Calming Collar for Cats – Product Review

Lately there has been a lot of construction around and in our apartment building (welcome to Toronto – it never seems to end).

We have noticed that Mr. Cat has become a bundle of anxiety when there is construction taking place, particularly when he has been left alone all day in our apartment listening to the loud noises going on just outside.  Normally, when we get home at the end of the day he is hungry but well-rested and in a playful mood.  Whenever there is construction ongoing, we come home at the end to an incredibly cranky and whiney fur-monster.

Most of the time, Mr. Cat is a pretty chill beast.  He travels well and has rarely engaged in destructive behaviour or scratching (see our post on cat-proofing furniture here).

That said, given his latest antics and the fact that the construction outside is nowhere near completion, I thought it would be worth giving this product a try: SENTRY Calming Collar for Cats.

You can buy it here:

Here is the description by the company of how it is supposed to work:

SENTRY Calming Collars use patented good behavior pheromone technology. Using a pheromone that mimics the one mother cats produce to calm their kittens, the collars are clinically proven to reduce or eliminate stress-related behavior such as inappropriate marking, destructive behavior, clawing and anti-social behavior. Collars help alleviate problem behaviors triggered by travel, thunderstorms, fireworks and new social situations. This collar continues to release calming pheromones to your cat for 30 days. It can be used for cats of all ages and breeds without long-term side effects.

Mr. Cat does not normally wear a collar.  When he was a kitten he was a remarkable Houdini and worked his way out of any collar we tried to keep on him.  At some point, we just gave up trying to put a collar on him.  He is a strictly indoor cat and is micro-chipped, so there is really no need for a collar.

Having never tried a calming collar before, I was definitely skeptical that it would be effective for Mr. Cat, but I felt compelled to give it a try.

When I opened the box, I saw that the collar is in a sealed package.  I definitely recommend opening the package over a sink.  There is a flaky power on the collar that peels and crusts off when you touch it.  You don’t want to get in on your floor, and even though I’m sure it must be safe for your cat, I wasn’t a fan of getting it all over him either.  The powder was a bit gross at first, but I just wiped it off into the sink using a paper towel.  You can immediately smell the lavender and camomile and you can smell it on your hands if you are handing the collar without gloves.

I kept the collar pretty loose and slipped it onto Mr. Cat, who was sleeping.  Unlike our experience with most collars, he didn’t fight it.  He seemed a bit confused and kept sniffing but laid back down almost right away.  We left it on for a few hours during the construction and noticed that he napped almost the whole time.  Other than trying to scratch and lick it a tiny bit, he didn’t try to pull it off.  This surprised me because he could have easily slipped it back over his own head.  It was certainly loose enough for that.

Overall, it seemed to calm him.  While Mr. Cat was wearing the collar, he did tend to stick close to us when we were home, for example, sitting next to me and stretching out beside me on the couch and following me into other rooms.  While he would do this occasionally before, he consistently does it while he is wearing the collar (maybe because he wants us to take it off?).  He definitely seemed relaxed and I was able to handle his paws more than usual.  I think that the collar might be useful for days when we need to trim his claws.

When there is no construction, I take the collar off him and keep it in a sealed plastic bag.  We are going to keep trying it out whenever we have to put Mr. Cat in a stressful situation and will update this product review in the future with any new information.

Have you tried this product or something similar to it?

Cat-Proofing a New Couch

We recently purchased a brand new set of couches. As a young professional couple just starting out, our apartment is basically an Ikea showroom circa 2012, consisting almost entirely of remnant mismatching furniture from our student days. Recently, we have been gradually replacing the most worn-out pieces in our apartment when we can find a good deal in the spirit of making the place seem a little more “adult”. When our items are in reasonable shape, we pass them on to friends or family members who have a use for them.

In the course of removing our old couches to make room for the new, we were forced to realize just how badly Mr. Cat had scratched them up and destroyed them. These couches had been in our apartment from the time Mr. Cat first came home as a tiny kitten with zero scratch-only-in-certain-places training.

While he had gotten a lot better about sticking to his own furniture for scratching, out of an abundance of caution we wanted to protect our new purchases as much as possible.

Here is a list of the steps we took to adjust Mr. Cat to the new couches and to discourage him from marking them up:

1. Double-Sided Tape

We put strips of double-sided tape (carpet tape) on the corners and edges of the new couches in the same locations that he had scratched and torn up on the old couches. Mr. Cat HATES double-sided tape. He tried pulling it down once and panicked while trying to get the sticky tape off his paws. I helped him pull it off almost right away (so no harm done), but he got the message. Don’t touch the tape. We left the tape up for several weeks, pulling it off when guests came over and then putting a bit back up in the key spots we had identified. We no longer have to keep double-sided tape on the couch, but we keep some around just in case.

Before using the tape on your furniture, test it in a small area to make sure it will not damage your fabric. Here is a link to the type that we use:

2. Bitter Apple Spray

If you have never used this product or something similar before, I highly recommend giving it a try. It has been an incredibly effective deterrent for Mr. Cat and has reduced the amount of double-sided tape we need to use. Huge pros: it is scent-less (at least, to humans!) and is invisible. We spray this on the edges and backs of the couches where Mr. Cat would prefer to scratch now and then. It is natural and it has not stained our new furniture – that said, please test it on a small area of your furniture to confirm that this will be the same for you before you go to town spraying it everywhere.

This product comes in a spray bottle or in a dabber bottle. We personally use the spray bottle, but I have heard that the dabber bottle comes in handy when using it on cats for medical purposes, etc. In general, I am very careful when using the spray bottle not to get the spray onto any of the cat furniture or areas where we don’t mind Mr. Cat to be hanging out. We do not want to accidentally deter him from the areas that we would like him to use, nor do we want to cause him unnecessary stress or confusion.

3. Cat Furniture

Around the same time that the new couches were delivered, we purchased some cat furniture to put near the couches – at the same time that we deterred Mr. Cat from our seats, we provided him with some spots of his own and rewarded him for using them.

First, we put a scratch lounge near one of the couch corners that we expected he might be drawn to and used cat nip on it to encourage him to use it:

These are really cool. Not only are there different textures for Mr. Cat to scratch on, but he can lounge on top of it as well. He loves it! What I like is that it is relatively small and we can put it away or move it to a different area easily. It is also easy to vacuum and to keep clean.

There are versions which are made from cardboard rather than carpet, if your cat likes that type – unfortunately Mr. Cat is not a fan of the cardboard scratching products and has never really taken to them. Here is a link to one that I wish he would use:

The second item that we purchased for the living room was a cat tree with places for him to sit that are higher than the backs of the couches. Mr. Cat used to rest on the tops of our old couches, mostly because I think he could see everything going on in the room. We wanted to give him a spot to look over top of everything without being on our furniture.

We went for a cat tree that is tall and narrow, much like this one:

When the cat tree first arrived, Mr. Cat was somewhat afraid of it. It took some time for him to come around to it but now he is always on it. We encourage him to use it by occasionally putting cat nip on the scratching posts and feeding him a treat while he is sitting on it now and then. We also do not tease or bother him with toys too much when he is on it unless he is in a playful mood.

Do you have any suggestions or ideas for cat-proofing new furniture? We would love to hear from you!