One of the most frustrating problems to deal with involving cats is the occasional territorial urine spraying. Comfort Zone, a diffuser for a "friendly pheromone," can greatly reduce or completely stop territorial spraying, along with other stress-related behavior.
This type of behavior often results in abandonment or surrendering the offending cat to a shelter.
In the mid-1990s, Farnam Companies, Inc., developed a new spray product, Feliway, which mimics the "friendly" facial pheromones cats apply to surfaces to show their "ownership." It is believed that cats will not mark with urine any area they have previously marked with their facial pheromones. Spraying a previously urine-marked surface with Feliway has proven to be greatly effective in discouraging urine spraying.
Subsequently, cat owners, veterinarians, and behavioral experts found that Feliway also helped relieve other stress-related symptoms, such as depression, loss of appetite, reduced activity, or withdrawal; and helped with a number of other stressful situations, including moving, multiple cat households, new pets, and visits by strangers.
In September of 2002, Farnam announced the development of a Feliway Plug-In, which is an electric diffuser, similar to those scented home fresheners that have become so popular.
The Feliway Plug-In is a timesaver because the original Feliway spray had to be reapplied twice-daily for 30 days for maximum effectiveness. With the Feliway Plug-In, all you need to do is attach the plug-in to the bottle, plug it in, and forget it. One vial lasts approximately four weeks, and refills are available at approximately half the cost of the complete unit.
One plug-in will accommodate a room of up to 650 square feet. The product is odorless to humans, so much so that I wasn't sure at first if it was "working." The only indication is that the plug-in becomes hot to the touch, as heat activates the diffusion process. (An indicator light would be nice.)
My three younger cats all exhibit occasional stress-related behaviors related to their background. Jaspurr and Joey were born to a household of multiple cats, dogs, and small children, and were only 6.5 weeks old when I adopted them (I had been awaiting them since they were four days old.) The women of the house said, "I want them out of here. They're running all over the house and driving me crazy."
Joey has at times always been somewhat withdrawn, fearful, or distrustful. Jaspurr, from early kittenhood, has practiced a habit of "nursing" his left front foot, while kneading and purring. Since this occurs only when he is in close proximity to a human companion, we assume this embarrassing habit (for us) is one of comfort, possibly driven by insecurity. Because of this we have made no real effort in the past to physically restrain him from his need to "nurse."
Billy was in a foster home environment with a number of cats of all ages, and spent several weeks in a cage each Saturday and Sunday during "adoption days," and was physically underdeveloped when we adopted him at five months. While he was the most outgoing and personable of the three, he still often exhibits distrust and fear with his human family.
With those challenges in mind, we were looking forward to testing the Farnam Feliway products.
Since we have experienced none of the territorial marking or undesirable scratching behavior, we knew up front our results would be less dramatic and more subjective.
The Test Results
With that last thought in mind, I installed the Feliway Plug-In in my home office, a room of approximately 192 square feet (smaller than the maximum, but with a sloping high vaulted ceiling).
The cats spend a large part of their daytime hours here, so it seemed a logical place for the test.
After a testing period of two weeks:
- Joey was noticeably more sociable. Although he still will sometimes "back off" when approached, he seems to want more interaction with his human family, and will often jump onto my lap when I am working at my computer, or join the rest of us on our bed for our "evening socialization."
- Jaspurr still practices his nursing behavior in our bed at night after "lights out. However, he frequently jumps on my lap during the day, and often chooses that time to bond with me instead of his usual "nursing" behavior.
- Billy is noticeably less fearful around his humans, and often voluntarily seeks us out.
Although Feliway is said to be harmless to humans, there have been a few scattered reports of asthma, including this review on Amazon.com. A few of my own forum members also reported asthma symptoms, although other members with asthma stated it didn't bother them. Although I initially did not notice exacerbation of my own asthma, on a later occasion, the Feliway did seem to bother me.
Because the test period only lasted two weeks instead of the full 30 days; only one room of the house was fitted with the Feliway Plug-In; and because of the subjective nature of this particular test, I am awarding this product a 4-Star rating.
Feliway Comfort Zone has been proven effective in alleviating undesirable urine marking and destructive scratching, and I would not hesitate to recommend it for any cat with stress-related behavioral problems, keeping in mind the potential for humans with severe asthma.