Just like people, cats can get stressed out from time to time. Boredom, overstimulation (too much noise and/or excessive touching), and changes in their environment are all potential stressors. While the causes of your cat’s stress should be your first target, calming aids can help soothe them through unavoidable changes to their environment.
According to Dr. Zay Satchu, DVM, co-founder and Chief Veterinary Officer of Bond Vet, there are several different types of products available for relieving stress and anxiety in cats, including treats, collars, sprays and plug-ins.
“Sprays and plug-ins work by releasing calming pheromones into the air that are calming and help kitty relax,” Dr. Satchu told The Spruce Pets. “Treats use a blend of calming and relaxing herbs, similar to how some teas work for people.”
So, what should you look for? The best calming aids contain pheromones, rosemary, chamomile, and/or tryptophan, says Satchu. Because cats are individuals, and no product will be effective with 100 percent of cats, you may need to try several categories of calming aid to find the one that works for your feline.
We recommend starting with the Feliway Optimum Enhanced Calming Plug-In Diffuser. This plug-in releases the same pheromones your cat naturally produces, which research suggests reduces stress by indicating that the local environment is a familiar and safe place.
Feliway Optimum Enhanced Calming Plug-In Diffuser
Easily, plug-in delivery
Covers up to 700 square feet
No unwanted side effects
Can take 1-4 weeks to show improved behavior
Canisters need replaced monthly
Plug-in can get hot if left in after the canister is drained
The Feliway Optimum Enhanced Calming diffuser can help calm your cat in stressful situations like moving, the introduction of a new baby or pet, and during disruptive events like thunderstorms and fireworks.
Chemical signals are important for cats, who mark their environments (such as by rubbing their faces everywhere) to indicate areas where they can feel secure. Feliway diffusers recreate these naturally-produced pheromones to reduce stress and anxiety. Feliway diffusers are regularly recommended by veterinarians, including Dr. Satchu and several veterinarians who care for Spruce Pets’ staff cats.
The diffuser works by heating a wick inside of a canister of liquid, dispersing the pheromone as the heat evaporates the formula. The only downside we found to this system is that the diffuser can get hot when left plugged in after all of the liquid in the canister has evaporated. This starter kit, which includes one diffuser and one refill, lasts for four weeks, but you can purchase additional refills separately.
Does Feliway Work?
While the relation between chemical signals in the environment and your cat’s stress levels is not well understood, some small studies have shown promising results. A primary pheromone found in Feliway diffusers significantly reduces urine spraying, which can be a strong indicator of stress. It’s worth disclosing that some studies have been funded by the Feliway’s manufacturer, Ceva Santé Animale. More research into the uses of synthetic pheromones is welcome, but for now there is good reason to believe that a Feliway Diffuser can be an effective stress reliever for many cats.
Feliway Optimum vs. Classic
If your cats are already acclimated to the Feliway Classic, and you’ve noticed results, then we recommend sticking with what works. But for anyone new to Feliway pheromone treatment, we would suggest Feliway Optimum. Feliway Classic was first released in 1996, and primarily contains a single pheromone, called feline facial pheromone F3. Research gains have been made since then, and in 2020 Ceva announced the Optimum formula, which uses newly discovered pheromones.
Ceva claims this pheromone complex “provides an enhanced message of social confidence and safety in the cat’s environment,” citing internal research finding that the Optimum formula helps “with more stress-related signs faster than existing pheromones.”
While there isn’t yet independent research into the specific pheromone formula found in the Feliway Optimum Enhanced Calm diffuser, we’re inclined toward the product that most reflects the gains in our understanding of cat chemical communication since Feliway was first introduced in the 90s.
Price at time of publish: $27
Ingredients: Feline facial pheromone | Delivery Method: Diffusion | Quantity: 1.6 fluid ounces
VetriScience Composure Calming Treats for Cats
Starts working in 20 to 30 minutes
Allows for flexible dosing, such as by breaking up treats
Contains three active ingredients
Smells a little medicinal
Safe for all ages and weights
Vetriscience offers chicken or trout treats that combine three active ingredients: colostrum, L-theanine, and thiamine (a B vitamin). L-theanine, which is derived from tea leaves, has been demonstrated to reduce cat behaviors associated with stress. This formula can calm your cat down in just 20-30 minutes.
The dosage, or amount of chews you give, depends on your cat’s weight but if you’re not getting the results you want, you can double the amount with no adverse effects. You can also break a treat into pieces if a smaller bite is more appealing to your cat or you want to offer them a smaller dose. We found that they’re easiest to feed them to your cat by adding them to their first meal of the day.
If you have a cat with an anxious personality, you can give these daily or you can administer them as needed during particularly stressful times.
Price at time of publish: $9
Ingredients: Colostrum calming complex biopeptide blend, L-theanine, thiamine (vitamin B1) | Delivery Method: Treats | Quantity: 30 chews per pack
Best for Road Trips
NaturVet Quiet Moments Calming Aid Plus Melatonin
Includes melatonin and tryptophan to encourage sleepiness
Includes ginger for anti-nausea
Not safe for kittens
Not recommended for use with pregnant cats
Just like people, cats produce a chemical called melatonin that’s associated with the regulation of sleep-wake cycles. Safe for cats over the age of 12 weeks, NaturVet Quiet Moments Cat Soft Chews combines the sleep-inducing effects of melatonin with tryptophan, an amino acid the brain uses in the production of soothing serotonin. It too has been proven to increase sleepiness. These chews also include chamomile and ginger, which isn’t a calming aid, but has been used as an anti-nausea herbal supplement for thousands of years (scientific studies have found that ginger was effective for relieving mild nausea during human pregnancy). This all makes NaturVet Soft Chews especially useful for road trips.
Salmon flavored and made in the United States, NaturVet chews also include brewers yeast, flaxseed, tapioca starch, rosemary extract, and other ingredients that should appeal to your cat’s palate. It’s recommended that your cat take two chews approximately 30 minutes before a stressful event. Cats should not be given no more than four chews in a 12-hour period.
Price at time of publish: $10 (50-count)
Ingredients: Thiamine, L-tryptophan, ginger and melatonin | Delivery Method: Chews, spray | Quantity: 50 soft chews bag, 60 soft chews tub
Feliway Animal Health Wipes, 12 Count
Easy to pack
Releases natural pheromones
Need to have a hard surface to wipe
Only 12 in a box
Whether you’re driving down the road to your local vet’s office or taking your kitty on a long car ride, traveling can be stressful for cats. Just like baby wipes, these Feliway Travel Calming Wipes, which rely on pheromones as the active ingredient, are easy to throw into any bag or in your glove compartment. You don’t apply them to your cat directly, but you can wipe down any hard surface, like a cat carrier or the car or plane seat while you travel. When you do, a facial pheromone, similar to the one that cats give off when they rubs his cheek against the furniture (or you), is released to produce a calming effect.
Price at time of publish: $11
Delivery method: Wipes | Key ingredients: Pheromones (F3 Fraction of Feline Facial Pheromone Analogue)
NaturVet Quiet Moments Cat Calming Room Spray
Combines simulated cat pheromones with soothing herbals
Good for spraying down carriers, car seats, or other scary areas
Herbal ingredients smell soothing, but aren’t proven
Can’t be used with kittens under the age of 12 weeks
NaturVet Quiet Moments Cat Calming Room Spray uses a similar method to a Feliway diffuser, allowing you to spray a formula containing simulated cat pheromone on a surface or over a wide area, producing a chemical signal that’s meant to tell your cat that everything is safe. This makes it especially useful for spraying the insides of areas your cats may not want to go, such as in a cat carrier for a veterinary visit.
This calming room spray also includes several herbal or essential oil ingredients frequently associated with relaxation, including valerian root and chamomile extracts. These smells are likely more for your benefit than your cat’s—while there’s some evidence that chamomile may have mild anti-anxiety properties, the herbal components in this spray are more soothing than medicinal.
Price at time of publish: $13
Ingredients: Simulated cat pheromone, valerian root extract, spikenard extract, chamomile extract, rosemary oil | Delivery Method: Area Spray | Sizes: 8-ounce bottle
Richard's Organics Pet Calm
Great travel size
Drops can be applied to food or treats
Not all cats go for its flavor
Richard’s Organics Pet Calm combines four relaxation-inducing herbs—valerian, chamomile, passionflower, and skullcap extract—that may help alleviate stress, anxiety, excitability, and improve your cat’s sleep. Because it’s a liquid drop, administration can be a challenge, especially since there are no added flavors to entice your cat to consume it. We recommend dropping it onto your cat’s paw and letting him or her lick it off.
