My Pet World: Man’s Cat Marks the Spot. Will a pheromone collar work?


Photo by Mali Maeder

By Cathy M. Rosenthal
Tribune Content Agency

Dear Cathy,

I have a comment about the pheromone collars you often mention for cats. I have four cats. One of the cats would occasionally mark a spot on the rug near our couch; I don’t know why. After cleaning it up too many times, I decided to try a pheromone collar. The good news is it works. It’s been three months and no more marking. The bad news is the collars will not stay on. At least twice a day, I have to readjust the collar before it falls off or hunt it down in the house because it’s already fallen off. I gave these collars a 2-star review on Amazon because of this and will look for different brands to try. But they work. — Bill, Gloucester, Virginia

Dear Bill,

If your cat has stopped marking, but you want to keep using the pheromones, you could switch to a plug-in pheromone for the house or a spray-on pheromone that you could use on your cat or on objects around the house. The cost is about the same each month, and you should only need to use one of these methods to continue this success.

Dear Cathy,

We adopted a six-month-old dog from a local dog rescue in August. She is sweet and well-behaved. She is very playful, and we want to get another dog. I work from home and feel our home can accommodate another dog. We went back to the rescue where we got her, and they told us we could not adopt another female dog. I’ve never heard of not having two female dogs in a home together. What are your thoughts? — Nancy, Las Vegas, Nevada

Dear Nancy,

Some rescue groups are cautious about adopting two dogs of the same sex into the same home. The concern is that dogs of the same sex, especially if they are close in age, will fight for territory and resources. They may do that; and they may not. Many homes have multiple female dogs and multiple male dogs who get along just fine. It just depends on the dogs’ personalities.

Most animal shelters don’t have these rules. Instead, they conduct meet and greets to ensure dogs are well-paired regardless of their sex. (They can usually spot potential aggression problems.) It also can help to space out the ages of the dogs so a younger dog, like a puppy, won’t threaten an older dog’s alpha status. While I wouldn’t adopt puppies from the same litter regardless of sex, I wouldn’t hesitate to have two female dogs in the house, so long as they are both fixed. Go for it.

Dear Cathy,

Seven months ago, I adopted a mixed four-year-old part Pekingese/Chihuahua. He is a loving dog but has a major problem. When I try to put him on a leash, he screams like someone is beating him. He walks well beside me on the sidewalk and doesn’t like other dogs or people. I need to get him on a leash because we have leash laws in our county. Walking loose is not an option even though he does it well. Do you have any suggestions? — Pat, Ellicott City, Maryland

Dear Pat,

Try this. Put the leash on him in the house (where people can’t hear his reaction), toss some high-value treats onto the floor, and walk away. Give him one to two minutes to see if he stops fussing. If he stops and eats the treats, then leave the leash on him for a while before taking it off. You can leave it on him all day, as long as you are home to monitor him. Do this several times a day, building up the time the leash is on him. Over time, he should realize that the leash is not a bad thing and that he can still do the normal things he likes to do with it attached to his collar, especially if there are yummy treats involved.

When you feel he is used to the leash, toss some treats to the floor again, grab the leash, and walk outside with him. Feed him more treats as you do, so he is focused on the food and not paying attention to who’s holding his leash.

If this doesn’t work, try a harness since the leash attaches to his back and not his neck. Follow the same directions as above so he can get used to it being attached to him.

Let me know if these things work or if we need to come up with a new strategy.

Dear Cathy,

It seems like the majority of your columns that have to do with cats and their behavior issues always begin with the suggestion of using cat pheromone collars and diffusers to help mitigate behavior problems. If cat pheromone products worked that well, you would likely see a noticeable decrease in readers asking for cat behavior advice.

I have tried all of the cat pheromone products to no avail and what readers should know is they can be costly, involve a daily and monthly commitment for use, and may give pet owners unrealistic expectations of helping change an animal’s behavior.

I think these products should be used as a last resort and instead of suggesting them at the beginning of your columns, you should save them for the end with the disclaimer “pet owners should do their own product research after consulting with their veterinarian.” — Amy, Appleton, Wisconsin

Dear Amy,

I always recommend using pheromones in conjunction with the training, desensitization, or behavior modification advice given; never just on their own. Pheromones do not solve behavior problems, but they may induce a sense of well-being and safety for the animal, which can help them adapt better to change and respond more quickly to training.

While no product ever works the same way for every animal, I have seen positive results with its use and know many veterinarians (including my own) who recommend and even use these products in their practices, which is why I recommend them. I assume this advice is helpful to some pet owners since I receive letters from them telling me they implemented the recommendations, and they’ve had positive outcomes for their pets.

As for the cost, a pheromone collar is about $30. The other pheromone-related products are similar in cost. This outlay is not meant to be ongoing. I recommend using pheromones while retraining an animal (30 to 90 days) or when there are changes happening in the home.

Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal.