Is cannabis oil safe for cats? And what sorts of ailments might it treat? CBD for Cats’ Anxiety | What to Consider Many animals experience it too, and your furry feline is no exception. In essence, anxiety is the anticipation of danger or a threat and is a perfectly
CBD Oil for Cats: What You Need to Know
As cat owners look for ways to keep their kitties happy and healthy, they’re starting to explore alternative treatments not previously considered by Western medicine. Among these alternative treatments is cannabis oil.
This isn’t much of a surprise, considering that more people are turning to cannabis as a natural treatment for their health issues and research studies have consistently shown the plant’s positive impact on inflammation and other ailments. However, as studied as cannabis’s effect on humans may be, there have been no official major scientific studies into its impact on pets.
So, is cannabis safe for cats? And what sorts of ailments might it treat?
What Is CBD Oil?
Cannabis plants contain more than 100 active compounds, but the one most often used for medicinal purposes is cannabidiol, or CBD. CBD differs from cannabis’s major active compound, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), in that it does not have a psychoactive affect, meaning it will not get users “high.” CBD oils contain a high concentration of CBD and can be used for therapeutic purposes.
“There are not many classical medical studies that explore the effects of CBD oil in cats,” says Dr. Daniel Inman, a veterinarian at Burlington Emergency Veterinary Specialists in Williston, Vermont. “While we don’t recommend CBD oil for our patients, holistic veterinarians are using it to treat a variety of ailments, including inflammation, anxiety and pain.”
Inman is careful to specify that CBD oil is often used to subjectively increase comfort and improve quality of life in pets, not necessarily cure ailments. This type of treatment should be advised by your veterinarian and not initiated without their consent.
Is CBD Oil Safe for Cats?
Although there have been no scientific studies that specifically investigate the impact of cannabis on pets, Dr. Gary Richter, a holistic veterinarian and owner and medical director of Montclair Veterinary Hospital and Holistic Veterinary Care in Oakland, California, says that CBD oil is generally safe for cats. However, there can be some adverse effects to giving your cat CBD oil, including gastrointestinal upset and some sedation, both of which can be relieved by discontinuing the use of the oil.
“I think the bigger issue, from a medical perspective, is making sure that animals are dosed appropriately. This means that the CBD oil is having the affect you want it to have, and that you’re not accidentally overdosing,” he says.
Dr. Liza Guess, a clinical assistant professor at the Ohio State University Department of Veterinary Medicine in Columbus, Ohio, says that the lack of official, documented research into the affects of cannabis products for cats would make her hesitant to recommend them.
“I have heard that, in humans, marijuana products can be used for neuropathic pain, intractable seizures, anxiety, and appetite stimulation. I have plenty of medications in each of those categories [that are not cannabis] that have been safely used in cats for years that I am very comfortable using and understand well,” she says. “These medications have gone through rigorous studies and are approved by the FDA. Why would I want to use a poorly understood treatment that I can’t guarantee is safe or even effective?”
She adds that the FDA does not regulate the CBD products that are available on the market, so consumers can’t be sure that they’re giving their pets the dosage that they think they are.
“Pet owners looking to give their animals CBD oil should do their due diligence before purchasing anything online,” Richter says. “The marketplace is very much a ‘buyer beware’ environment, and people should be sure that the product they’re buying has been laboratory tested for both content, as well as contaminants like bacteria, fungus, and heavy metals.”
Also, it’s worth nothing that while CBD oil is typically quite safe for cats and dogs, cannabis plants are not. “There is plenty of documentation of marijuana toxicity in cats, for those that nibble on the plants,” Guess says.
Inman adds that as an ER veterinarian, he often sees marijuana toxicity in the animals that come into his practice. “You can usually tell if a pet has gotten into someone’s marijuana. And, in more severe instances, I have had to hospitalize animals until the affects have worn off.”
Is CBD Oil Legal?
Regardless of how well CBD products work for cats, there is also the issue of legality. If a cannabis product contains less than 0.3 percent THC, it’s classified as “hemp,” which is not a restricted substance. Most, if not all, CBD oil fits this description. The bigger issue is discussing this course of treatment with your veterinarian.
“In a perfect world, your veterinarian would be able to discuss this treatment as an option for your pet, but depending on where you live, your veterinarian may or may not be legally at liberty to have this conversation with you,” Richter says. “Even if you live in a state where cannabis is legal, it can be illegal for a veterinarian to tell a pet owner how to appropriately use these products.”
There are activists looking to change these laws, Richter among them.
