Dear Greyce, You said you would tell me why Feliway isn’t working in our household. You will recall that Herself bought a diffuser and installed it in our living room. While it has stopped us from scratching the sofa, it hasn’t made a difference in Sissi’s or Jack’s attacks on me. Why isn’t it working?
Dear Suzi, Feliway is a synthetic pheromone which gives cats a sense of comfort. It helps us change our behaviour or adapt to new circumstances. And I recommend it for many situations. Before I tell you about its uses, I want to tell you what it is.
Patrick Pageat, a French veterinarian and researcher, developed Feliway which is a synthetic version of a natural pheromone found in cats. Pheromones are chemical substances exchanged in the environment - usually between members of the same or other species.
Wherever we have pheromones on our body, they are likely to have many components. For example, we have 40 components to the facial pheromones located along our cheeks; yet there is considerable individual variation, which means that each of us cats has a distinctive pheromonal signature. And rather than excreting all 40 of them at once, we mix them in combinations to suit specific situations. Some of your purrsons may have heard of the DaVinci Code. Well they should listen up - for we cats have pheromonal codes!
While there is a lot that humans don't know about our pheromones, Pageat was able to unlock some of our chemical messages. In our facial pheromones, he found five functional fractions that are common to all cats; one of these (which he called F3) does three things: 1) makes us want to urine mark less; 2) encourages us to eat when we are in an unknown environment; and 3) encourages us to explore when we are in an unknown environment. He believed F3 has a soothing effect; so it's no surprise that the synthetic version is called Comfort Zone with Feliway (at least in North America).
Now it's time to talk about what Feliway is actually good for.
Feliway can be used to do the following:
Deterring cats from urine marking (especially spraying, that is, urine marking on vertical surfaces).
Deterring cats from scratching furnishings in a household.
Helping cats settle into to unfamiliar environments, like a new home.
Helping a cat adjust to travel in a cat carrier.
Helping cats adjust to a new people, pets or objects.
Helping cats adapt to changes in our existing environments (like renovations, new furniture, visitors, or a new baby).
Encouraging cats to eat when they are in strange environments.
Encouraging cats to explore a new environment or new object.
Feliway comes in two forms: a spray that can be applied to the surfaces of things like walls or sofas; and a diffuser which is plugged into an electrical outlet and lasts for about a month before needing a refill. In most cases, one form is preferable to the other. For example, if you were spraying urine one particular area then Herself could use the Feliway spray to deter you. If, for example, you were a foster cat arriving in a new home, putting a diffuser in the room you would be staying in, would be the better solution than using the spray. For certain situations, both forms need to be used at the same time.
There are VERY SPECIFIC instructions for using Feliway properly. And there are two websites that you can consult (http://www.feliway.com/ and http://www.petcomfortzone.com/ ). Both are good. But each has some unique information. So I usually recommend that you consult both. And by consult, I mean that you explore the entire site not just the first page.
The biggest problem I find with Feliway is that purrsons do not carefully follow the instructions. So either they use it for the wrong things or they use it in the wrong way.
Feliway is not useful in cases of aggression except to help calm a victimized cat. But in such situations, you have to do more than use Feliway in order to get results. In such situations, I would consider Feliway as a supplement to the main work that would need to be done.
There is another pheromonal product that can be used to help introduce cats to one another but it is not useful when aggression is already present. So I would not recommend it for your household. (It is not available in North America.)
In your household, Feliway can be useful in helping you adapt to the new room arrangement I suggested (where you spend most of your time in the main bedroom, for the next few weeks at least). It can also be useful when Herself takes in foster cats because it will help them adapt to their new, temporary home. And as you already know, it has reduced the scratching of the sofa.
The diffuser has an expiry date and this is usually generous. Feliway does deteriorate with time, so that means that you should not use an expired product. You can use the diffuser as needed, until the supply runs out. You don’t have to keep it plugged in until it is used up. For example, suppose a foster kitten came to your home for two weeks. The diffuser could be used during that time (or even less if the kitten adjusted quickly) and then removed and saved for another time. And refills are available for the diffuser, which are less costly that the initial purchase.
So don’t fret. That Feliway can be useful in your home – just not for aggression.