CBD Oil for Cats: The Comprehensive Guide to Your Cat’s Health

It is fair to say that in the United States, there is a love affair with pets. Don’t believe us? According to Statista, there are over 95 million cats in the U.S., and 68% of households own at least one pet. Estimates on the number of cats globally range from 600 million to over 1 billion.

Responsible pet owners will leave no stone unturned when it comes to protecting their furry friends. Healthcare for pets in America is expensive, which is why it makes sense to pay the average $28 monthly pet insurance for cats, and $44 for dogs. As is the case with humans, it is clear that plying animals with pharmaceutical drugs doesn’t always have the desired effect.

If you see your pet in pain or suffering from a condition such as anxiety, it is only natural that you want to get the best possible treatment. For an increasing number of people, that takes the form of cannabidiol, a non-intoxicating compound in marijuana and hemp.

To say the market is growing is a severe understatement. According to a report by Packaged Facts, released in October 2019, 11% of dog owners and 8% of cat owners have used a CBD/hemp supplement, or pet treats for their pets at least once. When you consider the fact that annual retail sales of pet treats alone are approximately $6.7 billion in the U.S., it is clear that brands are wise to offer products such as CBD oil for cats and dogs.

At present, the CBD pet product market is worth ‘only’ $32 million per year, but it is growing exponentially.

Why Use CBD Oil for Cats?

It is easy to forget the fact that your cat has numerous mental and physical health issues to contend with. The vast majority of pet owners purchase CBD to help alleviate anxiety, but you can also use it to treat:

  • Aggressive behavior
  • Arthritis
  • Asthma
  • Chronic upper respiratory tract infections
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Loss of appetite
  • Pancreatitis
  • Seizures
  • Stress

As you can see, the list of potentially treatable conditions ranges from minor to severe. Some pet owners claim that the CBD oil they give to the cats works well for situations where inflammation is the primary cause. It is a claim that makes sense because cannabidiol apparently has analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties.

Your Cat Has an Endocannabinoid System! (So Does Your Dog)

Did you know that all mammals have an ECS? Up until relatively recently, we didn’t even know that humans had it. As is the case with us, the ECS helps maintain the natural balance in your pet’s body. To understand how the cannabinoids in hemp and weed work on the ECS, you must first learn more about neurotransmitters and receptors.

Neurotransmitters are molecules produced at the connection of a neuron. Its function is to trigger a signal in a connecting neuron, or get to the bloodstream and make its way to other cells in the body. This system is our brain’s way of transmitting signals and providing other cells with instructions on how to act. The brain produces an immense number of signaling molecules, and hormones are one type. Others include dopamine, serotonin, oxycontin, melatonin, and histamine.

Also, cannabinoids such as CBD and THC are types of signaling molecules. In the body, there are endocannabinoids and phytocannabinoids. The former is produced naturally by humans, mammals, etc. while plants such as marijuana and hemp create the latter. The phytocannabinoids in CBD oil for cats mimic specific endocannabinoids.

Cannabinoid Receptors

In the body, there are receptors on the surface of cells that interact with cannabinoids. They analyze the conditions outside the cell, and transmit their findings to the inside of the cell. The result is a triggering of the proper cellular response. Cats have several cannabinoid receptors, but the main ones are the CB1 and CB2 receptors.

Your feline’s CB1 receptors are located throughout the body but have their main concentrations in the brain and spinal cord. In the brain, the receptors are in areas such as the hypothalamus (regulates appetite) and amygdala (related to memory and emotions). Researchers have also identified CB1 receptors capable of controlling pain in the nerve endings.

CB2 receptors are found primarily in the immune and nervous systems. Activating CB2 receptors can regulate inflammation.

Although we have identified at least 113 cannabinoids in marijuana, THC and CBD remain the best known and are the most abundant. To simplify matters, we can say that THC causes an intoxicating ‘high,’ and CBD does not. Proponents of both claim they possess therapeutic properties.

As you now know, the body produces endocannabinoids by itself. These molecules bind with CB receptors and activate them. When you, or your pet, consume CBD or THC, the compound stimulates the CB receptors in the same fashion as endocannabinoids. The result is potentially positive effects such as blocking pain, relieving muscle spasms, and lowering anxiety levels.

