Cat Wars -- A Solution At Last?

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!

Sounds like a win to me. Too bad the price is so high.

The best price for a diffuser plus two bottles (60-day supply) I found was on Amazon; I linked to the makers’ website in the main story so folks could dig into what else the company offers.

I’ve been considering getting that for my pair of Siamese. They are sibs and never fight but they are about as high strung as you can get. Everything that happens in the house is a reason for bad behaviour to them. Hiding, howling and causing general chaos. Some days are peaceful. But it seems more and more I’m adjusting things I do so as to not disturb their highnesses. I wondering when they’re gonna kick me out in the cold.:wink: Any day now!

It looks like they make a spray, too. Still kind of pricey, but might be worth it for a trial. The cat we adopted this summer is an animal.

Keep us updated if they continue to work. My experience with Feliway- and my friend’s experience- is that it works well at first, and then the cats get used to it and go back to their normal behavior. It would be nice if there was a product that was good long-term.

We have such similar stories! We went down from seven to two due to various cat illnesses. My dumb male can be a jerk to my little female, so we tried the ThunderEase diffusers about a year ago. The various refills I’ve gotten have worked fine with no indications of burning, although some last longer than others which is odd.

I do also use a Sergeant’s Sentry calming collar on my jerk, however, which you may want to keep in mind if you start to have trouble again. They last for about three weeks, but I’ve found half a collar works very well. They don’t have breakaway releases (stupid) so I zip tie a half to a regular breakaway collar, then cover it by winding ribbon around it.

My nervous female is quite a bit calmer with just the diffuser, however. If I haven’t caught it soon enough, I can tell when it’s empty by her behavior.

This is the best price I’ve found on the diffusers.

Amazon used to have better prices on the collars. I used to pay $11.00 for a three-pack! Now it’s about $30 for a three-pack:

Sentry Calming Collar

ETA: My avatar is the jerk, Harley. Fortunately, he has other very redeeming qualities, although my little girl kitty (Twig) would disagree!

Ooh. I like the idea of the collars. I may try those first. If I get the 2 holier-than-thou ones to agree. They’re looking at me now with derision. They know when I type about them. How is that possible?

I did try the Sentry calming collar on Peanut when he was going into his sudden rages, but of course since they arose from his hyperthyroidism the collar did no good. It was a while ago, so my memory isn’t great, but I seem to recall I tried putting a collar on Stanley and he lost his frikkin mind over it, so bad I had to chase him down, pin him down, and yank it off him (I always put collars on cats loosely so they’ll come off if they get snagged on something).

It’s still much better today than pre-diffusers. Things do get a bit more intense as mealtimes get close, but it’s a definite improvement. Fingers crossed this state continues! I have an old bottle of Feliway spray, has an expiration date of a couple of years ago, so I dunno if it would do any good, also picked up a new bottle of Comfort Zone Spray and Scratch Control spray, which I believe is a different pheromone. Haven’t deployed that yet. If things begin to deteriorate I’ll try spraying frequently inhabited areas.

I’m also waiting for the delivery (hopefully Monday) of a sample vial of valerian root oil, which a friend swears by as a calming topical. I’m told I should try wiping a drop or two on the fur. But I may not go ahead with trying it, because (a) it supposedly has a strong, not especially pleasant aroma, and (b) Googling “valerian cat toxicity” pulls up several links indicating that, rather than having a sedative effect as in humans and other animals like dogs, it paradoxically acts as a stimulant like catnip on felines. This seems like a bad idea for encouraging peaceful coexistence!

Back to working with no aids (yet). I keep the noise level low. Phone on silent, TV on mute.The lights are dimmed and I pad around barefoot. I don’t shake out plastic garbage sacks or tear aluminum foil while cats are in the room. Even magazines are an issue.
See how I have changed my behaviour? That can’t be right. I need those phermones.

Yeh, that’s not right. It’s one thing to accommodate your critters’ needs, but that’s way beyond what you should have to do.

I’m a slave to my felines. Think my poor doggies, they’re worse off than me. I, at least control the food so I do get kitty love for that.

So, the sample of valerian root arrived today, a tiny vial holding 0.5 ml of the oil. Standing in the kitchen, flanked by lunch-hungry cats, I tugged off the tiny cap, pulling out a tiny rod…

HOLY GUACAMOLE!!! :eek::eek::eek:

Descriptions of the stuff mention its strong earthy pungency.

They sure as HELL weren’t kidding! That’s pungency on steroids!

I held out the tiny rod to each curious cat. Each curious cat sniffed, recoiled, and backed away. I immediately capped the tiny vial and put it away in a kitchen cabinet pending a final disposition, perhaps by flinging it into the sun.

It’s been almost an hour and hints of the pungency still linger on the first floor. So…

Kids, don’t try this at home! :eek:

Based on the recommendation, I’m going to try the ThunderEase for dogs to see if it can calm Stumpy, the new-ish cattle dog mix dumped nearby and taken in by me. She’s such a reactive dog, with dominant behaviors towards the other dogs which have the whole pack on edge. I’d been looking at possibly rehoming her with the help of a rescue, but if I could get everyone calmed down, I’d gladly keep her.


I’m seeing many different options which could be tried. Can someone who has tried more than one compare them? Or at least someone who has tried one option for a while and can provide information on it?

One of my cats was abused by her former owner and is now anxious and (defensively) aggressive. She sometimes enjoys playing, including with other cats but reducing her anxiety would help.

No, I wouldn’t be able to deal with that odor, myself. How have your cats reacted to it? Other than the smell. Are they acting differently?

Neither one seemed to react to it after the first disgusted retreat. They gobbled up their lunch, then went of for their afternoon naps.