As cats get older, many of them develop arthritis, chronic pain, and even cancer. Health issues aren’t unique to feline old age, though. Many younger cats suffer from feline epilepsy, anxiety, or aggression.
While there are prescriptions to help treat these conditions, they can be extremely expensive, and come with side effects of their own—which lead many cat owners to wonder whether the side effects are worse or better than the symptoms they’re trying to treat.
To give their cats the best life possible, many cat owners look to alternative wellness therapies. In many cases, these can be cheaper, safer, and just as effective. For example, CBD oil is now available in a wide range of products designed just for cats. CBD provides several health benefits for humans—ranging from pain management to anxiety relief—and it turns out that cats can enjoy many of these same benefits.
A growing number of cat owners are using CBD to help their cats cope with pain, boost their appetite, and improve their quality of life. If you’re wondering how CBD can help your cat, read on. We explain how CBD oil works, and how to find the right dosage and product for your feline friend.
What Is CBD Oil?
CBD oil is an extract of cannabidiol, which comes from the cannabis plant. The cannabis plant produces over 100 of these chemical compounds, called cannabinoids. These cannabinoids share a similar structure to the endocannabinoids present in the endocannabinoid system, a body system that both humans and cats share.
While our endocannabinoid systems differ in their sensitivity to certain compounds (particularly THC, but we’ll explore that a bit later), they both share the same purpose: keeping our body in a state of homeostasis. The endocannabinoid system regulates various biological functions, including your mood, appetite, temperature, motor control, sleep, and inflammation. It does this by communicating with your other organ systems, via endocannabinoids which bind to cannabinoid receptors located throughout the body:
When you or your cat ingest cannabinoids, you provide your endocannabinoid system with a boost of cannabinoids, enabling it to do its job more effectively.
It’s important to understand that CBD oil does not treat or cure a condition. Instead, it helps manage or control the symptoms associated with a particular condition. For example, giving your cat CBD oil will not cure their arthritis, but it can help the endocannabinoid system reduce the inflammation in their joints.
Benefits of CBD Oil for Cats
Cat owners are using CBD oil to help relieve a variety of feline conditions, including arthritis, cancer, anxiety, lack of appetite, seizures, and chronic pain and inflammation.
While cats are about half as likely as dogs to develop cancer, it’s certainly not uncommon among the feline population. Cats are prone to feline leukemia, lymphoma, and various tumors in the muscles, lung, brain, and liver.
Feline cancer can be difficult to detect, but common symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, appetite loss, and a dull or rough coat. Surgery and chemotherapy can help treat the cancer, while CBD can help control many of the symptoms.
- As an antiemetic, CBD significantly reduces instances of nausea and vomiting, enabling your cat to better accept chemotherapy.
- CBD has also been shown to boost appetite among cancer patients, helping your cat thrive and maintain a healthy diet during their treatment.
- The antiinflammatory properties of CBD allow it to relieve acne and skin issues for humans just as well as it softens the fur for cats with rough coats.
Similar to cancer, arthritis often goes undiagnosed in cats. Thanks to their natural agility, cats have a higher tolerance for pain and they may immobilize themselves at the vet out of protest, making it difficult to receive a diagnosis.
Osteoarthritis develops in cats when the cartilage around their joints breaks down, causing the bones to rub against each other and thicken the surrounding tissue, leading to inflammation, pain, and decreased range of motion. As a progressive disease, feline arthritis worsens over time—especially if no treatment is given.
CBD can reduce the inflammation in your cat’s joints, making it easier for your cat to prowl around, play, and get back to jumping up on the furniture. Several studies of arthritis in rats have found CBD not only relieves swelling in the joints, improving range of motion, but can also adjust the animal’s perception of and response to pain, making it easier for them to cope with over time.
Topical CBD oils appear to be particularly therapeutic for relieving arthritis pain. In one study, a daily application of a CBD topical gel to an arthritic knee joint reduced swelling and improved limb posture. Another study similarly found that rubbing CBD oil into arthritic joints blocked osteoarthritis pain.
Anxiety and Aggression
Cats can develop anxiety for a multitude of reasons. They may be afraid of the litter box, hate driving in the car, or be nervous or upset due to a recent move or a furry addition to the family. When cats are anxious, they tend to act out—sometimes with aggression.
CBD can calm your cat’s anxiety. Many cat owners administer CBD to their cat for acute relief whenever they expect their cat to encounter a trigger, such as before a visit to the vet.
If your cat tends to be anxious all the time, a daily dose of CBD may be the better approach. CBD activates the 5-HT1A serotonin receptors in the brain. This interaction aids serotonin production, creating an antidepressant-like effect.
Feline epilepsy affects a little over 2% of cats, causing them to experience random, uncontrolled seizures or a temporary loss of consciousness. When a seizure strikes, it can be very distressing for the cat owner.
Anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs) are often prescribed for feline epilepsy, but not all cats respond adequately to these drugs. They can also cause severe side effects, like weight loss or increased salivation or urination. AEDs take a severe toll on the body and can be cost-prohibitive for many cat owners.
These cat owners may be able to supplement or replace their cat’s AEDs with CBD oil. CBD has proven to be so effective in controlling seizures that the only FDA-approved drug containing CBD is prescribed for pediatric epilepsy. For humans, CBD can reduce the monthly frequency of seizures by 36.5%, and these effects are sustained over a period of years.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Pancreatitis
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) can affect cats of any ages, although it is most often diagnosed in cats of middle and old age. IBD occurs when the cat’s gastrointestinal tract becomes chronically inflamed.
The anti-inflammatory properties of CBD can reduce this inflammation and alleviate the other symptoms of IBD, such as vomiting and weight loss. Studies of mice with IBD have found CBD to provide the following benefits:
For cats with IBD, CBD can promote better gastrointestinal health, reduce the amount of pain and nausea they experience, and allow them to live a more comfortable life.
Pancreatitis is often comorbid with IBD in cats. Feline pancreatitis may cause cats to suffer from reduced appetite, weight loss, lethargy, diarrhea, and dehydration. In addition to relieving these symptoms, studies show CBD may also inhibit tumor growth in the pancreas.
CBD Benefits for Healthy Cats
Even healthy cats can benefit from the general wellness CBD provides. CBD boosts appetite by activating the brain receptors which regulate hunger, encouraging finicky cats to eat more of their food. CBD can also maintain a healthy shine and softness to your cat’s coat. Finally, the relaxing properties of CBD can help prevent anxiety on a day-to-day basis.
How to Give CBD Oil to your Cat
CBD oil comes in a variety of product types for cats. Which one you choose depends on your cat’s personal preference and to some extent, what condition you are using the CBD oil to treat.
- CBD oils are bottles of CBD oil that come with a dropper you can use to add the oil to your cat’s food, water, or directly into their mouth. CBD oil tinctures allow you to get an exact dose of CBD for your cat, which can be a good option when CBD cat treats offer a different dose amount than you would like.
- CBD cat treats resemble regular cat treats. They contain CBD, along with natural flavoring your cat can’t resist (like tuna or catnip), so your cat may be more amenable to taking CBD oil in this way as opposed to a tincture (which will maintain the natural earthy flavor of CBD). CBD cat treats have the highest caloric content of any CBD oil product, though, so if you’re watching your cat’s weight, these may not be the best option.
- CBD topicals are creams and lotions which contain CBD. You can rub these into your cat’s fur or skin. CBD creams are a good option for cats who won’t accept CBD orally, those coping with feline arthritis or skin issues, or any cat who loves getting a massage from their owner. Just confirm that the topical is safe to eat if you’ll be applying it to a part of your cat’s body they can reach with their tongue.
All of these CBD products will be equally effective. However, CBD sublingual tinctures and topicals will allow your cat to feel the effects most expediently. With tinctures, the CBD enters their bloodstream directly under the tongue, where it begins to engage the endocannabinoid system. With topicals, the CBD will interact with local cannabinoid receptors in the skin.
If you’ll be providing your cat with a CBD cat treat, or adding the CBD oil to their water or food, it will travel through their digestive system first before entering their bloodstream—so it will take longer for them to feel the effects. Depending on how quickly you need your cat to feel the effects, one method may be better than another.
CBD Oil Dosage for Cats
Like with many natural pet products, there are no official dosing guidelines for CBD. The best dose of CBD for your cat will depend on body weight, the severity of their condition, and their own personal body chemistry and tolerance for CBD.
Most cat owners have found an effective dose to be 0.2 mg of CBD for every pound of your cat’s body weight.
|Cat’s body weight
|Starting dose of CBD
CBD is very safe and well-tolerated in cats, so if you find that this starting dose is not effective, feel free to increase it. Just be sure to do so gradually to ensure a comfortable experience for your cat.
The above are general dosing guidelines. Your veterinarian, as well as the CBD oil product you purchase, can provide more specific dosing recommendations.
How to Safely Buy CBD Oil for Cats
CBD oil is a newer industry, so it’s not regulated by the FDA. And as a pet product, it’s subject to less regulation anyway. That means it’s up to you as a cat owner to ensure the CBD oil you’re buying for your cat will be safe. Fortunately, that’s relatively easy to do. Just follow this checklist to find high-quality CBD oil for your cat:
1. Only use CBD oils that are intended for cats.
The endocannabinoid system and anatomy of a cat and a human are very different. You should only give your cat CBD oils that were designed for cats (and as a human, you should only use CBD oils for humans).
