Feliway® is a common over-the-counter drug for cats to reduce urine marking, increase appetite, and alleviate stress.
A few years ago, a French veterinarian, Dr. Patrick Pageat, claimed to have extracted a “feline facial pheromone” from the oily secretions of cats’ cheek glands. The mass spectrometer peak he identified represented a fatty acid – oleic acid. Oleic acid exists in several fractions: The ones he thought most interesting were denoted F3 and F5. Feliway® is a commercial preparation containing the F3 fraction of oleic acid in alcohol (i.e. it is a tincture).
Feliway® is supposed to have biological activity that mimics natural facial pheromones. By face rubbing, cats are thought to deposit an olfactory signal indicating possession, affinity, and belonging. If Pageat is correct, oleic acid is the organic chemical substance that transmits this message.
Feliway® is marketed for the treatment of urine marking, but is reported to have other applications.
The weight of published evidence suggests that Feliway® is often effective for the treatment of urine-marking and will affect stressed cats’ behavior affirmatively in other ways, too. While many of the studies are rather small, a few are of reasonable size. While many of the studies are either uncontrolled or lack proper blinding, a few do incorporate blinded, placebo-controlled methodology. The level of success varies from study to study, the efficacy of Feliway® for the treatment of urine marking ranging from 33% – 97% in absolute success (cessation). The latter (most successful) result was produced from a study by Pageat himself. Where the endpoint of a study is merely reduction or elimination of urine-marking behavior, figures are even more favorable.
However, individual study results must be interpreted with caution, as simply studying a behavior like urine-marking can affect its expression. In one small double blind, placebo-controlled study of buspirone for the treatment of urine marking cats conducted at the University of California Veterinary School in Davis, 5 of 6 cats receiving placebo treatment with an inert base material for 2 weeks showed a significant reduction/cessation of urine-marking. Something the attending clinician insinuated or implied at the time of enrollment probably affected the way the cats behaved.
Studies of Feliway® purport that it has efficacy in behavioral situations other than urine marking, too. For example, Feliway has been reported to increase appetite and food consumption in hospitalized cats. In this study, though, it was also shown that adding a cat carrier to a hospitalized cat’s cage increased cats’ food intake. Feliway® has also been reported to make cats calmer prior to intravenous catheterization, but in this situation the calming effect of acepromazine eclipsed the more subtle positive effect of facial pheromones. Pageat himself has been involved in studies demonstating Feliway’s efficacy in calming cats being transported by car or being exposured to a novel environment. However, it would be more convincing to see these studies repeated by an independent investigator, as Pageat has a vested interest in the product and thus, wittingly or unwittingly, may be biased toward demonstrating its success.
As an over-the-counter product, it does not require licensure from the FDA.
Brand Names and Other Names of Feliway®
Feliway® is intended for use in cats only.
Human formulations: None
Veterinary formulations: Feliway® (Ceva Sante Nutrition Animale SA). Supplied by Veterinary Product Laboratories (VPL) in the USA
Uses of Feliway for Cats
Feliway® has been used to reduce or eliminate urine marking by cats and to improve the appetite of hospitalized cats. It has been recommended to alleviate stress in cats during transport and to calm cats prior to induction of anesthesia.
Feliway® may help cats adapt better to new environments.
Precautions and Side Effects
As Feliway® is solubilized in alcohol, it should not be spayed directly onto cats and care should be taken to avoid accidentally spraying it near cats’ or persons’ eyes.
There are no known drug interactions to be considered when using Feliway.
How Feliway® is Supplied
Feliway® is supplied in a 75 ml squirt bottle and a plug-in system that consists of an electrical plug-in unit and a 48 ml disposable repository that contains the active ingredient in solution.
Techniques of Application of Feliway for Cats
The normal technique for application of Feliway® is to depress the plunger on the Feliway bottle to deposit a fine mist-like spray on sites previously targeted for urine marking, and high profile, likely target sites in the environment. The process must be repeated daily for 1 to 2 months, until the problem has resolved.
It is also recommended that Feliway® be randomly sprayed on prominent objects in novel environments.
For hospitalized cats, Feliway® can be sprayed onto a soft cotton towel that is left in the cage with the cat to improve appetite/food consumption.
Cat carriers should be sprayed with Feliway® (8 squirts) one 30 minutes prior to placing the cat into the carrier.
Recently, Feliway® has become available as a “plug in” atomizer for dispersion of the pheromone throughout the environment.