The domestication of cats is said to have descended from their ancestor, commonly known as the African Wildcat (Felis Sylvestris Libyca) (Vigne et al., 2016 (1)). Over 12,000 years ago (Bunyak, 2019(2)), during the Fertile Crescent (Saito and Shinozuka, 2013(3)), the domestication process was thought to have begun with the development of agriculture such as grain stores, causing rapid infestation of mice and small mammals (O’Brien and Johnson, 2007(4)). Considered pests, the mice and small mammals were causing trouble for the agricultural industry (Driscoll et al., 2009(5)). Thus, began a mutually beneficial relationship between humans and cats (Faure and Kitchener, 2009(6)). The cats would get an abundant food supply; alongside satisfying their urge to hunt, as well as controlling the levels of pests that were exploiting the agricultural environments (Eisen, 2005(7)). Such relationships led to the acceptance of cats within human society, largely in part due to pest control benefits, thus began the taming and domestication process over thousands of generations (Ottoni et al., 2017(8)). The relationship over time has developed into a companionship whereby cats and dogs are the most common pet within the United Kingdom (UK) (Poole, 2015(9)). With the UK spending on average 8 billion a year on their cats it is fair to say these feline companions becoming more common household parties. We are able to understand more about their behaviour to identify stressors they may face, hence the investment into calming products. Stress such as separation anxiety, cohabiting and infrequent visits to catteries and vets can justify the uses of stress reliefs.
Phytotherapeutic enrichment is a type of olfactory stimulation that can be ideal for domestic cats as well as most of the Pantherinae family (Shreve and Udell, 2017(10)). Cats have complex olfactory structures which compose the ability to detect odourants (Quigley, 2015(11)) thus, the use of olfactory stimulation can be highly enriching for cats (Ellis et al., 2017(12)). This is because some plants are known to produce semiochemicals which can cause such olfactory stimulation (Setzer, 2016(13)). Cats have complex olfactory structures which compose the ability to detect odourants (Quigley, 2015(14)) thus, the use of olfactory stimulation can be highly enriching for cats (Ellis et al., 2017(15)). Furthermore, it is important that enrichment is considered to allow the cats to exhibit natural behaviours which can reduce stress and destructive behaviours (Gourkow and Phillips, 2016(16)).
Pet Remedy’s Calming Spray
Pet Remedy’s Calming spray was used within the study and has been developed to work alongside the pet’s natural mechanisms by using gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA has been found to stimulate GABA receptors and are an inhibitory compound in the vertebrate central nervous system, present in all mammals, reptiles and birds (Pet Remedy, 2017(17)). GABA acts as a natural calming agent for cats by activating red-up nerve cells which will cause the calming response (Esteban et al., 2018(18)). Predominantly Valerian root absolute oil base (80%), Pet Remedy’s spray also contains; small inclusions of vetiver 10%, basil 5% and clary sage 5% essential oils which are all ingredients with individual properties to provide a calming response (Pet Remedy, 2017(19)).
The Valerian absolute oil is an extract from a perennial herb with rhizomes, feathery leaves and clusters of pink or white owners (Nandini et al., 2018(20)). The oil is obtained from the rhizomes, using cold extraction and contains sesquiterpenes such as; isovaleric acid, valerenic acid valerenal, and valerenol which are known to be responsible for a change in behaviour (Patoka and Jakl, 2010(21)). The Vetiver (Chrysopogon zizanioides), extracted from the roots of tough aromatic grass using steam distillation (Shabbir et al., 2019(22); Rose, 2013(23)), also belongs to the same botanical family as lemongrass, which is also a known stimulant for cats due to the chemical components such as; vetivenate, vetivenyl, b-vetivone, vetivene, furfurol, vetiverol and benzoic acid (Baker and Grant, 2018(24)). Sweet basil and Clary Sage are also used in the Pet Remedy formula and are extracted using steam distillation. The aforementioned ingredients have been formulated in order to work together and provide a calming effect on the animal.