How Does CBD Oil for Cats Work?

cbd oil for cats

One of the primary roles of the ECS is to regulate inflammation, which is your body’s natural response to tissue damage or infection. When it doesn’t correctly control the response, the result is chronic inflammation. Decades of research suggests that inflammation is implicated in many diseases. If you stimulate the ECS with external cannabinoids, it can moderate the body’s immune response and reduce inflammation.

Scientists believe that the primary function of the ECS is to control homeostasis, the process of maintaining a state of balance in the body. When you give CBD oil to your cat, it stimulates activity in the CB1 and CB2 receptors by triggering the release of endocannabinoids. While cannabidiol doesn’t seem to act directly on these receptors, it is a non-competitive CB1 and CB2 antagonist.

Is There Any Research Surrounding CBD for Cats?

Unfortunately, there is a lack of research available that analyze the effects of CBD on cats. To date, the vast majority of studies on CBD for pets relate to the compound’s effects on dogs.

Stephanie McGrath is one of the nation’s leaders when it comes to the effects of cannabidiol on dogs. In one such study, where Lisa Bartner was the author, the team looked at how three different delivery methods – cream, oil, and a capsule – impacted the way CBD moved through the bodies of healthy canines.

Published in the Canadian Journal of Veterinary Research in July 2018, the study found that CBD oil had the #1 pharmacokinetic profile. In other words, oil reached the highest concentration in the blood and remained in the bloodstream longest. It also offered the most consistent performance.

A study by Gamble et al., published in Frontiers in Veterinary Science in July 2018, looked at CBD’s effect on osteoarthritis in dogs. The conclusion was that 2mg of CBD per kilogram twice a day helped increase comfort and activity in dogs with the condition.

In June 2019, McGrath published a study on the effects of CBD on epileptic dogs. She had it published in The Journal of the American Veterinary Association. It concluded that the dogs enjoyed a significant reduction in the number of seizures suffered. While these were high-quality, peer-reviewed studies, they are preliminary and have small test groups.

Future Studies

Even so, McGrath believes that CBD has great potential for pets. She is a veterinarian herself and points out that her colleagues don’t have a wide variety of drugs available to treat certain diseases. She says that if it works, it has the benefit of effectiveness and minimal side effects.

At the time of writing, McGrath and others are engaged in a variety of studies. These include CBD’s efficacy in treating OA in dogs and cats and epilepsy in dogs. Alas, we will need to wait for the published results.

Is CBD Oil Safe for Cats?

The answer is ‘yes’ according to a World Health Organization report from 2017. One possible issue is an increase in alkaline phosphatase (ALP). It is a liver enzyme, and dogs in two of the studies above experienced an increase in ALP levels when treated with CBD. McGrath ran tests to see if the dogs had liver failure. Fortunately, her tests revealed nothing sinister.

Even so, McGrath doesn’t recommend giving CBD oil to cats or dogs with known liver issues. It is also a fact that the liver metabolizes cannabidiol. As a consequence, it is also unwise to give your pet CBD if it is already taking a medication metabolized by the liver.

Although CBD seems to have an excellent safety profile, it is foolhardy to assume it is 100% safe. In rare cases, your cat could suffer adverse effects such as gastrointestinal upset and sedation. If this happens to your pet, discontinue treatment immediately. Other potential side effects in cats include low blood pressure, dry mouth, and drowsiness.

Lack of Regulation & Legality

CBD oil is not FDA approved, although it gave its seal of approval to Epidiolex, derived from cannabidiol. In an unregulated market, there is no telling what you might get. We urge you to check out our review page to learn more about the most reputable CBD brands on the market.

If you want to stay on the right side of the law, focus on CBD products derived from hemp. Federal law states that such items must contain a maximum THC content of 0.3%. However, CBD laws vary from state to state. In Idaho, for example, CBD products should not contain ANY THC whatsoever.

As far as your cat’s health is concerned, you must keep it away from THC at all costs. While your cat should not endure many adverse effects with CBD, it is not the case with the intoxicating compound, THC. While it is theoretically impossible for a human to overdose on THC, your pets are less safe.

