As a cat owner, you want to do everything you can to help your cat feel happy and calm at home. You might have heard of a product called Feliway that claims to do just that – and more!
Modern life can be stressful for cats. Any change to their routine or environment (even something as small as a new piece of furniture!) can cause your cat to become stressed.
Feliway is meant to help our cats feel happier and calmer at home. But it also claims to reduce all kinds of stress-related behavior from scratching to spraying.
The big question is, does it really work?
The quick answer is that we still don’t know for sure. There hasn’t been a huge amount of research looking at whether Feliway can really achieve all it claims to. Of the studies that have been done, many of them have problems, such as only looking at a small number of cats. To complicate it even more, most of that research has been funded by the company that makes Feliway.
Despite this, Feliway is recommended by cat owners and cat health experts across the world.
We will look at exactly what Feliway is, what it claims it can do, and what the evidence says so far.
What Is Feliway for Cats
The science behind Feliway is all about pheromones.
Feliway has been on the market for over 25 years. Since then, they’ve developed a few different products. But they all contain a synthetic (man-made) pheromone that claims to be an exact replica of the pheromones naturally produced by cats.
So, what exactly is a pheromone? Pheromones are a scent chemical that cats (and most other animals) release from special glands around their body when they want to communicate. All cats understand these chemical signals. They can even act as a message to themselves.
For instance, they can release pheromones to signal stress or danger. But they also release pheromones when they are feeling particularly safe or happy.
Have you ever noticed your cat happily rubbing their cheek on something they love? Maybe it’s a favorite toy or a spot on the sofa. It looks cute, but they’re actually leaving behind facial pheromones that signal a feeling of safety and comfort. When cats encounter these pheromones, it triggers feelings of safety and reassurance in their brains. They’re letting other cats know that this is a safe place to be.
This is the combination of pheromones that Feliway has tried to harness in their products.
What Feliway Does
We know that Feliway products contain a synthetic version of the pheromone cats release when they’re feeling calm and safe. But what does Feliway actually do?
The theory is that when cats encounter the synthetic pheromones in Feliway, it triggers the same feelings as naturally occurring cat pheromones. So, simply plugging a Feliway diffuser into the wall could help your cat feel calmer and less stressed, or live in harmony with other feline friends. At least, that’s what the company claim.
Also Read: Best Calming Aid For Cats
Uses Of Feliway
Feliway state that their products go further than simply sending reassuring messages to your cat. They claim they can actually reduce some of the behavior problems we see when cats experience stress, such as:
Feliway recommends using their products in any situation your cat might find stressful. This might be using Feliway spray on a blanket to visit the vet, or a plug-in diffuser if you’re having people stay over, or moving to a new home.
They even have a special formulation mimicking the natural pheromones mother cats release from their mammary area to encourage harmony between their kittens. Feliway Friends (also called Feliway Multicat) claims to reduce friction between cats who live in multi-cat households, by sending out this “harmony message.” Feliway Friends can be particularly useful if you’re thinking of adding a new cat or new kitten to the family.
It all sounds pretty great…
…But Does Feliway Work?
That’s the big question. And it isn’t an easy one to answer.
Feliway has dominated the market for over 25 years. It’s recommended by many cat health experts, including veterinarians. So, you might think the evidence is watertight.
Unfortunately, there are still only a small number of studies looking at whether Feliway products actually work. Many of these studies are difficult to interpret as they only involve a small number of cats.
To make it even more complicated, most of the research showing the supposed positive benefits of Feliway products was funded by Ceva Animal Health. This is the company that produces Feliway. Whilst scientific studies are bound by strict ethical rules, the results are still harder to trust.
In 2019, a study looked at whether Feliway reduced any of the physiological parameters that we associate with cat stress. They looked at respiratory rate, heart rate, blood pressure, and signs of visible stress. The researchers found that Feliway had no effect. This study was not funded by Ceva Animal Health.
Also Read: What Is A Normal Heart Rate For A Cat?
In 2001, a double-blind placebo-controlled study found that the use of Feliway reduced urine spraying in male cats. However, the sample size was small and the study was funded by Ceva Animal Health.
In 2015, a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial found that cats appeared less stressed during a vet visit when the examination table was sprayed with Feliway Classic Spray – according to their owners. However, there was no difference in how easy they were to handle. This trial was also funded by Ceva Animal Health.
A 2020 study found that using Feliway Friends significantly improved relationships between cats and dogs living in the same home. The cats also appeared to be more relaxed. This is good news for cats who share their homes with canine friends. The products in this study were provided free of charge by Ceva Animal Health. However, the paper states that they were not involved in either the design, execution or publishing of the work.
The evidence isn’t strong that Feliway works, because there are still only a small number of studies, and some of these have flaws. But there have been some encouraging results, and many cat owners and cat health experts have seen positive results themselves. This is why so many people recommend Feliway.
Also Read: How To Get A Dog And Cat To Bond
Pheromones are a huge part of the way our cats communicate. Harnessing the power of pheromones could have huge benefits in helping our cats feel happy and calm at home.
The jury is still out as to whether Feliway can really achieve all the things it claims. But the main thing is, no study has shown any negative side effects associated with the use of Feliway. So, if you think your cat might benefit from a pheromone product, the only real risk is spending money on a product that doesn’t help.
Just remember, if your cat is showing signs of stress, the most important thing to do is try to address the underlying problem. While pheromone products such as Feliway can help, they are not usually a miracle solution on their own.
If you’re worried about your cat’s behavior, a vet or veterinary behaviorist is the best person to talk to.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take for Feliway to work?
Some Feliway products can have a near instant effect. For example, research has found that using Feliway spray on the examination table at the vets helped them to appear less stressed during the consultation. As a result of this study, many cat owners use Feliway spray on a blanket covering their cat carrier during trips to the vets.
For other issues, such as spraying in the house, or conflict between animals who live together, it can take several weeks.
What effect does Feliway have on cats?
Feliway works by mimicking the pheromones cats naturally produce to communicate. They can help cats to feel happy and safe at home, or even reduce friction between cats who live together. Feliway claims that their products can reduce some of the behaviors we see in cats suffering from stress, such as spraying, hiding, scratching, overgrooming and fighting.
Does Feliway make cats more affectionate?
Feliway claims that using their Feliway Classic diffuser “nurtures your relationship with your cat, by creating a loving environment at home”.
There aren’t any studies that have looked at whether Feliway can make cats more affectionate, so the jury is out! But certainly, reducing stress for your cat can help them feel happier and calmer at home. This could lead to a more loving and affectionate relationship.
Does Feliway work for fighting cats?
Cats are naturally solitary animals. They can find sharing their home with other cats very stressful. Feliway have a product called Feliway Friends which was designed specifically to help cats living with other cats. It contains an appeasing pheromone released from the mammary area of mother cats to create harmony among her kittens. The Feliway Friends diffuser sends out these “harmony messages” and aims to restore harmony among cats living together. It also claims to reduce tension and fighting between cats.
Feliway Friends was put to the test in a 2019 study, where it showed promising results for managing aggression between housemate cats in multi-cat households.
Is Feliway Safe for Cats?
Feliway is generally considered safe for cats. However, as with any product, it's always a good idea to consult with a veterinarian before using Feliway, especially if your cat has any underlying health conditions or is on any medications