Dealing with a stressed or anxious kitty is never a fun experience. It can feel hopeless when nothing you try seems to work to calm them down. If you’ve been doing research on different ways to try and calm an anxious cat, you may have heard of calming collars… but do calming collars for cats really work?
Calming collars do work with some cats, but not all. These commonly contain synthetic pheromones meant to mimic the ones released by cats in nature. Other types of collars work by using a mix of herbs and spices, or essential oils that are meant to having a calming effect.
My cat Charlie (who we unfortunately recently had to rehome) was a giant ball of nerves. Everything seemed to trigger stress and anxiety in that cat, no matter what I tried to do to make it better.
However before I made that difficult decision to rehome him, there was a strong effort to try whatever I could to make him calm and happy so he could stay.
One of the things I had heard about from the vet was a calming collar, so I decided to give it a try.
And while my efforts didn’t work out quite the way we had hoped, I did learn some things along the way that could be helpful to others who are struggling with anxiety in their cats.
How do cat calming collars work?
Calming collars are meant to calm distressed cats, and stop excessive scratching, meowing, and spraying. However, not all of them are equal and have varying levels of effectiveness.
They typically work by containing either:
- Synthetic pheromones
- Dried herbs, spices, and/or essential oils
Since collars vary in the active ingredients they contain, it’s important to research the product before you decide which collar to get.
Some brands, like the Scentry brand I used, have synthetic pheromones that are designed to replicate those released by a mother feline to her kittens. These pheromones make cats feel calm (theoretically). These are continuously released from the collar and last about a month before wearing out.
Other brands and many home-made versions (like ones you find on Etsy) use aromatherapy. These kind rely on natural herbs, essential oils, or spices to make cats feel at ease.
It’s common for these types to include things like lavender and chamomile, but they may contain a mix of many different types of ingredients so you’d need to be sure to read the specific product information to know if it’d be right for your cat.
Pheromone Calming Collars
But what are pheromones, exactly?
In order to understand how pheromone collars work, it’s important to know what pheromones are and just how they can influence cat’s behavior.
A pheromone is a secreted or excreted chemical factor that triggers a social response in members of the same species. Pheromones are chemicals capable of acting like hormones outside the body of the secreting individual, to impact the behavior of the receiving individuals.Source: wikipedia.org
So when a mother cat has kittens, she secretes a special pheromone that makes her kittens feel safe and calm. Pheromone collars mimic this natural cat secretion that is proven to influence a cat’s behavior.
Other calming products work by mimicking the pheromones secreted by cats when they rub their mouths up to the edges of objects (or people) to mark their territory.
It’s important to note that other animals are not effected by these pheromones, including dogs or humans.
For this reason, pheromone collars are more powerful than types that rely purely on dried herbs or oils.
Be cautious with calming collars that contain essential oils, especially lavender
You might want to consider avoiding any with essential oils. Advice is really mixed on the safety of essential oils for cats.
I’m definitely not an expert, but Pet Poison Helpline warns they can be harmful, as well as other professionals.
In addition, the use of lavender specifically, whether it’s in the form of essential oil or dried lavender, is also questionable. This is because lavender itself, when ingested, is toxic to cats.
Be wary about trying a homemade collar that hasn’t been regulated at all to meet any type of industry safety standards.
Something else to consider with collars that contain essential oils or any dried herbs is that they’re going to have strong scents. And considering they’ll be in extremely close proximity to your cat’s nose 24/7, it could be irritating to them. (And maybe you too!)
Overall, these types of collars do not receive strong reviews from users as most people complain they either don’t work at all or that the scent is just way too strong.
My experience with the Sentry brand collar (with pheromones)
I tested such as Sentry as they are more likely to be effective.
If you’re hesitant to put a collar on your cat, consider alternatives like diffusers, sprays, or possibly even anxiety meds.