What Is the Lethal Dose?

At present, scientists are unable to ascertain the LD50 (lethal dose) of marijuana in cats. A study by Fitzgerald et al., published in Top Companion Animal Medicine, in February 2013, looked at marijuana poisoning in pets. It concluded that the minimum lethal dose of THC in dogs is 3 grams per kilogram.

While this is an extremely high dose, you should know that if your cat or dog accidentally eats an edible or inhales smoke, it could suffer effects such as:

  • Loss of coordination
  • Seizures with the potential to fall into a coma
  • Slow heart rate
  • Vomiting
  • Depression and anxiety

Fortunately, cats are picky eaters and are less likely to ingest cannabis. Cats don’t have a sweet tooth naturally, nor are they attracted to dried buds or unfinished joints. We know of a few cases of dog deaths from marijuana ingestion but have not heard a report of a cat perishing.

Therefore, the biggest enemy is low-quality CBD products. If the CBD oil you buy for your cat contains too much THC, they will suffer. Make sure you purchase from a brand that uses cannabidiol from organically grown industrial hemp, if possible.

How Much CBD Oil to Give to my Cat?

The ‘low and slow’ mantra is worth following when using CBD oil for cats. As they are significantly smaller and lighter than humans, they require far less cannabidiol. Your first action should involve weighing your cat because its size determines the right dosage. As a general rule, aim for 0.1 – 0.5 mg of CBD per kilogram of body weight to begin with.

We have read charts that suggest beginning with 0.5mg of CBD per dose if your cat weighs four pounds. Pets that weigh 30 pounds may receive 4mg of CBD. There is also the issue of the medical condition. Here is a quick chart detailing how much to give your cat, depending on the problem.

Medical ConditionDosage – Mg of CBD per Kilogram (Twice a Day)
Seizures0.5 – 3.0mg
Pancreatitis0.1 – 0.5mg
Inflammatory Bowel Disease0.2mg
Upper Respiratory Tract Infections5mg

If you use CBD oil, bear in mind that it takes up to 30 minutes to affect. It is always a good idea to perform a pre-emptive strike, depending on your cat’s condition. If your cat gets anxious during a storm, for example, administer CBD when you know bad weather is about to arrive.

Reputable brands that sell CBD oil for cats will include a convenient dropper with the bottle. They also offer flavors that appeal to pets, including chicken, beef, and salmon. Add the oil to your cat’s food, and make sure they eat everything. If your cat appears to enjoy the CBD oil, you can try to administer it directly into their mouths.

Quick & Easy Ways to Alleviate Anxiety in Cats

Perhaps the main reason why you would administer CBD oil for cats is to reduce their feelings of anxiousness or nervousness. Although cannabidiol is potentially useful, there are other ways to keep your cat relaxed. Use these quick tricks if you run out of CBD oil and are waiting for the next batch to arrive:

  • Cats love hiding and use it as a coping mechanism. Give your pet several options to ensure they get their preferred feeling of invisibility when anxious.
  • Make sure you give your feline the option of retreating or engaging. Holding or petting them against their will doesn’t help matters!
  • Spend quality time together with your friend, and perform the activities he/she enjoys. Some cats get nervous simply because they are alone.
  • Let as much natural light come into rooms as possible. A significant number of felines enjoy watching the view outside from the safety of indoors.
  • Believe it or not, soft or classical music can calm down a nervous cat. That said, I discovered my cat adored the song Invisible Touch by Genesis!

Final Thoughts on CBD Oil for Cats

To date, most of the research surrounding CBD oil for pets revolves around dogs. As a result, we don’t yet know how it benefits cats. However, cats have an ECS, so logically, the compound acts similarly as it does when used by a human. The quality of all CBD products varies significantly, so make sure you choose a reputable CBD brand.

Ideally, the brand offers cannabidiol from organically grown hemp and has the Certificate of Analysis and third-party lab tests to prove the contents of the oil. Finally, make sure you consult with a veterinarian before administering CBD oil to your cat. It is far better to speak to an animal expert rather than heeding the advice of a dispensary!

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