Can Cats Overdose on Pheromones? The Truth About Using Feline Pheromones

What are pheromones?

Pheromones are chemicals released by animals that trigger reactions in other members of the same species. Cats use pheromones to communicate information about territory, reproduction, and more[1]. There are several types of feline pheromones:

  • Facial pheromones – Cats release pheromones when they rub their heads on objects or other cats. These facial pheromones convey identity, status, mood, and more.
  • Urine/feces pheromones – Cats’ urine and feces contain pheromones that mark territory.
  • Mammary pheromones – Nursing mother cats secrete pheromones around their nipples to reassure kittens.
  • Interdigital pheromones – Cats also have sweat glands between their paw pads that release pheromones when scratched or kneaded.

These pheromones influence cats’ behaviors and relationships. Products containing synthetic feline pheromones are often used to help with anxiety, aggression, and other issues in domestic cats.


Do pheromones affect cat behavior?

Pheromones have a significant effect on cat behavior. Some of the key areas that cat pheromones influence include:

Territoriality – Cats deposit pheromones to mark their territory and feel more secure in their environment. The pheromones provide information about the cat’s identity and social status to other cats. Feliway pheromone products can help reduce territorial marking in multi-cat homes by promoting a feeling of familiarity.

Mating – When a female cat is in heat, she releases pheromones that communicate her readiness to mate and attract potential mates. Male cats can detect these sexual pheromones from a distance. Synthetic pheromones are sometimes used to help control mating behaviors in cats.

Mood – Pheromones play a role in regulating cat emotions and reducing anxiety. Products like Feliway contain synthetic pheromone analogues that mimic feline facial pheromones and create a sense of comfort and security for cats.

According to Feline Pheromones: The Science Behind Them, synthetic pheromones aren’t magic solutions but can be helpful tools alongside other behavior management techniques. While pheromones won’t necessarily alter a cat’s underlying personality, they may positively influence a cat’s mood and actions in specific scenarios like introducing a new cat or comforting cats in stressful situations.

Can overexposure to pheromones harm cats?

Synthetic pheromones like Feliway or Comfort Zone, when used improperly or in excess, may cause some adverse effects in cats. According to a 2018 study published in The Veterinary Journal, overexposure to synthetic feline pheromones can potentially lead to nose and eye irritation. The pheromones are designed to mimic natural calming chemicals, but in very high concentrations, they may overwhelm a cat’s senses.

However, a cat’s natural pheromones, spread through glands on their skin, face, and paws, are unlikely to cause issues, even in large amounts. These naturally occurring pheromones help provide information on a cat’s mood, sexual status, and identity. While heavy concentrations in a small space may cause mild irritation, natural pheromones are part of a cat’s regular biology and environment.

In summary, synthetic pheromones should be used carefully and as directed, while natural pheromones are generally harmless at any concentration.

Signs of Pheromone Overexposure

There are a few key signs that a cat may be experiencing overexposure to pheromones. These include:

Respiratory Irritation – One of the most common signs is respiratory issues like sneezing, wheezing, coughing, etc. Too much pheromone exposure can irritate a cat’s nasal passages and airways, leading to these symptoms. According to one study, stress-associated sneezing decreased in cats exposed to a synthetic pheromone compared to cats not exposed (

Agitation and Hiding – Overexposure to pheromones can also make some cats feel anxious or stressed. You may notice increased hiding, avoidance of social interaction, irritability, or other signs of agitation. The cat may lose interest in play and appetite may decrease as well.

Excessive Scent Marking – Cats use pheromones to scent mark surfaces. Too much synthetic pheromone exposure can trigger a cat to over-mark with urine, feces, or facial rubs. They may try to cover up the overwhelming pheromones with their own natural scents.

When pheromones may be overused

One of the main ways that cats can be overexposed to synthetic pheromones is through improper use of pheromone diffusers or sprays. Many pheromone products are intended for a certain room size or coverage area. If too many diffusers or excessive sprays are used in a small space, it can create an artificially high concentration of pheromones.

For example, the popular Feliway diffuser is designed to cover up to 700 square feet, while the Feliway Optimum diffuser covers up to 950 square feet [1]. Using multiple diffusers to cover a small apartment may oversaturate the environment. Additionally, the diffusers are intended for continuous, long-term use and are not meant to be sprayed directly on cats.

