A pilot study: appeasing pheromone diffuser products for managing of feline aggression

23 August 2023 -

Cats are very socially flexible animals ranging from very independent to living in proximity. Their interactions are influenced by several factors such as lived experiences in an early onset and also resource availability.

Although they can form complex bonds with other cats they are related to, they don’t normally accept other unfamiliar members.

In some instances, these animals are forced by their tutors to live in a social group they don’t identify with, and they can’t escape. This can lead to social tension and aggression between cats living in a multi-cat household environment and, consequently, increases the risk of lesions and relinquishment. Treatment of these types of conflicts is usually difficult and challenging and frequently considered of difficult complete resolution.

Kittens normally form social bonds during the so-called “sensitive period” that is the optimal socialization window, from when they are 2 to 7 weeks old. Curiously, it is during this period that the queen releases the natural cat-appeasing pheromone. Coincidently or not, it is also during this time that kittens live in a group environment with little conflict and competition.

A synthetic analog of the natural cat-appeasing pheromone has been developed and is currently commercially available. A prior study has shown that maternal pheromones can reduce the aggressive interactions during a controlled period in adult cats exposed to them.

This study’s goal was to test the hypothesis that the addition of this synthetic pheromone analog to a multi-household cat environment could reduce aggression between them and improve social connections and increase sensation of well-being.

A double-blinded, randomized, placebo-controlled field trial was conducted to evaluate the clinical effectiveness of a 28-day treatment period.  42 multi-cat households of 2-5 cats were included in this study. The study group consisted of 17 households and the remaining 25 were included in the placebo group.

A metric was created in order to evaluate the frequency and severity of aggression between cats in the same household. Twelve different behaviours were analyzed, and total score was obtained by sum of each of the individual parameter scores. However, since behaviors were being examined by the cat owners, reliability of the results was limited (passive aggressive behaviours could be over or under-represented, for example).

Authors were able to conclude that female cats were twice as likely to be the victim when compared to the opposite sex. However, no differences between both were found when it came to identifying the aggressor. Additionally, authors were able to determine that some aggressive behaviours decrease substantially after a 21-day period in households where the synthetic pheromone was used.

Authors also found that treatment with a cat-appeasing pheromone diffuser for 4 weeks in a multi-cat household also had a beneficial effect on management of aggressive behaviour. Owners were also taught about feline behaviour by a board-certified veterinary behaviorist which also lead to a decrease in aggressive behavior even prior to start of treatment. This leads the authors to believe that the addition of these pheromones as a complement in a behavior modification program can be very beneficial.

DePorter, T. L. et al. (2019) ‘Evaluation of the efficacy of an appeasing pheromone diffuser product vs placebo for management of feline aggression in multi-cat households: a pilot study’, Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, 21(4), pp. 293–305. doi: 10.1177/1098612X18774437.

Link: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/1098612X18774437