Pheromones are scents, or smells, emitted by animals to communicate between members of the same species. They play a huge part in dog and cat behaviour, and can influence many aspects of your pet’s behaviour.
In a vet surgery environment, for example, a stressed cat will send out alarm pheromones to all other cats in the hospital, making it extremely difficult for staff to handle the cats for the rest of the day!
Examples of natural pheromones that dogs release are sex pheromones, which make a female dog more attractive to a male, and the pheromones lactating females produce to comfort and reassure their offspring.
That calming pheromone can now be synthetically reproduced, and is called D.A.P, or dog appeasing pheromone. D.A.P is delivered using a diffuser plugged into a power point, similar to the commonly used air fresheners. It is odourless and not harmful to humans. It is also species specific, therefore the dog pheromone will have no effect on the cat, and vice versa.
D.A.P can assist in many behavioural problems that stem from stress or fear, including settling a new puppy, or adopted dog into a new environment, and may also help with separation anxieties and storm phobias. It can be used when your dog stays in kennels, and may help your dog cope with visitors, children or other pets.
If your dog’s anxiety is moderate to severe, D.A.P will need to be used in conjunction with a behaviour modification program and/ or environmental enrichment. Adaptil is available in collars and as a diffuser.
Signs that your dog may be stressed include:
• Excessive shedding
• Pinned back ears
• Licking of the nose and lips
• Destructive behaviours
• Excessive sniffing
Synthetic pheromones can also assist with feline anxieties. Feliway is a copy of the familiarisation facial pheromone that cats use to mark objects in their environment. When cats rub their face on wall corners, furniture and even their owners, they are marking a familiarisation to their environment.
When we go and move the furniture, or move to another house, all the familiarisation the cat has worked so hard to provide, has been moved, or worse, taken away. As a result of this, a cat may become extremely stressed.
This is one of many examples a cat can become anxious or stressed. Cats are extremely sensitive creatures, and things that we wouldn’t even think twice about, can upset them greatly.
Signs that your cat may be stressed include:
• Urine marking or spraying
• Excessive grooming
• Scratching on vertical surfaces
• Inter-cat aggression (cats that are in multi-cat households)
• Inappropriate toileting
It is important to first establish that there is no underlying medical reason for your cat’s behaviour. For example, urinary tract infections may cause your cat to urinate in inappropriate areas. If your cat has received a clean bill of health from the vet, then pheromones may assist in managing the cat’s anxiety.
Feliway is available as a spray, as well as a diffuser, and can be sprayed on the areas where urine marking or scratching are occurring. For maximum effect, the diffuser is to be plugged into the room the cat spends most of their time, and left on continuously.
More dogs and cats are euthanased every year as a result of behavioural problems, than all the other diseases combined. Not recognizing and managing your pet’s stress and anxiety is detrimental to their health and well-being.
Please note that advice given in this article is of a general nature. Please consult your local vet for advice that pertains to the circumstances of you and your pets.