Pheromones are volatile chemical signals which are widely used for animal communication. When emitted by one individual, pheromones are then detected by other individuals from the same species, and affect their behaviour.
The message released targets other individuals but is also a reminder for the emitting animal. For example, a cat rubbing its face on its environment indicates this is its territory to other cats, but also to him or herself for later on.
Different body structures secrete pheromones (which are different from hormones), associated to different functions, such as territorial pheromones, sexual pheromones, appeasing pheromones or alarm pheromones.
Diagram of cat pheromone producing areas.
1. Facial Area. 2. Foot Pads. 3. Mammary region. 4. Perianal area. 5. Supracaudal area. 6. Urogenital region.
Pheromones are detected by a specific organ located in the palate (the vomeronasal organ, VNO) through a specific “pumping” behavior (called “flehmen”) attracting the pheromones from the air into the VNO.
Picture of Vomeronasal structure and its connections to the cats brain.
In the VNO they activate some receptors, relaying information to the emotional brain, resulting into rapid behavioral and physiological change. These effects occur subconsciously, without any possible control by the target animal.
Feliway® is a chemical copy of one of the feline facial pheromones (F3) used by cats to mark their territory boundaries. A cat rubbing its face on its environment releases this pheromone.
This behaviour is performed by any cat (domestic cats but also big wild cats) everyday, and provides them with reassurance.
In a new environment, a cat will also automatically mark after some time, to make this place familiar and safe.
Cats also mark their territory with scratching and urine marking. When these behaviours occur inside the home, they usually indicate a cat feels stressed.
Observation of cats’ behaviour highlighted an antagonism between facial marking and scratching or urine spraying.
The above video of Professor Patrick Pageat explaining this first insight and how it lead to the invention of Feliway:
F3 has been found to antagonize marking behaviour in cats (scratching and urine marking) which are used to mark their territory, but also occur inside the home when a cat feels stressed.
Feliway® diffused in the proximity of a cat mimicks this natural facial pheromone, as a reassuring message. As a consequence, it helps prevent or control undesirable marking behaviour.
Feliway® comes from the analysis of multiple samples from the natural secretion from cats belonging to different breeds and different sex (male, female) and sexual status (entire, neutered or spayed).
Feliway® is the perfect copy of the native secretion identified to be common to all cats. It has been tested in numerous experimental and clinical conditions.