With cats living in about one-third of all households in the U.S., it’s clear that felines are just as popular and beloved as dogs. Yet when it comes to natural health products, cats are often left out of the loop.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a powerful natural supplement that is just as available for cats as it is for dogs. Although many pet owners are still unfamiliar with CBD products, these treats and drops are growing in popularity as evidence mounts for their efficacy. Find out what CBD might do for your beloved cat, which products contain it, and what to know about potential side effects before giving it a try.
What is CBD, Exactly?
CBD is a naturally occurring compound extracted from hemp. There are hundreds of potentially valuable compounds that can be extracted this way, but only CBD has been widely tested on both animals and humans at this point.
Products known as CBD oil contain a concentrated liquid form of this extract, but not all CBD products are oils. CBD can also come in other forms, like tinctures, or they can be added to pet products like treats.
How Do Cats Take CBD?
Most cat-friendly CBD products are designed in some way to appeal to them. CBD-infused cat treats are the most common form since the treat entices your pet to take its daily dose without a fight.
If you have a cat that turns its nose up at treats, a liquid CBD oil product is likely a better choice. Drops are relatively easy to administer into a cat’s mouth or mix into their wet food. Avoid any tinctures based on alcohol rather than a food-safe oil, since alcohol is unsafe for cats.
Is CBD Safe for Cats to Take?
Almost all the research on CBD safety and efficacy in animals is still ongoing. As of 2019, there have been no major studies completed on the effects of CBD in cats. However, there has been one completed study on dogs showing that CBD was safe and even effective at treating pain symptoms. Many pet owners rely on that study for guidance in determining whether their cat will respond well to CBD.
Each pet owner must make a decision about this with the information available, but it should be noted that many natural and holistic vets already recommended CBD as safe for cats.
What Could CBD Help Cats With?
With no published scientific studies to guide them, cat owners must use the information from tests on humans and dogs to try and extrapolate the benefits CBD may provide for their pets. Depending on the study and the test subjects, CBD has been shown to offer the following potential benefits:
- Relief from chronic pain caused by conditions like arthritis
- Sedation to calm down an anxious or frightened cat
- Stimulation of the appetite for cats struggling to gain weight
- Soothing skin irritations and improving coat condition based on its improvement of acne symptoms in humans
- Management of seizures caused by an underlying condition that’s already being treated separately
Possible Side Effects
While CBD is a natural supplement, it can cause a few specific side effects in humans and cats alike. Sedation is the primary side effect you’ll notice if you give your pet CBD treats or drops.
If you’re dealing with an anxious or frightened cat, this side effect is likely the desired outcome for treatment rather than an unwanted surprise. The sedating effects of CBD wear off quickly after you cease giving your pet new doses of the compound.
The only other reported side effect of CBD in animals is gastrointestinal upset. This may take the form of refusal to eat due to an upset stomach or vomiting caused by nausea. If you’re trying to get a cat to eat, these side effects will make that job harder rather than easier.
As with sedation, any stomach upset caused by the supplement should fade away within a day or two of ceasing treatment. Vomiting or refusal to eat that continues after that point likely has another cause that requires diagnosis and treatment from your vet.
Where to Find CBD Products for Cats
CBD products are widely available in most states now, but not every form of CBD is safe or effective for pets. There are many secondary ingredients like alcohol and chocolate commonly mixed in that can be downright dangerous to cats and dogs.
Look for CBD products designed for pet use, preferably for cats in particular rather than animals in general. Products designed for cats will be appealing to them, making dosing much easier.
All CBD products—for pets or for people—are marked with the amount of the compound they contain. You’ll need to know how much active CBD is in each treat, drop, or other serving of the supplement so you can dose your cat properly by weight. Just like with any other medication or supplement for pets, giving your cat too much CBD increases the likelihood of unwanted side effects.
Determining the Dosage of CBD for Your Cat
Doses of CBD are determined by the total weight of the person or animal, so invest in an accurate pet scale or use your bathroom scale to get an estimate of your cat’s weight before ordering any supplements. In general, cats respond best to a dose of .5 mg per kg of body weight, or .25 mg per pound. This is the maximum recommended dose, so start off around .1 mg per pound first and see how your pet responds.
Keep them on the lowest dose that has a positive effect on their symptoms to reduce the chances of unwanted side effects. You can gradually increase the dose over the course of a few weeks if your vet recommends it. Some conditions, such as seizures, require you to build up to a higher dosage than other uses.
For example, many vets recommend a daily dose of 3 mg per kilogram of body weight for seizure management. Start at a much lower dose and increase the daily amount only by .1 mg at a time to ensure that your cat has a chance to get used to the supplement.
Always Consult with Your Vet
Giving CBD pet products a try could help your aging or chronically ill cat live a healthier, happier life. You should discuss any treatments you want to try on your pet with their vet first, even when it’s a natural supplement like CBD. There’s always a chance of interactions between any medications your pet currently takes and the new additions to their routine.
As long as you’re working with your vet and choosing a high-quality CBD pet supplement, you may see surprising results from just a few weeks of administering the compound to your cat.