Price at time of publish: $15
Ingredients: Valerian, chamomile, passionflower, skullcap extract | Delivery Method: Liquid drops | Quantity: 2 ounce bottle
Best for Multi-cat Households
ThunderEase Multicat Calming Pheromone Diffuser
Covers up to 700 square feet
Easy to use
Needs a refill every 30 days
Another diffuser option, this kit from ThunderEase can help calm down all of the cats in a multi-cat household. This particular diffuser mimics the natural pheromones that are given off by a mother cat as she’s nursing, which helps reduce fighting among cats in the same household, decrease stress and anxiety, and boost resilience, helping your cat better adapt to any changes. Like the Feliway diffuser, this kit covers up to 700 square feet of space but requires refills. You can purchase the 30-day supply, or opt for 60 or 90 days of coverage.
Price at time of publish: $25
Delivery Method: Diffusion | Key Ingredients: Natural nursing pheromones
Best Calming Apparel
ThunderShirt Anxiety Vest for Cats
Available in three sizes
Can be embroidered with your cat’s name
Nothing needs to go over your cat’s head
Reduces problem meowing
Not always easy to get your cat to wear anything
Velcro may scare cat
Cats seek out petting because it feels pleasantly like grooming for them. The pressure on their skin contributes to a sense of comfort and security. A similar idea is behind the ThunderShirt for Cats, which wraps your cat in a gentle, calming pressure. While introducing the Thundershirt to your cat has a bit of a learning curve, many cats quickly adapt to wearing it, exhibiting reduced meowing and calmer behavior. It’s especially useful for veterinary visits, road trips, and when trimming their nails.
The ThunderShirt can be embroidered with your cat’s name and is available in there sizes. It’s even machine washable.
Price at time of publish: $40
Sizes: Small (under 9 pounds), medium (9-13 pounds), large (over 13 pounds)
Our favorite calming aid for cats is the Feliway Optimum Enhanced Calming Plug-In Diffuser, which releases pheromones indicating to your cat that the area is safe for them. For journeying outside the home, check out NaturVet Quiet Moments Calming Aid Plus Melatonin, which uses two proven ingredients to help your cat zonk out during a stressful road trip.
What to Look for in Calming Aids in Cats
One of the major things to consider when choosing the best calming aid for your cat is the delivery method. There are four major types: treats, collars, sprays, and plug-ins. You know your cat best, so the best one for you may not be the best for someone else. But if you want an expert opinion, Dr. Zay Satchu, DVM, co-founder and Chief Veterinary Officer of Bond Vet, says, “I have confidence in the abilities of the Feliway plug-ins and sprays, but have heard mixed reviews from cat parents that have tried the collars and treats. Some cats will [also] be annoyed just by having a collar on and that will defeat the purpose.”
Another big factor is the ingredients. Satchu says that pheromones, rosemary, chamomile, and tryptophan are some of the top ingredients to look for, but other products contain additional calming aids like passionflower, colostrum, L-theanine, and jasmine. If you want to try calming treats, you’ll want to look for additional ingredients like chicken or liver so your cat will want to eat them.
Whether or not portability is important depends on how you need to use the calming aid. If your cat is stressed when at home, a plug-in diffuser is probably your best bet, but if you’re trying to figure out a way to calm your cat when visiting the vet or traveling, you’ll want to try a wipe, spray, or treats.
Are CBD products safe for cats?
CBD is spending some serious time in the spotlight—for humans and dogs—but there’s not enough research that’s been done on the effects in cats. Because of this, we do not recommend the use of CBD oil as a calming aid for your cat unless you’re under strict supervision by your own veterinarian.
Is lavender essential oil safe for cats?
Lavender essential oils may be a good calming aid for humans, but it should not be used near or on your cat. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, lavender contains two components, linalool and linalyl acetate, that are toxic to cats.
Why Trust The Spruce?
This article was written by Steven Asarch, a freelance writer for The Spruce Pets. He has firsthand experience working with different feline products and taking care of two rambunctious felines.
A previous version of this article was written by Lindsay Boyers, a feline-obsessed cat mom of three. She has personally tried Feliway products with great success, but also consulted with a qualified veterinarian to get recommendations for the most effective calming products for cats.
For additional information on cat calming aids, we spoke to Dr. Zay Satchu, DVM, co-founder and Chief Veterinary Officer of Bond Vet.