Cats are more sensitive to THC than humans, so manufacturers creating CBD oils for cats will take care to ensure it doesn’t contain THC—while a CBD oil product for humans may contain higher amounts of THC.
2. Confirm the manufacturer uses third-party testing.
Quality manufacturers use third-party labs to assess the safety of their CBD oils, and to verify the concentration of CBD, THC, and other cannabinoids they contain. They’ll also share the test results for the CBD oils they sell, either on their website or with the product packaging.
Third-party testing is important not only for verifying the concentration of CBD in your cat’s CBD oil (and thereby its effectiveness), but also the safety of it for your pet, as the lab will uncover any potential toxins.
3. Choose CBD oils sourced from hemp, not marijuana.
Typically, CBD oils are extracted from hemp, since hemp is legal throughout the U.S. and contains higher amounts of CBD. However, they can also be sourced from marijuana.
Marijuana is toxic for cats, due to its high concentration of THC. That’s why CBD oils for cats should always be sourced from hemp, which contains 0.3% THC or less. This way you can ensure the product will not only be safe for your cat, but also legal no matter where you live.
4. Consult your veterinarian.
Since they know your cat’s medical history, your veterinarian is best positioned to advise you on the best dose of CBD for your cat, as well as any particular products that may be effective for them, depending on their condition.
CBD can interact with other medications, so if your cat is taking other drugs, it’s critical that you consult your veterinarian before starting a CBD regimen.
5. Read the online reviews.
The tips above will help you find a safe CBD oil for your cat. However, many people prefer certain brands over others for various reasons. One company may have better customer service, or cat owners may have found one product to be more effective than another for a particular condition.
Check the online reviews to see if customers mostly have positive things to say, and pay special attention to any reviews from cat owners who have a cat with a similar condition to yours.
CBD for Cats: Common FAQ
You may have a few more questions about CBD for cats. We aim to answer them below.
Are there any side effects to CBD?
Side effects are rare with CBD. However, if they do occur, you may notice the following:
- Dry mouth
- Changes in appetite or weight
If you notice any of these side effects in your cat, stop giving them CBD oil immediately and speak to your veterinarian. They may advise you on how to reduce the dose and slowly reintroduce it to your cat, or they may suggest alternate therapies you can try.
CBD can interact with other medications, and may affect kittens differently than adult cats. If you have a kitten or if your cat is taking other medication, speak with your veterinarian before giving them CBD oil.
Can a cat overdose on CBD oil?
CBD is safe for both cats and dogs, even in relatively high doses. However, to ensure an enjoyable experience for your cat, it’s always recommended to start with the lowest dose and gradually increase from there, while carefully watching your cat for any potential side effects.
Not all cannabinoids are safe for cats, though. Another cannabinoid, THC, is known for the “high” behind marijuana. THC creates a high due to its psychoactive properties. CBD, on the other hand, contains no psychoactive properties, so it’s able to provide health benefits without a feeling of being stoned.
Is CBD oil toxic to cats?
No, unlike THC, CBD oil is not toxic to cats. CBD is a different cannabinoid than THC, and it contains no psychoactive properties. When you give your cat CBD oil, it will enjoy the therapeutic benefits of CBD without the high of THC.
Will CBD make my cat high?
CBD is distinct from THC, and it contains no psychoactive properties. As a result, CBD oil should not give your cat a high—as long as the product is sourced from industrial hemp. Industrial hemp contains 0.3% THC or less, whereas marijuana can contain anywhere between 5% and 40%.
Most CBD oils are sourced from hemp—since they contain lower amounts of THC and are legal nationwide—but it’s always best to double-check using our Buyer’s Checklist above.
Is CBD legal?
Yes. CBD that is sourced from industrial hemp became legal nationwide as of December 2018. As long as your product is sourced from hemp (and not marijuana), it will be legal for you to purchase and safe for your cat to use.
Is CBD oil the same as hemp or hemp seed oil?
No. While both CBD oil and hemp seed oil come from hemp, they come from different parts of the plant. CBD oil is extracted from the flowers and leaves, while hemp seed oil is extracted from, unsurprisingly, the seeds. CBD oil contains high amounts of CBD, while hemp seed oil contains nearly none at all.
Hemp seed oil can improve your cat’s digestive health and the shininess of their fur, but it will not relieve their pain, anxiety, epilepsy, or inflammation. To ensure you’re buying CBD oil, look for the words “hemp extract” or “CBD oil” on the bottle (as opposed to “hemp oil”), and make sure the product lists the concentration of CBD in milligrams.
Where can I buy CBD oil for cats?
You can buy CBD oil for cats both online and in many local pet stores. Your vet may even sell CBD oil. Often, you can find the best price for CBD oil by purchasing it online directly from the manufacturer.