“For example, there’s a bill being brought to the California State Legislature to debate the use of medical cannabis for animals and veterinarian involvement,” he says. “There’s a very robust conversation going on right now about it whether or not veterinarians should be able to discuss and recommend cannabis for their patients, and, if so, exactly what that looks like.”
Being able to discuss all types of treatments with your veterinarian is key, and Richter advises checking in with your vet before giving your pet any sort of cannabis. “There’s no reason to ever start giving any kind of medication or supplement without having a conversation with your veterinarian first,” he says.
CBD for Cats’ Anxiety | What to Consider
Many animals experience it too, and your furry feline is no exception. In essence, anxiety is the anticipation of danger or a threat and is a perfectly normal response.
However, if you’ve ever had a cat with anxiety, it can feel far from normal. Cat anxiety caused by illness, trauma, or improper socialization can be most severe. However, even milder anxiety due to a new home, a new member of the family, or late-age adoption, is something you can treat.
While there are myriad ways to address anxiety, many cat owners have turned to a plant compound we’ve all heard of by now: CBD. Made up of cannabidiol, the active ingredient found in hemp, it has a calming effect.
But don’t be alarmed; CBD, unlike THC, will not get your cat high. Instead, this cannabinoid is used to treat a wide range of conditions including seizures, arthritis, and chronic pain. Older cats who develop dementia, also known as cognitive dysfunction, may also benefit from CBD oil. But if you’re curious about trying CBD for cats’ anxiety, read on.
What Is CBD Oil for Cats?
Most CBD products are essentially the same. Usually, they consist of pure cannabidiol in a suspension with a generic oil to dilute the effects. They come in various strengths. CBD oil marketed to cat owners is blended with cats in mind, featuring a less concentrated dose, and blended with nutritious omega-3-rich fish oils that cats crave. Sometimes, CBD oil for cats is even flavored especially for your cat’s senses.
Does CBD oil help cats with anxiety?
Research lags behind the rise of CBD oil’s widespread availability—and that’s for humans. Research on the use of CBD products for cats in general, let alone for anxiety, is preliminary. Before scientists can link CBD oil to specific outcomes, early studies must attempt to discover its general mechanisms in the brain.
Like their human counterparts, felines have receptors throughout their nervous system that respond to cannabinoids, lending holistic benefits to their cats and relief to their human companions. This system is called the endocannabinoid system. The fact that these receptors aren’t limited to the brain may account for CBD oil’s many benefits.
Many pet owners and veterinarians alike are not content to wait for all the research to trickle in. After all, there is little to no evidence of harmful outcomes. Anecdotally, many vets and pet owners insist that CBD oil has been effective for cats with anxiety, citing cases where major symptoms abated in a rather short time. It is likely that its benefits have to do with the way it interacts with neurotransmitters affecting fear and moods, and the endocannabinoid system.
Studies have also shown CBD oil’s effectiveness for insomnia in humans, which may be promising for cats with anxiety, and especially helpful if they also experience trouble sleeping.
Is CBD Oil Safe for Cats?
There is little to no evidence that CBD oil is harmful to humans nor pets. Notably, in 2018, the FDA approved a cannabis-derived medicine for children with epilepsy. That should say something about its safety for felines. And recent studies have come to the conclusion that it is safe for cats and dogs.
Side Effects of CBD Oil in Cats
In a recent study published in Animals, the most common side effects in order are as follows:
- Head shaking
However, these side effects should be noted within context. Firstly, “licking” and “pacing” are behaviors that cannot be distinguished from ordinary feline behavior. Secondly, “head shaking” was often noted as the CBD product was administered directly to their mouths rather than observed afterward. Finally, no significant change in blood chemistry values was reported during the study period.
That said, always monitor your cat whenever introducing medicines or supplements to their system. And if you do notice these symptoms, contact your veterinarian immediately.
How to Administer CBD for Cats with Anxiety
If you’re wondering how to give your cat CBD products, here are 5 different tips.
1. Ease In
As cats are small creatures, err on the side of caution and increase the dose gradually. A good starting point is 0.25 milligrams of CBD oil for every pound of body weight.
2. Mix it in Their Food
Use the dropper included with all CBD oil and fill it to the prescribed dose. Mix it in with your cat’s favorite food. Wet food works best here.