The study carried out by Select Statistics in Exeter, conducted a study with 242 dogs at a grooming parlour whereby the dogs were subject to standard grooming procedures. The study, using Pet Remedy sprayed onto the table as well as utilising the plug-in diffuser, found that 84% of the dogs were reported to have improved behaviour when subject to the loud noises of equipment, restraint and close handling procedures (Marley, 2015(25)). This study has shown to have positive results on the dogs, however, there was no control group implemented, therefore the behaviours were reported from the opinions of 70 groomers. All groomers can rate differently due to a variety of personal bias and may perceive behaviours differently, therefore having an impact on the rating (Notari and Goodwin, 2007(26)). To ensure that a variety of perceptions do not have an impact on the results, the researcher will ensure that all behavioural observations are undertaken by one individual. This can ensure that opinions, personal bias and external factors have a limited impact on the results shown.
Though research exploring the benefit of Pet Remedy on cats is sparce, this data analysis will piggyback from a study conducted in 2019 by Vidhaata Vaghela through Brooksby Melton College. This research also explored other olfactory stimulants such as dried catnip, valerian root, silver vine and liquid forms catnip and valerian room in addition to Pet Remedy’s Calming spray.
It is apparent amongst cat owners and thoroughly researched that, cats have maintained innate instinctive behaviours to hunt, climb and play (McNamee, 2017(27)). Such behaviours can be suppressed in indoor cats whom rely on their environment for stimulation (Kmecova et al., 2016(28); Fisher et al., 2015(29)). When the environment does not allow for cats to exhibit natural behaviours, this can make the cats more susceptible to variable combinations of behavioural issues (Bourne, 2017(30)). Examples include stress, excessive vocalisation, aggression and excessive grooming (Shreve and Udell, 2017(31)). Lack of stimulation, long-term can also cause physical diseases such as inappetence (Newbury, 2015(32)), urinary tract disease and obesity (Naik et al., 2018(33)). By compromising on stimulation, such problems can cause harm to feline health and well-being which may also be a contributing factor for cats being relinquished or rehomed (Ellis et al., 2017(34)). Owners can prevent such problems by making appropriate improvements to better the quality of life (Stavisky et al., 2017(35); Grant and Warrior, 2019(36)), however, olfactory stimulation can be a convenient yet effective means of enrichment (Sherman, 2018(37)). The American Association of Feline Practitioners and the International Society of Feline Medicine highlight the significance of using phytotherapeutic products to induce olfaction in felids (Pereira et al., 2016(38)), yet further research is yet to be undertaken. There is a gap in the research regarding the uses of Pet Remedy’s Calming spray on cats thus the researcher hopes to fill the gap in current research and set an example for further research to be undertaken.
Subjects and housing
The proposed study involved the data of forty-four cats spending 15 minutes with the Pet Remedy and control sample each.
The majority of felines trialled within the study were under the ownership of Hazelhurst Cattery, as their pets. All the felids had access indoors and outdoors allowing them to roam independently apart from the cats housed in their cattery. The cattery also has capacity for keeping up to 15-20 cats in their outdoor enclosures which also has indoor sheltered areas as well as outdoor access enclosed by mesh wiring. The pets had been observed within the house as this was their normal environment and any visiting cats were observed in their cattery where they were kept in for at least 10 days before the researcher conducted the study. All cats had access to fresh water and litter throughout the duration of the experiment. The rest of the felids used in the study were cats that were recorded by their owners, whom had been following a step-by-step Owners Guide. This could then allow the researcher to observe behaviours though video footage and record them onto ethograms. The behavioural ethograms were devised from the definitions stated by Stanton et al. (2015) (39) in their standardised ethogram for Felidae which can be seen in Table 1.
Table 1: Table to show the definitions of the behaviours within the ethogram
Table 2: to show contentment behaviours in cats.