How CBD Oil Can Help Cats
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a phytocannabinoid or compound found naturally in cannabis plants. Since CBD is non-psychoactive, it does not make users feel high upon use.
CBD oil may be sold and purchased under federal laws as long as it contains less than 0.3% THC on a dry weight basis(1).
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is another phytocannabinoid found in cannabis plants. Unlike CBD, however, THC is psychoactive. THC is the chemical responsible for the psychological or mind-altering effects of marijuana.
Commercially available CBD products are derived from industrial hemp, specifically bred to have low THC concentrations.
Although the available findings on CBD are still inconclusive, various studies noted that CBD has promising health benefits.
CBD and other cannabinoids’ therapeutic effects stem from their interaction with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS).
Humans and other mammals, including cats, all have an ECS, which is responsible for maintaining homeostasis or balance within the body.
The ECS helps regulate daily bodily functions, including immune response, pain management, anxiety, mood, sleep cycle, and appetite.
CBD works by interacting with and stimulating the cannabinoid receptors, such as the CB1 and CB2 receptors, found in the ECS.
Studies showed that CB1 receptors are mainly found in the central nervous system and involved in brain activities(2).
Meanwhile, the CB2 receptors are usually found in the peripheral nervous system and are involved with the immune system(3).
The CB1 receptors influence pain sensation, memory processing, sleep patterns, mood, appetite, and motor function(4).
Activated CB2 receptors trigger an anti-inflammatory response and neuropathic (nerve damage or injury) pain response(5), which may help suppress inflammation and pain.
Research indicated that this anti-inflammatory response is promising in treating different inflammatory conditions in humans, such as arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and atherosclerosis(6).
Benefits of Using CBD Oil for Cats
Like humans, cats experience inflammation-related medical conditions. According to a study, CBD may provide therapeutic relief for cat osteoarthritis and feline inflammatory bowel disease(7).
CBD’s anti-inflammatory effects were also highlighted in a 2017 study on dogs. Published in Frontiers in Veterinary Science, the study noted that CBD oil treatments may be useful to dogs with osteoarthritis.
The findings indicated a significant decrease in pain and increased physical activity among the dogs that received CBD oil. The researchers suggested a CBD dosage of 2mg/kg twice daily for greater comfort and favorable results.
As all dogs and cats have the same endocannabinoid system, pet CBD oil tinctures may also help reduce osteoarthritis pain and allow cats to move around more.
This is particularly helpful for senior and overweight cats who are prone to feline osteoarthritis(8).
The benefits of CBD for cats are not limited to reduced inflammation and chronic pain. CBD oil may also help with anxiety, depression, and mental wellness.
Like their human owners, cats also experience anxiety and seizures.
A study published in PLOS ONE found that 13.45% of surveyed cats and dogs displayed behavior included in the criteria for defining separation-related problems(9).
The behavioral criteria included agitation-anxiety, depression-apathy, and aggressiveness(10).
Meanwhile, in another study, scientists noted that human participants that took CBD oil displayed less anxiety and better sleep quality(11).
CBD may also help with other anxiety-related disorders in humans, like post-traumatic stress disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder(12).
Separate findings also indicated CBD’s promising benefits in reducing the frequency of seizures by more than 50%(13).
CBD balms and salves may offer therapeutic relief for dry skin, itchiness, and other skin conditions, according to research(14).
Atopic dermatitis or eczema is a common inflammatory skin disorder in humans, particularly in children and infants(15).
Cats also experience a similar condition to atopic dermatitis, called feline atopy(16). Symptoms of feline atopy include over-grooming, cutaneous lesions, head and neck scratching, and bilateral symmetrical alopecia or hair loss.
CBD also contains essential vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A, C, and E, which can help facilitate better skin health and provide antioxidant benefits(17).
Moreover, findings indicated that topical CBD ointment may have therapeutic effects on human psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, and other skin inflammatory conditions(18).
Although the study was not conducted on cats, it is possible for CBD’s potential skin benefits to extend to cats, as both cats and humans share the same ECS.
Choosing high-quality products may help ensure our furry friends get the most benefits from their CBD intake.
How Soon Can CBD’s Effects Be Felt?
The speed at which cats feel the effects of pet CBD oil would depend on the chosen delivery method, potency, and health condition of each cat.
When given sublingually or placed under the tongue, CBD works fast, and its effects may be felt between 15 and 45 minutes in humans(19).
However, it is difficult for cats to hold the CBD oil under their tongue for at least thirty seconds. Immediately swallowing the CBD oil affects the time it takes for the oil to take effect.
Ingested CBD products, like capsules and food, may have a delayed onset of effect of up to one to two hours(20).
Cats may feel the effects of CBD within 30 to 60 minutes after ingesting it.
The type of carrier oil used by the CBD oil also affects CBD bioavailability. Bioavailability refers to the speed and amount of CBD absorbed into the bloodstream.
Some of the popular carrier oils for CBD are fractionated coconut oil or medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil and hempseed oil.
