Cat parents know when it comes to putting our pal in her cat carrier for a trip to the vet, the struggle is real. Take my cat, Lou. As a calico, she definitely has a contradictory personality. She’s what I like to call, “selectively needy.” She’s either in my face demanding attention or she’s aloof and completely immune to my cries of, “let me love you!” She also likes to pretend she’s super brave, but she’ll take off in a terror at a sudden movement.
Every day with her is an adventure because I never know what I’m going to get. That being said, there is one personality trait that never seems to waver. Lou suffers from anxiety. Trips to the vet have always been stressful for both of us and by the time we would get back home, we would both be emotionally drained and a little on edge. From the moment her cat carrier would make an appearance, her anxiety would be through the roof. By the time I would get her into the car, her fear would be palpable, and I would feel like the worst cat mom ever.
This went on for the longest time and only seemed to get worse after every trip to the vet. Eventually, I ended up taking her to a new veterinary clinic and that one decision had a huge impact on her anxiety because our new vet told me about a product that had the potential to combat her anxiety. That was the day I learned about cat calming sprays.
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The Basics of Cat Calming Sprays
Cat calming sprays were introduced right around 2001 and have begun to pick up steam since then. Most cat parents turn to calming sprays to deal with stress caused by things such as traveling, vet visits, separation anxiety, a new environment, and thunderstorms. These stressors can cause extensive and bothersome behavioral problems down the road. A cat may start behaving aggressively or acting out by scratching furniture, urinating outside of the litter box, or over the top vocalization.
Cat calming sprays offer a natural remedy to these problems, which is great for cat parents because they’re relatively inexpensive, easy to use, and can take effect rather quickly. There is also the added benefit of not needing a prescription from a veterinarian, unlike more extreme feline anxiety treatments.
The Key Ingredient of Cat Calming Sprays
The exact ingredients of cat calming sprays can vary from brand to brand, but most contain pheromones. Pheromones are a chemical substance that acts as a form of communication between animals within a specific species. Pheromones are released into the environment to send a message or elicit a response from one animal to another. For example, when a cat is in heat, she will produce a pheromone that male cats will react to. While pheromones play a large part in reproduction, they exist on a larger scale.
Mother cats will produce a pheromone specifically for their nursing kittens. The pheromone is released from her nipples and aids in helping her kittens feel safe as well as helping them locate her should they stray too far. Likewise, all cats secrete pheromones when they urinate. Other cats are then able to determine several factors from that pheromone. In fact, they are able to tell where the cat falls on the hierarchy and lower-ranking cats will often leave the area rather than risk a run-in with that cat.
Pheromones are received by the vomeronasal organ, which is located between the nose and the mouth. Certain pheromones produced by animals are referred to as calming or appeasing pheromones, meaning they help reduce stress and anxiety. In cats, one of these types of pheromones is the feline facial pheromone. This particular chemical substance is used to mark a surface or object with their scent by rubbing the sides of their face. Most calming sprays mimic this particular pheromone as a key ingredient.
How Cat Calming Sprays Work
As mentioned, calming sprays are made by mimicking the calming or appeasing pheromones a cat gives off, with one of the most popular being the feline facial pheromone. When a cat rubs her cheeks against an object, she deposits the F3 feline pheromone on it which then acts as a reminder it has been deemed “safe.”
Because a calming spray mimics appeasing pheromones, they can be used to treat most of the stressors that cause anxiety. It’s important to read the directions on the calming spray you choose, but the way they are used is pretty universal. There are two different ways to use most calming sprays. The first is to spray it directly on something whether it be directly inside her cat carrier, on a blanket or cat bed, or in a particular room. The second way is to spray a small amount into your hands and gently rub it on her fur.
Are Cat Calming Sprays Effective?
There are a lot of mixed reviews on whether or not cat calming sprays really work. People that are pro cat calming spray absolutely love them, whereas others say to save your money. One important fact to consider is not all cats react to products the exact same way, so what works for some may not work for all.
Cat calming sprays don’t have long-term effects either. Just like when a cat leaves pheromones on an object naturally, over time the “mark” will fade. For that reason, cat parents should be prepared to use the spray more than once, but don’t overdo it! Simply pay attention to how she behaves and if you notice she seems stressed, it may be time to reach for the calming spray again.
Another important fact to note is that calming sprays work to reduce anxiety, but they do not address or treat underlying behavioral issues. So, while a calming spray may provide temporary relief your cat may require training or a deeper look at determining what the root of the problem is.
How to Pick a Cat Calming Spray
Like with all things, it is important to do your research when selecting a cat calming spray. Stay away from sprays that have harsh chemicals in them because they can have adverse effects on your cat’s overall health. Instead, look for sprays with natural ingredients. It’s natural that there will be ingredients you may not know much about, so be prepared to do a little digging before selecting a cat calming spray.
As always, consult your vet when making a decision regarding the health of your cat. She will be able to tell you if a calming spray is the right choice or if your cat needs a different type of treatment. Plus, she will more than likely have a recommendation regarding which calming spray to purchase. There’s a good chance she will recommend one of the three most popular brands.
The Top Brands of Cat Calming Products
Feliway – Feliway is one of the most widely recommended brands of cat calming sprays. It is budget-friendly, has great reviews, and comes in a wide variety of formulas. Just a few of the choices include the spray, a diffuser, and a collar infused with the Feliway formula.
Comfort Zone – A slightly more expensive option is the Comfort Zone cat calming spray. Like Feliway, the Comfort Zone formula also comes in a diffuser format which is great for cats suffering from separation anxiety because provides a general sense of calm to the room. Comfort Zone is said to directly address issues with destructive scratching and urine marking.
Sentry – Sentry Calming Pheromone Spray rounds out the top three most recommended brands of cat calming formulas. In terms of pricing, this brand is smack dab in the middle of the three brands, making it a favorite among cat parents. Like Comfort Zone, Sentry markets their spray as a solution to inappropriate marking and destructive behaviors.
Other cat calming sprays worth looking into include:
- Felisept Home Comfort Calming Spray
- Pet MasterMind Cool Kitty Cat Calming Pheromone Spray
- Paws & Pals Pet Natural Calming Spray
- ThunderEase Cat Calming Pheromone Spray
- Pet Remedy Natural De-Stress & Calming Spray
The day Lou’s vet introduced me to cat calming sprays was a game changer for Lou and me. While I can’t speak for cat parents every, I have to say incorporating a cat calming spray into our daily lives has made a big difference for us, but more importantly, it has made trips to the vet much less stressful. Reducing her anxiety is as simple as spraying her favorite blanket with the calming spray ten to fifteen minutes before leaving the house. It’s simple, inexpensive, and effective. What could be better than that?