Similarly, pheromone sprays like Feliway and Comfort Zone are made for temporary, targeted use such as spraying bedding or carrier interiors. Using too much spray in a confined area can also lead to overexposure. Always follow the product guidelines for proper usage and coverage.

Precautions when using pheromones

When using pheromones, it’s important to take some basic precautions to ensure the safety and well-being of your cat. Here are some tips:

Follow product label directions closely. Products like Feliway and Comfort Zone have specific instructions for proper use and dosage. Going above the recommended amount could lead to overexposure. Stick to what the manufacturer suggests.

Monitor your cat’s response and adjust as needed. Observe how your cat reacts over the first few days and weeks. If you notice signs of sensitivity like agitation or avoiding treated areas, discontinue use and talk to your vet.

Use common sense with pheromone quantity and coverage. While the products are generally safe when used as directed, you don’t need to saturate your home. Strategically treat problem areas, cat beds, carriers, etc. Avoid excessive ambient use.

As with any product, it’s wise to take basic precautions. However, studies have shown cat pheromones to be safe when label directions are followed (source). If in doubt, consult your veterinarian.

Alternatives to pheromones for behavior issues

There are other options besides pheromones that can help address unwanted cat behaviors. Focusing on environmental enrichment, medications when prescribed by a vet, and training techniques are some alternatives to explore.

Environmental enrichment involves providing stimuli and activities that engage your cat’s natural behaviors. Adding cat trees, scratching posts, puzzle toys and rotating novel toys can provide mental and physical stimulation. Having consistent daily playtime, allowing access to windows with bird feeders outside, and creating puzzle feeders can also help prevent boredom and inappropriate behaviors ( Keeping to a predictable routine is also important for many cats.

Medications may be prescribed by your vet in certain cases, such as for situational anxiety. Medications can include supplements, anti-anxiety medication or synthetic pheromones. These should only be given under the guidance of your vet, as inappropriate use can be dangerous (

Training techniques like positive reinforcement and creating rewards for desirable behavior can also help curb problematic cat conduct. Working with a professional trainer or behaviorist certified in feline behavior modification may be needed for ongoing issues.

When to seek veterinary advice

If your cat has a severe or prolonged reaction to pheromones, it’s important to seek veterinary advice. Signs like excessive drooling, dilated pupils, racing heart, trembling, or lethargy after pheromone use may indicate an overexposure. Your vet can help determine if your cat has become overly sensitive and recommend treatment options.

You should also make an appointment if your cat exhibits other concerning medical issues like abnormal litter box behavior, repeated vomiting, overwhelming fatigue, or dragging of the back legs. These could be signs of an underlying health condition requiring veterinary attention.

Additionally, if your cat’s behavior problems like anxiety or aggression persist despite correct pheromone use, your vet may be able to provide additional guidance. They can rule out medical causes and advise on behavioral modification techniques, medications, or stress reduction strategies.

While pheromones are generally safe, it’s important to monitor your cat closely and seek veterinary advice if reactions occur or if behavior issues don’t improve. Your vet can help get your cat relief and back to their happy, healthy self.

Steps for pheromone sensitivity

If you suspect your cat is having an adverse reaction to pheromones, the first step is to discontinue any pheromone products. Stop using diffusers, sprays, or collars containing synthetic pheromones. Thoroughly clean any areas or items that were treated with pheromones to remove residual traces. Wash bedding, vacuum floors, and air out the space.

After discontinuing pheromone use, closely monitor your cat for improvement in symptoms. Signs like respiratory distress, lethargy, loss of appetite, or skin irritation should subside within a day or two. If symptoms persist or worsen, contact your veterinarian right away for an exam. Your vet can provide tips for relieving discomfort and rule out any underlying illness.

In rare cases, a true allergy to synthetic pheromones may develop after prolonged exposure. If your cat has a pheromone sensitivity, avoid using those products in the future. Instead, discuss natural stress relievers with your vet, like treats, toys, catnip, or CBD oils. With a few adjustments, you can find the right calming aids for your cat’s needs.

The takeaway

In summary, pheromones are chemical signals that can influence cat behavior and are generally considered safe when used appropriately. While unlikely, overexposure is possible and can cause signs like agitation or avoidance. To prevent issues, follow product guidelines for proper usage, avoid excessive environmental diffusion, and monitor your cat’s response. Consult your veterinarian if behavioral problems persist despite correct pheromone use. When applied judiciously, pheromones remain an excellent tool for supporting feline welfare.

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