For many years I’ve had multiple cats, as many as nine at one time. Over the last four years I’ve had six whittled down to two as disease (kidney, thyroid, lymphoma) took the other four.
Stanley and Sally have been going through a rather difficult patch lately, what with Stanley expanding his territory now that he no longer has to defer to higher-status males Peanut and then Schooner; he’s decided the entire townhouse condo is HIS. He and Sally never got along well, what with her hissing and whapping at him when he arrived as a kitten (she doesn’t like other cats but would generally just leave everyone alone) and him growing up to enjoy a fun bit of bullying any available target now and then. She’s thirteen, he’s seven now.
The degree of difficulty between them has waxed and waned over the years, at one point requiring Sally to live in her own separate part of the condo, but it was live and let live mostly till the tribe whittled down to two. In recent weeks it got decidedly bad: Frequent menacing staring, followed by sudden attacks and chases. A couple of times recently Stanley actually worked himself up to bottled tail.
Poor Sally would bolt to the bedroom and fling herself into the closet (I always keep the sliding doors open just wide enough for her to dart inside). There’d ensue some wild whapping at the gap (Stanley at least never followed her in) before Himself would swagger off to the bed where he could keep an eye on her escape route and block it. She wanted to come sleep with me at night but if Stanley came upstairs and caught her at it havoc ensued; I’d jolt awake to a frantic flight and pursuit across my body, the WHAM of Sally slamming through the gap, and the door shuddering at the final whapfest.
Sally used to spend most of her days in my upstairs home office, only rarely needing to flee to the closet, but since Schooner’s passing, she liked to hang out in the living room on a pillow atop a table across from my recliner, while Stanley would lie on the recliner top behind my head, or nap upstairs on the bed. Stanley in recent days has taken over my office when I’m in it, and his growing aggression forced Sally to abandon her living room napping spot, to the point she was coming downstairs only to eat and use the litter box before retreating back to her safe place. Not good!
I took each cat separately to the vet for checkups and for any help I could get – not only for Stan’s aggressiveness but for Sally’s distress. She’s an intense little thing anyway and the fur is thinning around her eyes, quite possibly from stress. We decided to try some kitty Prozac for both cats, compounded in the same liquid carrier I’d used so successfully for previous cats’ thyroid and steroid meds. Better living through chemistry! So my local pharmacy whomped up a batch and I tried it with their favorite gushy tuna.
It did not go well. It in fact did not go at all. Neither one would touch the poisoned food. Nope, nope, nope, never mind trying to hide 0.2 ml of poison in 3 ounces of gushy tuna; can’t fool those keen senses!
So I fell back on an alternative the vet had suggested: Better living through chemistry 2.0, that is, calming pheromone diffusers.
Now, I had tried those a few years previously, both the Ceva Feliway and the Comfort Zone knockoff, without a lot of luck, although calming Peanut’s sudden rage attacks turned out to require thyroid meds. The bigger deterrent, for me, was that the diffusers would overheat and start giving off a disturbing burning smell, to the point that I unplugged and chucked them. My vet thought that problem had been solved a few years ago, but Amazon reviews from as recently as 2017 still complained about that.
But some searching turned up an alternative: ThunderEase, from the makers of the ThunderShirt. The Amazon reviews were mostly positive as far as results, there was very little comment about any burning smell, and it appeared that after a couple of days’ use whatever whiff there was went away. So in desperation I decided to try one.
It’s been about a week, week and a half since I plugged in the first diffuser. In the first couple of days there was indeed a faint hint, off and on, of… not burning per se, more of a heating aroma, but it went away. Initially I unplugged it whenever I was out or asleep, but now I leave it plugged in all the time. And how did it work?
It worked. The two aren’t buddies, never will be, and Stanley still has moments of thinking about being a jerk, but the tension level has ratcheted way down. Sally gradually started spending more time outside her refuge and is now back to napping on her living room pillow where she can gaze out the slider at the birds and squirrels having at the bird feeders. I bought a second diffuser so that I can keep one plugged in all the time on both the first and second floors. The second one barely whiffed for even a day.
The diffuser kits and refills aren’t any cheaper than Feliway or Comfort Zone, and they ain’t cheap, but the restoration of peace in the household is priceless. Hopefully they’ll go on working!