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What is a pheromone and how can it help my pet?

Pheromones are natural chemicals emitted by animals that help them to communicate with others of the same species. In mammals, the vomeronasal organ, a structure close to the nasal passage, receives these pheromone signals. When animals receive pheromone signals, there is an involuntary behavioral effect on those animals. There are many types of pheromones and different classes have different effects. For instance, some serve social functions among animals, while others serve sexual functions. Nursing mothers emit a pheromone to comfort their young. Queen honey bees emit pheromones to let the worker bees know that all is well and they should keep working. Pheromones are the animals way of saying: "This is MY territory", "Hey baby, lookin' good", "Hush now baby", or "All is good, be calm".

When your cat rubs his face on an object, or even you, he is releasing the feline facial pheromone that marks the area as familiar and safe. When he senses this facial pheromone through the nasal passage, he recognizes it as familiar and does not feel anxious/fearful or have the urge to urine mark or scratch.

There are several products on the market now that mimic these pheromones in the way of diffusers, sprays and even collars. They are completely safe for humans and may be calming to other pets in the house as well. They are species specific so there are different products for cats versus dogs. These products are very easy to use and pose no risk to the pets. Unfortunately, these products do not work for all pets nor do they modify all undesirable behaviors but it is an inexpensive way to explore options if you have a pet with separation anxiety, aggression, marking, and even traveling anxiety.

As a receptionist at Abilene Animal Hospital, I was aware of artificial pheromones and recently tried the NurtureCalm 24/7 Feline Calming Collar on one of my feline friends who is a little “testy” to say the least. We usually have to lock her in a separate room when we have company because she hisses and swats (no, she is not declawed) at our guests if they walk by or if they reach down to pet her. After approximately 7 days of her wearing her “be nice” collar, we did notice a big difference. When we had guests over, she just stayed curled up on the couch. It was obvious that she was much less stressed (and so were our guests!). She now jumps up on my husband’s lap and curls over backwards and reaches her paw up to his face (Kodak moment). I will say that when the 30 day period was up I think the effects were wearing off which was easily fixed by applying a new collar! Our house now has good kitty juju all over it and guests are welcome anytime!!

Feel free to contact us to see if pheromone therapy is an option for behavioral modification in your pet.

Dianna Pedersen

Receptionist, Abilene Animal Hospital & cat lover

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