MCT oil is a common carrier oil because it can be quickly absorbed by the body without being emulsified in the digestive tract or undergoing hydrolysis (chemical breakdown due to water)(21).
The effects of CBD hemp oil and other CBD oil products on cats may last between four and six hours. However, this may depend on the amount of CBD taken and how it was delivered.
Research results published in the journal Animals showed that the time it takes for CBD oil to reach maximum concentration or effect is two hours for cats(22).
The study also suggested that cats absorb or eliminate CBD at a different rate and way than dogs.
Cats exhibit lower serum concentrations in their system and more behavioral changes, like excessive licking, pacing, and head-shaking(23).
Possible Adverse Effects of Using CBD Oil for Cats
Cats that take other medications for existing health issues may encounter possible side effects due to CBD’s interaction with other medications, such as blood thinners(24).
Similar to catnip, ingesting CBD oil can commonly cause sedation and cause pets to mellow out or become lethargic(25).
Other possible side effects of pet CBD oil include diarrhea, vomiting, and polyphagia (excessive hunger)(26).
Cat owners may avoid potential adverse effects by ensuring the CBD products they buy have been independently tested and do not contain any harmful contaminants, such as residual solvents, pesticides, and heavy metals.
CBD oil and CBD products are generally safe for both humans and cats as studies mentioned above suggest. However, CBD oil formulated for humans may not be safe for cats, as some products may contain THC.
Even trace amounts of THC can be fatal to cats, causing intoxication and adverse effects, such as aggression and agitation in cats(27).
Pet owners are advised to consult with their veterinarians about how to use CBD oil for pets. However, note that “under current federal and state law, veterinarians may not administer, dispense, prescribe or recommend cannabis or its products for animals,” according to the American Veterinary Medical Association(28).
Vegan, gluten-free, and all-natural CBD oil may also be safer options. It may be safely given to cats either before or after a meal.
In a 2019 study, the researchers gave CBD-infused fish oil to unfed cats without seeing any major adverse effects(29).
As of December 2020, there are only a few studies available on CBD oil use in cats. Moreover, CBD is still not approved as a drug medication by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)(30).
Different Ways to Administer CBD Oil to Cats
CBD pet products are available in different forms, including traditional oils and tinctures, cat treats and chewables, pet capsules, and topical balms or salves.
Pet CBD tinctures usually come with a graduated dropper for accurate dosage measurement and easy administration.
CBD oils and tinctures may be given to cats sublingually. This method allows the CBD oil to be absorbed directly into the bloodstream through the blood vessels underneath the tongue.
Studies suggested that sublingual CBD delivery may have the highest bioavailability after CBD inhalation(31).
Sublingual delivery may be difficult, especially if the cat does not like the natural grassy taste of CBD oil. Fortunately, some CBD companies offer bacon, chicken, and other flavored pet CBD oil.
CBD oil may also be added to wet or dry food for ease of delivery. Cat owners may also open up and mix the contents of CBD capsules or softgels onto the food.
CBD pet treats are an easy and effective way to get cats to take CBD. These products often have cat-friendly flavors and contain a predetermined amount of CBD per piece for easier dosage calculation.
Cat owners experiencing difficulty in giving CBD to their pets may place or dab some oil on cats’ paws for them to lick.
Additionally, CBD may be applied topically or directly onto the cat’s skin, ears, or nose. Since cats may lick off CBD balms and salves, it would be better to use organic CBD oil with natural ingredients safe to ingest.
A veterinarian experienced with CBD use may give more accurate recommendations on which delivery method would work best depending on the medical conditions and health needs of the cat.
Recommended CBD Dosage for Cats
CBD is not yet an FDA-approved drug(32). Thus, no official CBD dosage guidelines direct pet owners on how much CBD oil to give to their cats.
Determining CBD dosage for cats would depend on the cat’s size, body weight, age, diet, and health condition.
Brands also often provide dosing recommendations for their pet CBD oils and tinctures, based on the potency and concentration.
Some brands also provide CBD dosage calculators and dosing charts online.
A common dosing rule from different brands and pet care websites is giving 1mg to 5mg CBD for the average 10lb cat.
CBD oil may be given up to two times a day, although some sites recommend giving CBD every eight hours or as needed for cats with chronic pain and inflammation.
Note that 5mg of CBD counts as a strong CBD dose for small cats. Experienced CBD users recommend starting out with a low CBD dose to err on the side of caution and increasing the dosage based on any health condition changes.
Additionally, it is important to consider CBD potency and concentration when determining CBD dosage. The hemp source, cultivation methods, and extraction process may affect the CBD potency.
One mg of CBD oil with a 500mg CBD concentration is much more potent than 1mg of CBD oil with only 250mg CBD.
Pet owners must always check the labels and the certificates of analysis (COAs) of any pet CBD product and verify the CBD content before making the purchase.
Pet CBD edibles and treats may be more advisable for first-time CBD users, as they no longer have to compute and measure the right amount of CBD oil each time.
