Cats are commonly chosen as companion animals, however, for numerous reasons, many end up in rescue shelters awaiting a new home. Cats are particularly sensitive to stress, which poses a threat to welfare through development of detrimental mental and physical conditions due to prolonged episodes of anxiety. Pet Remedy (Unex Designs) is a valerian-based product developed to calm and de-stress companion animals. Literature regarding feline stress is limited, with no prior research into how Pet Remedy affects cats in rescue shelters. This randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study was conducted to investigate the efficacy of Pet Remedy. Forty-six participants were randomly organised into one of three treatment groups: control, placebo or pet remedy. Participant details, stress score and respiration rates were recorded prior to treatment, and again 30 minutes post-treatment. Exposure to Pet Remedy was associated with a significant decreases in stress score (P=0.000) and respiration rate (P=0.003). Efficacy of product was not affected by sex, neutering status or age, though this could benefit from further investigation. The results of this study suggest that Pet Remedy would significantly reduce stress-related behaviours in shelter cats, which may improve overall welfare of cats residing in rescue shelters.
In recent years, rehoming shelters have experienced a high turnover of cats requiring aid in finding a new home, with the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) taking in 29 432 individuals and The Cats Protection sheltering 41 000 in 2019 alone (RSPCA, 2020; Cats Protection, 2020).
Chronic exposure to stress can result in behavioural and physiological changes, which can be viewed as undesirable in prospective adopters (Stella and Croney, 2016). Stress can reduce an individual's food and water intake, as well as decreasing grooming time and activity levels (Stella et al, 2013). Inappropriate elimination can be seen through urine and faecal marking as a means of coping with a new environment through the reassurance of familiar scents (Heath, 2007) or can be the result of feline interstitial cystitis, a chronic pain syndrome often triggered by stressors (Stella et al, 2013).