3. Apply Directly
If you’d like to try giving CBD oil to your cat directly, that is perfectly acceptable. In fact, if you’re trying to maximize its effects, CBD oil administered this way will enter their system faster. It is safe to give your cat CBD products on an empty stomach, but refer to tip one and begin by easing in. Bear in mind that most felines will not enjoy the process. However, mixing the oil with tuna juice or using a flavored oil can make this process a breeze.
4. Keep It Consistent
While your cat may only need CBD occasionally, some veterinarians believe consistency matters, especially for chronic issues. Additionally, splitting the dose between morning and evening will spread its benefits throughout the day.
5. Anticipate Your Cat’s Anxiety
If you’re aware of your cat’s triggers and can predict a potentially stressful situation, you can plan ahead by giving your cat CBD oil thirty minutes ahead of time. This is helpful if, for example, there’s a second cat you’re introducing to the home and you let it roam the common areas at a certain time of day.
CBD for Anxious Cats: FAQs
Should I use CBD or hemp oil with my cat? What’s the difference?
While hemp oil is perfectly safe for cats with its own profile of benefits, it usually only contains trace amounts of CBD.
While hemp oil is made by cold-pressing hemp seeds, CBD oil is made by extracting the compound from hemp leaves, flowers, and stalks.
How much CBD should I give my cat?
If you’ve decided to try CBD to treat your cat’s anxiety, you may be wondering how to dose it. While there are no federal standard guidelines, we advise you find a trusted producer and follow label guidelines, beginning at the lower end and working your way up to the recommended dose over a week or so.
On average across the industry, cats with anxiety are recommended 0.25 milligrams mg of CBD per pound of body weight per day, but this can vary by age and condition. Effects can range from 4 to 8 hours and the dose can be split into smaller doses throughout the day.
Will CBD get my cat high?
No. The psychoactive component of cannabidiol is THC. It’s a different cannabinoid than CBD. While CBD oil does affect the nervous system, it does not cause the cognitive changes, such as euphoria or hallucinations, that THC does. But do vet your CBD brand and make sure that it’s certified THC-free.
How do I find the best CBD oil for cats?
That’s a great question, and we devoted an entire article to it! In short, seek out cat-specific brands that vets trust. The oil should be full-spectrum and 100% THC-free. And might we recommend our own non-GMO organic CBD oil?
Pro tip: Our peppermint organic CBD oil is delicious for humans, but peppermint oil can be harmful to cats. Stick with our first recommendation for safety’s sake!
More Natural Ways to Calm a Cat with Anxiety
CBD is not the only way to calm cat anxiety. In fact, her CBD dose is best used in conjunction with other methods and devices. For starters, cat owners should never punish an anxious cat as it will only make things worse. Do try comforting your cat while being mindful of its need for space. Comforting doesn’t have to mean coddling or picking up your cat but instead using a soothing voice or giving it a gentle rub. It may sound crazy but even squinting at your cat from a distance can help signal that everything’s under control! But certainly don’t stare.
1. Try Pheromones
That’s right! You can actually find cat calming collars and diffusers that emit a scent reminiscent of the pheromones a mother cat uses to soothe her kittens.
2. Try Calming Cat Food and Treats
Did you know that there are actually anti-anxiety cat formulas and cat treats? These formulas often contain tryptophan—a safe compound found in turkey that accounts for that Thanksgiving slumbers, and it works on cats too. Speaking of diet, you can consult our guide to the best grain-free cat foods here.
3. Variety is the Spice of Life
While an anxious cat certainly needs a quiet, stable home environment, sometimes the missing ingredient is fun, believe it or not! When was the last time you intentionally played with your kitty? Have you tried out different toys or different times of the day? Included in our cat bundle is both catnip to get the party started as well as freeze-dried minnows (can you say yum?) to reward your cat when the fun is done!
4. Keep Your House in Order
Cats, probably more so than dogs, are sensitive to their environment. Anything from clutter to messes to major changes in layout can stress a cat out. A cat prone to anxiety will benefit from the Marie Kondo treatment! And as cat whisperer, Jackson Galaxy emphasizes, giving your cat clear access to a clean litter box makes a world of difference.
5. Give your Cat a Perch
Does your cat have any high ground from which to survey her queendom? You may be surprised how much that can help an anxious cat. It’s no secret how much cats enjoy the high ground, so even a cat tree can help. Bonus points for a comfy top to nap on. If you’re feeling more ambitious, installing high shelves with stepped access will give your cat the distance from the din it desires.
We Know That’s A Lot of Information
But we hope that this article armed you with the knowledge and know-how to treat your cat’s anxiety. As always, consult with your veterinarian before starting any home remedies.
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