The set concentration of CBD in each pet CBD treat makes dosage and administration easier.
Still, the right amount of CBD to give to one cat may not always work with another cat. Consulting a veterinarian familiar with CBD use may help ensure optimal feline health and well-being.
How to Buy the Best CBD Products for Cats
There are several factors that cat owners need to consider when looking to buy the highest quality CBD products.
Overall Brand Transparency
- Trustworthy CBD brands and products are those that are transparent with their hemp sourcing, farming practices, extraction process, licenses, accreditation, and product lab test results.
- Look for brands that provide comprehensive product information without making any unsubstantiated health claims. Take note that CBD is not an approved FDA drug and may only be recommended for therapeutic relief rather than for medical treatment.
- Verify the claims that a CBD brand gives. Vital information, such as the product’s CBD potency and contaminant testing, should be readily available for consumers.
- As CBD is still mostly unregulated, third-party laboratory testing and the resulting COAs allow customers to ensure that the product is safe and authentic.
- More importantly, the third-party lab results can help verify a brand’s claims about the THC content and make sure the product is entirely legal.
Kind of Hemp and Ingredients Used
- Choose high-quality CBD oil that uses non-genetically modified (non-GMO) and organic hemp.
- Organically grown hemp plants are free of harmful pesticides and chemical fertilizers that may negatively impact a cat’s health.
- Certified organic industrial hemp must follow strict guidelines and undergo rigorous inspections to receive certification. Seals of approval and certifications help ensure the quality of the hemp used.
- Organic CBD oil with natural ingredients and without added preservatives makes for some of the best CBD oil for cats, as well.
THC-Free CBD for Cats
- Full-spectrum hemp oil or CBD oil contains a wide array of beneficial phytocannabinoids (plant-based cannabis compounds), terpenes (aromatic oils in plants), and fatty acids.
- The compounds and oils in full-spectrum CBD work together and enhance each others’ therapeutic benefits, creating the “entourage effect”(33).
- However, pet owners should choose CBD oil without THC like broad-spectrum CBD products or CBD isolates. THC is toxic for cats.
- Similar to full-spectrum CBD oil, a broad-spectrum CBD product also contains a wide range of cannabis compounds. Even without any THC, broad-spectrum still produces an entourage effect due to the mix of phytocannabinoids and terpenes(34).
- Note that an individual can fail a drug test after taking CBD oil, though it rarely happens. Prolonged use of full-spectrum CBD products may cause the trace amounts of THC to accumulate and register in drug tests.
CBD Product Form
- CBD for pets is also available as topicals, such as salves and balms, and as edibles like CBD cat treats.
- Some CBD product forms may be more suited to address specific health concerns.
- A CBD balm may help with dry paws or itchiness, while a CBD pet tincture may be better suited for offering pain and anxiety relief(35).
Brand’s Customer Service
- Buy pet CBD oil from brands that have a money-back guarantee. Many high-quality brands that offer a money-back guarantee do so because they are confident in the quality of their products.
- Look for CBD brands responsive to customer inquiries, particularly questions about their product formulations, item returns, and order shipments.
- If possible, choose brands that give back to the community through charitable donations and support to non-profit organizations.
The Legality of CBD
CBD oil extracted from industrial hemp plants is federally legal in the USA(36).
The 2018 Farm Bill allows for the growth, cultivation, processing, manufacture, handling, and selling of industrial hemp and its derivatives(37).
Industrial hemp and hemp-derived CBD products are required to have THC concentrations of no more than 0.3% on a dry weight basis to remain legal on the federal level.
However, despite being federally legal, CBD is still not approved by the FDA(38). In particular, the FDA restricts the sale of any food products with added CBD, including animal feed(39).
Laws concerning CBD are quickly evolving, so pet owners are advised to check their state laws regularly to avoid legal problems.
The FDA has only approved one CBD-based medication, Epidiolex, for treating seizures linked to rare forms of epilepsy(40).
Additionally, states may still impose stricter rules and regulations for CBD products.
For example, 36 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws legalizing medical cannabis and other cannabis-based products, including CBD(41).
Among the remaining states, 14 have passed laws permitting the use of high-CBD, low-THC products.
Some states, like Washington, do not allow the sale of food and beverage products with added CBD(42).
South Carolina also does not permit the sale of food and drinks infused with pure CBD isolates. However, the state allows the use of full-spectrum hemp extracts or oil additives(43).
Meanwhile, Idaho law requires CBD products to be completely THC-free, rather than containing less than 0.3%. The state also needs CBD to be sourced from one of five parts of cannabis or hemp plants to be considered legal(44).
Note that there are still states that restrict the sale and possession of industrial hemp and hemp-based CBD.
South Dakota, for instance, considers all forms of hemp and CBD oil illegal(45).
In contrast, Colorado allows the manufacture and sale of food and drinks that contain hemp-derived CBD and does not have any age restrictions on the purchase of CBD products unless CBD is infused into alcohol(46).