Many times, bringing a new pet home when another pet was already accommodated beforehand is an invitation for trouble. This is more so true when cats and dogs are forced to interact in the household. A new study, however, suggests that pet owners can broker peace between felines and canines by employing calming pheromones.
In the UK, 7% of households own both cats and dogs. According to Daniel Mills, an animal behavior scientist at the University of Lincoln in the UK, the inherent tension between cats and dogs can potentially cause lots of stress to both pets on a day-to-day basis.
"Many cat and dog owners report that their animals are comfortable in each other's company, but where this isn't the case, a poor relationship between a resident cat and dog can have serious consequences for the welfare of individual animals. There may be an unacceptable level of social stress or restricted access to key resources such as food, water or suitable toilet areas. There will also be increased stress for the remainder of the family (both human and animal), and potential risks of injury due to conflict," the researcher said in a statement.
Mills and colleagues are the first to explore the use of pheromones in order to improve the relationship between two species living in the same household.
Over six weeks, the researchers placed Feliway Friends, a pheromone with soothing effect for cats, and Adaptil, another pheromone that calms dogs, inside households where both cats and dogs interacted.
Both products significantly decreased the number of conflicts and other undesirable interactions between the two species. Examples of such interactions include the dog chasing the cat, cat hiding from the dog, or the dog and cat engaging in a staring match. In fact, Adaptil led to an increase in the number of desirable interactions, such as friendly greetings between cats and dogs or relaxing time spent together in the same room.
According to the researchers, unsolvable conflict between dogs and cats living in the same household is one of the main reasons why pets are taken to shelters for rehoming.
The most surprising part of the study was that the dog pheromones led to the most increase in desirable interactions. Capricious felines, whose comfortability is known to have a stronger influence on the quality of cat-dog interactions, had a less sensitive response to the calming pheromones than dogs.
"While it might be expected that Feliway Friends would be more effective in multi-species homes given the apparently stronger contribution of the cat's comfortability to the quality of the cat-dog relationship, this did not appear to be the case. Our results might be explained by the behavior of the dog being the primary determinant of the cat's quality of interaction with it," said Dr. Miriam Prior, co-author of the study.
"We would like to investigate this further to really tease out the effects of these pheromone products individually and also to investigate their use in combination with each other. We suggest that Adaptil may have had such a beneficial effect because a more relaxed dog may be less likely to disturb the cat (e.g. by chasing it), resulting in a cat that is less stressed and more willing to form some form of social bond with the dog."
The findings appeared in the journal Frontiers in Veterinary Science.