By Angela Ardolino
Everyone is familiar with the signs of an anxious dog. Panting, pacing, barking – all par for the course. But with cats, anxiety and other ailments can be harder to spot.
Every time a thunderstorm started, Krista Lyons’ cat, Henri, began to pant and pace. He frantically chewed on anything he could find – socks, blankets, sometimes he even chewed his mom’s arms. When doors were closed during the storms, he dug until the carpet was completely worn away. What she thought was her cat being a jerk turned out to be symptoms of anxiety.
While Henri dug at the doors, Lyons’ older cat, Chloe began having trouble jumping and moving without pain. Her middle cat, a large black cat named Inigo, was suffering from allergies and alopecia. When she spoke with me, she was at her wits end.
The same types of problems that CBD can treat in dogs, it can treat in cats. When Lyons asked me what she should do for her cats, I knew that CBD would be the safest answer.
It is important to grasp an understanding of how CBD works before you can choose if it is right for your pet. Although research primarily focuses on the effects of CBD on humans, there are potentially enormous benefits for cats to use CBD.
The endocannabinoid system in cats
Cannabidiol, CBD, is a cannabinoid (or compounds in the plant) found in the cannabis plant. The cannabis plant is separated into two plant types, marijuana and hemp. Hemp has less than .3 percent of THC (the psychoactive component associated with feeling “high”) but has all of the cannabinoids, including CBD that the cannabis plant contains. Unlike marijuana, hemp is legal in all 50 states, Canada, and Mexico.
CBD and other cannabinoids interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system to help carry messages between cells. There are two types of receptors in the endocannabinoid system – CB1 and CB2 receptors. In cats, CB1 receptors are located in the brain and nervous system, while CB2 receptors function in the peripheral organs and immune cells. Many cannabinoids work with both CB1 and CB2 receptors, meaning that a single compound can have several positive benefits.
How do cats differ from dogs with the use of CBD and the endocannabinoid system?
Even though cats and dogs are different in a lot of ways, their endocannabinoid systems function the same. The only difference is in the reaction, which may be stronger in cats than in dogs simply due to their smaller size.
What does CBD treat in cats?
CBD can alleviate a lot of serious issues. A 2014 study showed that CBD can reduce inflammation which results in overall better health. Additionally, hemp seed oil has the perfect balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which promotes overall health.
Specifically in cats, CBD can treat:
Loss of appetite
Loss of energy
Your cat will likely exhibit different symptoms when they are not feeling well than dogs, and their problems may not be as obvious. Make sure to spend time observing your cat’s normal behaviour and talk to a veterinarian about the underlying causes of any changes in behaviour.
How do you safely use CBD and what are some common terms I should know?
Most CBD companies use tinctures (oils) or treats to administer CBD. You can mix it into your cat’s food or you can put it in their mouth to swallow. CBD can also be absorbed through the gums and can be administered by lifting the cat’s lip and inserting it right into the gums.
CBD products range in the total number of milligrams of CBD per ounce, and they range in the spectrum of cannabinoids. Full-spectrum means that as many natural cannabinoids are present as possible and none were removed or isolated during extraction. Broad spectrum means that some cannabinoids may have been taken out or enhanced. Whenever possible, full spectrum is best for pets.
Most CBD products on the market start anywhere from 50 to 150 mg and go all the way up to 1100 mg of CBD per ounce. Typically, the higher the number of milligrams of CBD, the stronger the effect will be. When shopping for CBD oil, make sure to pay attention to the label. If the label says 1700 mg of hemp oil, but does not say the total number of milligrams of CBD oil, that does not mean there are 1700 mg of CBD oil. CBD oil and hemp oil are not the same. They both have healthful, important qualities, but CBD is extracted from the leaves and flowers of the hemp plant, while hemp oil is extracted from the seeds and stalks of the plant.
Your veterinarian may not be able to talk about CBD unless asked specifically about it, but you should discuss with them any supplements, including CBD, that you are giving your cat.
Can you use the same CBD for your cats as your dogs, and is it safe?
Because cats are often smaller than dogs, it is important to change the dosage for cats accordingly. For most cats, .25 – .5 mL is plenty.
Many brands who make CBD oil for dogs also make CBD oil for cats. While many dog products are safe for cats to use too, make sure to check the label for anything that may be toxic to cats. You should refrain from using products intended for people on pets, because they often contain chemical or artificial sweeteners, like xylitol, which can be toxic to cats and dogs alike.
Your cat cannot overdose on CBD. If you give your cat too much the result will be lethargy and sedation, but it will not hurt them otherwise. Each cat is different and it may take time for you to see a result in your cat. CBD is miraculous, but not always instantaneous. Keep giving your cat CBD one to two times per day and watch for results in a few weeks. There are no negative or long-term side effects from CBD in cats.
Thankfully, CBD helped Henri stay calm during storms, resolved Inigo’s allergies, and alleviated Chloe’s joint pain.
Angela Ardolino has been caring for animals since she was 8 years old and has operated a farm rescue, Fire Flake Farm, for over 10 years.