You may be considering a calming cat collar because your feline friend appears to be on edge. He or she may be scratching, hiding, fighting and urine marking, or simply feeling anxious in new situations. Whatever the problem, you can send a reassuring message and help to resolve the situation. But can they actually calm a scared cat? It's something we were keen to explore first hand.
Collars are often used to aid cats. Elizabethan collars help felines following an injury and you can buy the best flea collars for cats if you're worried they're going to become infested with parasites. But even if you have one of the calmest cat breeds and feel cat calming collars aren't necessary, they can be a great way for anyone looking at how to calm a cat. So let's find out more about them and how effective they can be.
How do cat calming collars work?
The most effective cat calming collars are those which contain pheromones – or, to be precise, synthetic reproductions of the calming, safe-marking pheromones released by cats. These odorless and colorless chemicals are usually produced naturally by a feline's body as a method of communication. Cats receive them via the vomeronasal organ (or Jacobson's organ as it's also known) which is located in the roof of their mouth.
When a cat collar comes into close contact with a feline's skin, it releases the artificial pheromones contained within it. These pheromones can be continuously emitted for up to 30 days, triggering a calm response within the cat. But that's not the full story. Cat calming collars can also contain herbs and essential oils, sometimes in combination with pheromones and sometimes without. Again, these are released when the collar is close to the skin, but whether or not they have the same calming effect is debatable.
Are calming cat collars safe for cats?
Pheromones are naturally produced by cats so you can rest assured that they are perfectly safe. There are no reported side effects of calming pheromones and because they are cat-specific, you don't need to worry about them causing harm to other pets such as dogs or yourself (although you should wash your hands after fitting the collar on your cat).
If there are any dangers, then they generally come from the collar itself. Some cats don't like wearing a collar and they may try to remove it which can cause stress in itself. But the bigger issue is that collars can get caught and choke a cat. You also run the risk of placing a collar too tightly around the neck. Simply leaving room for a couple of fingers should prevent that from happening (so long as they're not too loose).
How long should a cat wear a calming collar?
Many cat collars will release calming pheromones for 30 days so your feline can at least live with one around their neck for a month. You could give your cat a rest from a collar after this period of time and see if their behavior has changed. If they're still anxious, stressed or displaying destructive patterns then fit a fresh collar – the pheromones, remember, are mimicking nature so your cat won't come to harm. You can leave a collar on day and night, too.
We tested some leading calming cat collars - here’s what we found
Relaxivet Calming Collar
Best long term calming cat collar
Our feline reviewer, Nova, seemed to like the smell of this purple-colored collar. As soon as it came out of the packet, he began to sniff it and, despite not usually being a collar-wearer, he had no qualms trying it on for size.
This process was made simpler by the ease in fitting the collar. Although it felt a tad plasticky, it was just a matter of unfolding it, placing it around Nova's neck and fastening it using the buckle. In our case, we didn't need to remove any excess but this would be easily cut away.
So what's in it? Well, the box says it contains one percent pheromones and 99 percent “insert ingredients” which, further reading showed, include “essential oils of lavender and chamomile”.
It gave the collar a strong odor which transferred on to our hands (the advice is to wash them well afterwards). Our main concern was that it was not quick-releasing. We worried that, as a curious outdoor cat, Nova would get it caught on something.
As it happened, he didn't. And it did work. Whether it was due to the heat of Summer, he seemed rather chilled within a couple of hours and more willing to come up to us in the garden which he traditionally feels is his domain. He then fell asleep!
Weewooday 3 Pieces Cat Adjustable Calming Collar
Best affordable calming cat collar
The first thing we noticed when taking this cat calming collar out of its small tin was the overpowering odor. It wasn't unpleasant but some other purchasers have made a similar comment and it would appear that what smells fine for one, is rather horrid for another.
The aroma, as it turns out, is essential lavender oil which makes up 89 percent of the ingredients. A further 10 percent is chamomile and there's one percent pheromone – standard, it would seem, for many of these products.
That, however, appeared to make it effective and, once again, Nova seemed more relaxed and friendlier than normal. As with the other collars tested, it was also easy to fit. There are ridges which stop it from sliding off easily and Nova didn't seem to find the collar at all uncomfortable. It also appeared to work well which, given the inexpensive price of buying a set of three, made us consider this collar something of a bargain.
Once again, though, there is no quick release and that really does prey on our mind. For indoor cats, however, this would be much less of an issue.
SENTRY Calming Collar for Cats
Best safe calming cat collar
Contrary to the images on Amazon, our trio of collars came in a tin which impressed us from the start (we can be easily pleased at times). Each collar inside was also individually wrapped in paper and upon removing, emitted a pleasant smell. So far, so good.
Our main concern was that the packaging didn't list the ingredients and here's the thing! On the Amazon page, it lists the ingredients as being six percent pheromones and 94 percent “inert ingredients”. Yet someone has answered a question regarding the difference between the tin and the boxed product suggesting the former has two percent pheromones. Whatever the case, the tin needs to make the ingredients clear.
Still, at least the pheromone levels are higher in comparison to many other collars and the soft foamy feel to the collar reassured us that Nova would enjoy wearing it (and was indeed the case). Easy to fit but with no tab to tuck in any excess which means cutting it away, it's also designed to be quick release. That's a major plus in our book!
And did it work? Yes, but we didn't notice any major difference between this and the collars with a lower level of pheromones, we have to admit!
Do cat calming collars actually work?
Experience with calming collars containing pheromones would suggest that, yes, they do work but you may well find that they don't calm every cat. Much will depend on age: older cats which have ingrained behavior aren't going to suddenly change their personality or habits and you may find they still spray or show some signs of stress – more so if the triggers for their anxiety remain present. A cat calming collar should be used with general behavior modification training and not seen as an instant cure-all.
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David Crookes has been a journalist for more than 20 years and he has written for a host of magazines, newspapers, websites and books including World of Animals, BBC Earth, Dogs and Canines, Gadget and The Independent. Born in England, he lives in a household with two cats but he’s also keenly interested in the differences between the huge number of dog breeds — in fact, you can read many of his breed guides here on PetsRadar. With a lifelong passion for technology, too, he’s always on the lookout for useful devices that will allow people to spend more time with their pets.