What are Pheromones?
Pheromones are naturally occurring chemicals that animals secrete which influence social behavior among other members of the same species. Though they occur in nature across a wide variety of species, including humans, it is not an uncommon practice to harvest pheromones and use them to create useful products to help control the behavior of your pet.
Pheromones have a wide variety of purposes, as there are a wide variety of pheromones that animals secrete. They are effective in low concentrations and have been adapted to work with various application methods. Pheromones work via the olfactory system (the smell related organs) which triggers a response by the endocrine system (the chemical dispense system analogous to a slower nervous system) and informs it that it should release certain chemicals. These chemicals then trigger a direct mood change in animals.
Different types of pheromones
Though a wide variety of pheromones exist including aggregation, alarm, epideictic, releaser, signal, primer, territorial, trail, information, sex and more- only a select few are used in pet care products. These are some of the most popular pheromones that pet owners and breeders might be interested:
Alarm - In order to warn other members of their species of a dangerous situation, when an animal is stressed or frightened they emit alarm pheromones. Scientists believe that these pheromones are detected by the Greuneberg ganglion, an olfactory subsystem composed of neurons and glial cells. Once the alarm pheromone is detected an animal will become aware of nearby danger which triggers a frightened response. These pheromones can also trigger a fight or flight response.
Information - When dogs smell one another they are actually detecting information pheromones. These pheromones can reveal such data to a dog as what another member of their species has last eaten, how healthy they are, if they are dominant, and whether or not they are in heat.
Signal - A wide variety of pheromones that trigger short-term changes. This can range from affecting certain sexual behavior during copulation to enticing and attracting mates.
Sex - Sexual pheromones share characteristics with signal characteristics in that they are emitted to attract mates and affect sexual behavior. These pheromones can also convey information about an individual genotype to allow mates to optimize the way they pair off to find an advantageous match.
Primer - These can affect developmental behavior which is a unique characteristic to primer pheromones. These pheromones can cause an animal to mature faster and can also cause attraction between other animals of the same species.
Releaser - Released when an animal is marking territory, these pheromones are intended to elicit a particular behavior from another member of the species. These pheromones might be released by a mother to induce a nursing session.
Territorial - Territorial pheromones, as their name imply, are used to mark an animal's territory. Though there is some overlap between territorial pheromones and releaser pheromones, territorial pheromones are those that cats and dogs use when setting the perimeter for their claimed territory through urination.
Uses for Pet and Animal Control:
• Prepare males or females for mating with signal, sex or primer pheromones
• Negative reinforcement in the home when paired with undesired behavior with alarm pheromones
• Produce a calming effect when pets are in an unfamiliar or stressful situation with Territorial or Information pheromones
• Prevent Territorial marking and urination by using releaser pheromones to coax a pet
• Trap pests away from pets and people by luring insects with sex pheromones
• Determine which animals are in estrous and ready for breeding
Application and Usage Information
As previously stated, pheromones are highly effective at low concentrations and so there are a variety of products that utilize these pheromones in diluted forms. Pheromones can be dispersed throughout the air, applied directly to an animal or sprayed on a particular area or object depending on the pheromone and its desired effect. Dosages and application vary from pheromones to pheromone and from product to product.
Examples of Products that Use Pheromones:
Adaptil - Adaptil uses what the industry refers to as “dog appeasing pheromones” and “cat appeasing pheromones” to calm pets in stressful or unfamiliar environments. A majority of the products utilize a diffuser which can be plugged in the wall to release the pheromones into the air and relax pets. Adaptil also makes collars with the same pheromones to calm dogs during travel.
Sentry - Sentry offers similar products that utilize the same types of pheromones. Both brands are intended to reduce anxiety and stress and can be used across any breed within the species. Sentry diffusers last up to 30 days. Sentry also offers products that punish bad behavior with pheromones that distract dogs and cause them to associate undesirable behaviors with an unpleasant visceral reaction.
Feliway - Feliway offers a variety of products that utilize different pheromones to different ends. In addition to utilizing calming pheromones, the Feliway brand also makes products intend to replace territorial facial pheromones to prevent cats from marking their territory. In addition to diffusers, Feliway also offers sprays to directly apply to any particular area.
NatureCalm/NurtureCalm - NatureCalm and NurtureCalm are species specific brands that offer pheromone infused collars to reduce anxiety and modify behavior. NatureCalm is made specifically for dogs and NurtureCalm is made specifically for cats.