Many owners of dogs and cats have experienced, or will experience, negative consequences of stress of their pet. It appears in a variety of ways: shivering, vocalisation, excessive licking, aggression, breaking furniture and objects, or urine marking. Dogs tend to show that they feel stressed, whereas cats are very sensitive to any changes in their environment and often cope with difficulties inwardly. In both cases, neglecting the problem of stress can worsen the condition of the animal. Therefore, it is worth making an effort to help the pet adapt and change its behaviour. However, you should remember that the owner is not left alone with the problem. There is a possibility to work with a behaviourist, or use aiding products available on the market that are composed of substances that have an effect on animal behaviour similar to pheromones.
Pheromones are complex mixtures of many different chemicals. The term ‘pheromone’ derives from Greek pherein, which means ‘to carry’, and horman, which means ‘to stimulate’. However, pheromones (which are released outside and are used mainly for communication, attraction, warning, etc.) should not be confused with hormones (which are produced by glands and are used to transmit information between organs)
Pheromones can be released by a human, animal or plant. The recipients of pheromones are usually members of the same species. Their function is to trigger a specific physiological or behavioural reaction. The “recipients” can sense them at minimal concentration and from a long distance, e.g. female pheromones of a bitch in heat. In terms of function, we have sedative pheromones, sex pheromones (attracting animals of the opposite sex), pheromones fighting against individuals of own or foreign species (antagonistic pheromones) and others. Some of them are responsible for warning communication, while others affect reproductive, territorial, social or maternity behaviour. Feline facial pheromones are a well-known example of sedative pheromones. They are released by cats when they rub their heads (chin, lips, whiskers and cheeks) against objects, furniture, the owner’s legs, etc. This way, the cat “leaves a message” that it feels good in a given environment. Another well-known example is the pheromone of lactating bitch. It is released by the tissues of the mammary gland and its main purpose is to calm the puppies during feeding. However, studies on pheromones show that this effect is also present in adult dogs.