How Do Cat Diffusers Work? Best Calming Diffusers For Cats · The Wildest

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How Do Cat Diffusers Work?

Learn how you can get your chronically anxious cat to chill.

by Savannah Admire | expert review by Kristiina Wilson, MA, CCBC
January 9, 2024
Big Ginger Cat With Belly Up On Bed.
Laura Stolfi / Stocksy

We all experience stress or anxiety every now and then — and that’s true for our pets as well. Whether dealing with a move to a new place, a new roommate, or (heaven forbid) another pet in the house, your cat may experience anxiety after changes to their environment and life. But how can you keep their stress from becoming your stress?

If you’ve tried every solution you can think of (or Google) to help your cat embrace zen, it may be time to invest in a feline-calming diffuser. These handy devices are designed to help cats feel calm, collected, and at ease about the world around them. Think of it as aromatherapy for your kitty.

Here’s how these products can help de-stress your cat and make your home a little more pleasant for both of you. 

What are cat diffusers? 

A cat-calming pheromone diffuser is a device that releases artificial pheromones designed to soothe cats and help reduce stress. Devices that release synthetic pheromones, such as cat diffusers, are often a great way to deal with behavioral issues in cats (territorial aggression or marking outside the litter box). 

What are pheromones?

To understand how a cat-calming, plug-in diffuser works, you first need to understand what pheromones are and how they calm down cats. Pheromones are naturally occurring scent hormones that cats emit, sending messages of comfort. All animals (including humans) release pheromones, but cat pheromones only work on cats, and dog pheromones only work on dogs, etc. 

The scent of cat pheromones triggers an endocrine system response in cats, resulting in the release of soothing chemicals. So, when cats smell calming pheromones, they generally feel a sense of calm and peace like what they felt as kittens around their mother. 

How do cat diffusers work?

The synthetic chemicals in a cat anxiety diffuser are designed to mimic the pheromones that cats release naturally. The result is increased feelings of safety and security in any cats who smell the pheromones in their environment. Because the diffuser releases pheromones gradually, cats can continuously derive calming benefits from the device. 

“A classic diffuser sends out the pheromones that cats release when they rub their faces on you or furniture,” certified cat behavior consultant Kristiina Wilson says. “These pheromones are used for mapping out their territory and saying, ‘This is my home, this is safe; I’m comfortable here.’”

How do you use a cat diffuser?

Just like an electronic oil diffuser or air freshener, pheromone diffusers for cats are plugged into a standard electrical outlet. Then you insert a cartridge full of artificial pheromone oil. These cartridges contain synthetic chemicals designed to mimic a cat’s naturally occurring pheromones, which are known to help cats feel calm and relaxed. The diffuser heats up the oil until it evaporates, gradually spreading the aroma throughout your home and releasing pheromones into the air.

What benefits do cat diffusers offer?

There are benefits of cat diffusers for both single-cat homes and multi-cat households. Releasing pheromones into your home environment can help reassure anxious or stressed cats, whether they deal with anxiety regularly or are experiencing stress from a change in their situation, like a new pet or family member or a move to a new home. 

For homes with multiple cats, the pheromones released by a cat diffuser can help reduce feelings of aggression between cats and promote calm among the cats in a household. A multi-cat calming diffuser can be just the thing to reduce fighting and help every cat in your house calmly co-exist. 

“A multi-cat pheromone diffuser releases the synthetic version of the pheromone that nursing mothers release when caring for their kittens,” Wilson says. “This type of diffuser is great to use if you’re introducing a new cat into the family or dealing with aggression problems.” 

How do I choose a cat diffuser? 

When choosing a cat diffuser for your home, it’s essential to look for a product with chemicals that contain only 100 percent pet-safe ingredients. It’s also always a good idea to read reviews online from other pet parents about a diffuser’s ease of use and to choose a product with refill cartridges that are easy to find and purchase. 

“I always recommend choosing a diffuser that does actually have science behind it,” Wilson says. “One that’s backed by peer-reviewed papers and research so you can make sure that you’re using a good synthetic formula that’s been tried and tested.” 

If you have any questions about cat diffusers or want recommendations for the best product to use in your home, reach out to your veterinarian or a certified cat behaviorist. 

What are the types of cat diffusers?

There are two main types of cat diffuser pheromone blends which are used to reduce stress in cats: a calming pheromone blend and a multi-cat pheromone blend. 

A calming blend imitates a cat’s natural facial pheromones that are released when a cat rubs their face against a human, another cat, or an object. This blend works well for households with just one cat. This pheromone blend can help reduce unwanted behaviors related to stress or anxiety, such as excessive grooming, restlessness, and urinating outside the litter box.

Multi-cat pheromone blends are created to replicate the pheromones that a mother cat releases to comfort and soothe her kittens. This blend can help cats feel more comfortable around other cats and can often reduce fighting or bullying in households with multiple cats.

Where should I place the diffuser in my home? 

Any cat diffuser you buy will have recommendations for a certain maximum square footage, so be sure to review the owner’s manual to know how effective your diffuser will be in your home. If you have a larger space, you may want to purchase multiple diffusers, but choosing the right location in your house is also important. 

The diffuser will work best if you place it in an area where your cat often spends time or exhibits unwanted behaviors, such as scratching furniture or marking. Make sure to monitor the diffuser to determine when it needs to be refilled and always have refill cartridges on hand to make sure your cat doesn’t go without their calming aromatherapy. 

What are the side effects of a cat diffuser? 

Cat diffusers are generally considered safe to use in any home, but it’s always a good idea to monitor your cat for any negative reactions to a new product. Cat diffuser side effects vary depending on the feline. Some cats may not act any differently (just as catnip has no impact on some cats), while others may interpret the scent of pheromones as a threat to their territory, leading to marking on the area around the diffuser — or the diffuser itself. 

In some cases, continuous exposure to pheromones can lead cats to groom more frequently or eat more. Excessive grooming can lead to hairballs, but you can avoid this by regularly grooming your cat. Similarly, while there are health concerns with overeating, establishing designated meal times and monitoring your cat’s food intake can help you avoid these issues as well. 

Wilson notes that pet parents should be careful with any electronics with a heating element and keep the unit clean to avoid the potential for accidental fires. But in her extensive experience with cat pheromone diffusers, Wilson has never run into any issues with the device; however, she urges cat parents to keep in mind that a diffuser won’t solve all their cat’s behavioral issues.

“A diffuser is only one part of the puzzle. It’s great to have, and I always recommend them to clients, but any behavioral issue is complex and requires multiple pieces to solve.” 

FAQs (People also ask):

How long do cat diffusers last? 

Cat diffuser refills generally last up to 30 days. If you use the diffuser continuously, it will need to be replaced every six months.  

Can I use multiple cat diffusers in different rooms?

If your home or apartment is larger than the recommended square footage covered by the diffuser, you may need additional diffusers throughout your home to more evenly distribute pheromones. Multiple diffusers may also be useful if you have several cats who move throughout different parts of the home.


Savannah Admire

Savannah Admire is a writer, editor, and pet parent to two dogs and a cat. When she’s not writing, you can find her reading, playing Animal Crossing, or being an obnoxious nerd about her favorite movies and TV shows. She lives in Maryland, where she constantly debates whether or not to get a third dog.

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