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There is no question that cats are extremely odor-sensitive animals. A domestic cat’s sense of smell is reportedly 14 times stronger than that of a human. Cats communicate with each other, gain some of their sense of direction, judge food and more via smell and certain other senses.
While I cannot comment on all sprays for cats, there is some evidence that synthetic feline facial pheromones, found in certain sprays, can benefit cats. For example, a 2004 pilot study conducted at the University of Edinburgh Hospital for Small Animals found that sprays with these compounds did reduce “negative behavioral traits” in cats, which resulted in “less aggression and fear.”
Certain veterinarians and other animal experts support the use of these pheromones in sprays. For example, I recently spoke with Dr. Jane Brunt, a veterinarian who is also the executive director of the CATalyst Council Inc., about how to make cat carriers more feline friendly. “Some cats respond well to use of a feline facial pheromone, an odorless scent hormone that most veterinarians carry,” she said. In this case, she advised spritzing the spray on the cat carrier or on the inside bedding.
Per the Edinburgh study, the smell is thought to be comforting to cats. It is likely related to the chemicals your cat transfers when it butts you with the side of its face. You might also see your cat “marking” favorite toys, wall corners, and other areas with these compounds.
I would suggest checking with your veterinarian first, as opinions differ on the matter. Your vet, as Brunt suggests, may even carry a supply of the pheromone-containing spray. You can also buy such sprays (a popular brand is Feliway) at your local pet store and online.