CBD Oil for Cats: The Comprehensive Guide

There is a love affair with pets in the United States. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association’s data, there are approximately 58 million cats and 77 million dogs.

Healthcare for pets in America is expensive. This is why it makes sense to pay the average $29 monthly pet insurance for cats and $48 for dogs.

If you see your pet in pain, it is only natural to get the best possible treatment. But, as it happens, plying animals with pharmaceutical drugs don’t always have the desired effect. Therefore, an increasing number of people are choosing cannabidiol, a non-intoxicating compound in marijuana and hemp.

This article outlines the potential benefits of CBD for cats, side effects, and research into the efficacy of the cannabinoid on pets.

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

Did you know that all mammals have an endocannabinoid system (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 cannabinoids 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.

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Also, cannabinoids such as CBD and THC are types of signaling molecules. 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.

Cannabinoids and Receptors: How They Interact

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 mainly 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 over 110 cannabinoids in marijuana, THC and CBD remain the most known and 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?

One of the primary roles of the ECS is to regulate inflammation. This is the 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 suggest 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.

cbd oil for cats

Scientists believe that the primary function of the ECS is to control homeostasis. This is 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 altering endocannabinoids’ activity. While cannabidiol doesn’t seem to act directly on these receptors, it is a non-competitive CB1 and CB2 antagonist.

Benefits of CBD Oil for Cats

It is easy to forget that your cat has numerous mental and physical health issues to contend with. The vast majority of cat owners purchase CBD to help alleviate anxiety and improve mood.

Like humans, cats experience stress, anxiety, and mood swings. There is a myriad of factors involved in their sudden mood change. CBD oil could help keep them calm and reduce anxiety. Through this process, you can also decrease the likelihood of declining health, poor eating cycles, and other problems associated with excessive stress.

Another common reason for giving cats CBD is to reduce joint pain and arthritis. A failure to manage such conditions could result in reduced mobility and low mood. Other potential benefits of CBD oil for cats include:

Is There Any Research Surrounding CBD for 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 regarding the effects of cannabidiol on dogs. In one such study, the team looked at how three different delivery methods – cream, oil, and a capsule – impacted how 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. CBD from oil reached the highest concentration in the blood and remained in the bloodstream the longest. It also offered the most consistent performance.

In dogs, CBD oil is the most effective form of administration. However, there are very few studies on CBD for cats.

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 dogs’ comfort and activity with the condition.

In June 2019, McGrath published a study on the effects of CBD on epileptic dogs. 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.

There is one recent study on CBD oil for cats. It was published in the American Association of Feline Practitioners’ Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery in 2021. The placebo-controlled trial placed 20 healthy adult cats into five groups. Each group received up to 11 escalating doses of CBD, THC, and a combination of CBD and THC.

The researchers found that, in general, cats tolerated both cannabinoids well with only minor side effects. However, there was a minimum of three days between consecutive doses. As a result, we still don’t know how cats react to consistent CBD usage.

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 increased 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. Consequently, it is also unwise to give your pet CBD if it is already taking a medication metabolized by the liver.

What Are the Side Effects of CBD Oil for Cats?

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 CBD use immediately.

A study published in Animals in 2019 gave an oral CBD product to eight cats and eight dogs. The researchers gave the felines and canines 2mg/kg twice a day for 12 weeks. While the dogs received soft chews, the cats consumed CBD via fish oil capsules.

Ultimately, the researchers recorded 53 adverse effects in dogs, compared to over 1,100 in cats. The most common side effects in felines were licking, head shaking, and pacing. Also, one of the eight cats involved experienced a persistent rise in the serum alanine aminotransferase (ALT).

The conclusion was that while CBD was generally safe in dogs, cats experienced adverse effects such as rapid elimination and slower absorption. The researchers recommended further research into CBD oil for cats to learn more as it was an uncontrolled study.

Other potential side effects from consuming too much CBD include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Upset stomach
  • Lethargy
  • Disorientation

Issues with the gastrointestinal system could boil down to the MCT oil in the product. If this happens with your cat, consider CBD with a different ‘carrier.’ It can act as a laxative in high doses.

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 Kansas, 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.

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How to Use CBD Oil for Cats?

Before you consider CBD oil to potentially improve your cat’s health, please ensure you talk to a vet first. This is especially true if your cat is currently taking medication because CBD interacts with a wide range of prescription drugs.

There are various products on the market geared towards cats. CBD oil remains the most popular. Top-rated brands tend to offer their oils in delicious flavors such as salmon and bacon. Therefore, you can add some oil into your cat’s bowl and mix it with food. This is a much easier process than trying to give it to them sublingually.

If your cat isn’t fond of CBD oil, you have the option of buying them crunchy or soft chews. Again, these come in various flavors. As for how much to give your cat, a lot depends on its size.

CBD Oil Dosage for Cats

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.

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)
Anxiety0.5mg
Seizures0.5 – 3.0mg
Pancreatitis0.1 – 0.5mg
Inflammatory Bowel Disease0.2mg
Asthma0.5mg
Upper Respiratory Tract Infections5mg

If you use CBD oil, bear in mind that it takes up to 45 minutes to affect and could provide benefits for up to six hours. 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 you would administer CBD oil for cats is to reduce their feelings of anxiety 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 cats against their will doesn’t help matters!
  • Spend quality time together with your friend, and perform the activities they enjoy. 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.

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 to how it does when used by humans. 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. It should also have a Certificate of Analysis and third-party lab tests to prove the oil’s contents. 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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