Gracee, the eldest of the cat authors, can only be described as an anxious cat. She grooms herself more than the other cats, never cuddles with the other cats and tries to control her siblings sometimes with hisses and swats. One week Gracee had a daily and nightly hissing and swatting episode with at least one of her siblings. She was swatting so much that week that Spirit, when he walked by her, closed his eyes anticipating her swats. And she is lightning fast....ten swats in a half-second with the same paw. Fortunately, she doesn't use her claws.
All of the cats were scheduled for their annual check-ups. I told their veterinarian (Dr. Theresa Long of the Roxford Veterinary Clinic in Sylmar, CA) about Gracee and the resulting tension in the house. She replied: "Buy some Feliway. It comes in a diffuser and a spray. Spray every area where they sleep/rest and plug the diffusers in the rooms where they 'hang out.' "
I was willing to try anything. I drove to the pet store that very day and bought a few diffusers (they are expensive) and some spray (not so expensive). I went home and plugged the diffusers in a few rooms and sprayed the areas where they relaxed/napped...particularly Gracee's areas. It was around 7 pm. The next morning, I walked downstairs (there had been no hissing or conflict during the night). The cats that met me...were these really the same cats? The tension in the house was gone. Totally gone! They were gazing up at me with big, calm eyes sitting together in a little circle. The difference was stark! I must say that I have had cats for many years and had never heard of Feliway.
What is this magic potion? It is a feline pheromone (pronounced 'fair-eh-moen') that your cat emits when they rub their face against you, your furniture, protruding wall corners, curtains, etc. It is a signal that they are feeling safe and secure in their environment. We have all seen our cats rub their faces on us, on things. The Feliway directions describe their product as follows: "Feliway is a synthetic copy of that facial, calming pheromone. Studies have shown that this product reassures and comforts cats, helping them cope with environmental changes or other stressful situations."
It is important to know how to use the spray. Read the instructions carefully. NEVER spray directly on your cat. Shake the spray bottle and hold it 4 inches from the object to be sprayed. I spray it on their cat trees and anywhere they perch or sleep. I ALWAYS spray their carriers prior to any car trip. The area sprayed should be dry before putting the cat in the carrier. It takes about 15 minutes for the spray to dry. One day, I had to take Spirit to the vet for a semi-emergency. He yowled and was crazy all the way. I had never heard/seen him act like that. When I got to the vet, I realized that I had not taken the time to spray the carrier. Sorry, Spirit, so sorry.
This 4th of July was unusually challenging. Several folks in the neighborhood bought those loud cannon-like fireworks. They had been setting them off for several days prior to the 4th but it was constant on the 4th. When I called my sister to wish her a Happy 4th, I told her about the cats being so jittery and jumpy, particularly Gracee and Spirit. She said: "Use that what-ever-you-call that spray." OMG. How could I forget the Feliway spray? As soon as I got off the phone, I sprayed their cat trees and places where they sleep. The jittery, jumpy behavior faded even though the fireworks continued.
I have been fortunate in that none of the cat authors have sprayed (urine marking) nor do they scratch furniture. Training them to use the scratching posts near where they sleep helps. The Feliway directions indicate that the spray is effective for those problem behaviors also. Per Feliway, pheromones are what is called 'species-specific.' ADAPTIL is the dog pheromone. It affects only dogs and Feliway affects only cats. They can be used in the same house at the same time. Please note, I have no experience with ADAPTIL.
Veterinarians play such an important role in our lives. The internet, of course, is a good back-up resource. If your cat has a problem or is a problem, please don't give up. Keep looking, keep asking, keep googling. The answer might be right around the corner.