Pheromones Could Improve Pet Relations

Pheromones could be the key to harmonious relations between pets living under the same roof, according to a group of animal behaviour scientists from the University of Lincoln in the United Kingdom.

Led by Professor Daniel Mills and Dr Miriam Prior, the research team investigated whether two popular pet pheromones – Feliway Friends (for cats) and Adaptil (for dogs) – would lead to a reduction in troublesome behavior between cats and dogs living in the same household. Apparently, they found just that. They even observed more friendly greetings between cat and dog. To the researcher’s surprise, it was the pheromone for dogs (Adaptil) that appeared to create the most potent effect in creating a harmonious household. This was somewhat unexpected, because it has long been thought that the cat plays a more important role in determining the relationship it has with the dog, rather than the other way around.

The pet owners involved in this new scientific trial reported weekly on the frequency of 10 specific undesirable interactions and seven specific desirable interactions between their cats and dogs. They were split into two groups; one group using Feliway Friends and the other using Adaptil, with the pheromones supplied in unlabelled packaging and randomly assigned by an independent staff member such that neither the participants nor the researchers knew which product was being trialled in each household until after the statistics had been collected.

The researchers were aware that in many households, the comfortability of the cat seems to have a stronger influence over the quality of the cat-dog relationship. It could therefore be seen as surprising that it was the product releasing dog pheromones which was seen to increase specific desirable interactions.

Miriam, a Lincoln-based vet who undertook the work as part of her postgraduate degree in Clinical Animal Behaviour at the University of Lincoln, said: “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 behaviour of the dog being the primary determinant of the cat’s quality of interaction with it.

The scientific study was published in Frontiers in Veterinary Science and reported on at Science Daily.

The love hormone Oyxtocin has also been shown to play a role in pet relations, both with each other and their human owners.