feliway wipes and spray in handling the cats I foster for socialization and found it consistently helps ease their fear of me as a stranger and of items they interact with, all of which are strange and new. It certainly worked for Basil, above, when he first arrived here. Feliway is also recommended for use in cats who are spraying or urinating outside the litter box and also seems to be effective for that. I hope to see a study of that soon.
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