CBD oil is growing in use among cat owners, but there is confusion among similar products and whether or not it is safe to use in cats. Our feline companions are pretty self-sufficient. In fact, sometimes our cats may even come across as moody, aloof, or skittish. It’s easy to stereotype cats into a group that has one particular type of personality. A particular orange-furred, cartoon cat that exhibits constant dominance over his owner and terror A leading veterinary cannabis researcher explains what experts do and don’t know about giving animals CBD.
Is CBD Oil Good for Cats?
Adrienne Kruzer is a veterinary technician with more than 15 years of experience providing healthcare to domestic and exotic animals. She is trained as a Fear Free Certified Professional to prevent and alleviate fear, anxiety, and stress in pets.
Dr. Jennifer Coates, DVM, is an accomplished veterinarian and writer with more than 25 years of experience in veterinary medicine, animal welfare, and conservation. She participates in The Spruce Pets’ veterinary review board and is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association.
CBD has grown in popularity for use in humans, dogs, and even cats, but there are still a lot of questions surrounding its use. Pet owners need to know what it might be useful for, whether or not it is legal, and the difference between hemp, CBD, Cannabis, marijuana, and THC. Knowing whether or not a product is safe, effective, and legal for a pet cat to use is of utmost importance in order to avoid harming your pet or breaking the law.
Is CBD Oil Safe for Cats?
There is unfortunately little research that has been done on the effects of CBD in cats. Based on anecdotal reports and limited study, CBD does appear to be safe for cats, but its effectivenss for the treatment of any condition has not yet been proven. Until more research has been done showing that CBD is in fact safe and effective, it is only prudent to use it under veterinary supervision.
What Is CBD Oil?
CBD is actually an abbreviation for cannabidiol, and cannabidiol is a phytocannabinoid, or specific type of molecule, that is made by and extracted from Cannabis plants. When extracted, CBD can be included in an oil that can be given orally to cats. It often contains coconut, hempseed, olive, avocado, or palm oil that acts as a carrier oil, similar to how many essential oils are made.
What Is the Difference Between CBD and Hemp Oil?
CBD and hemp oil are often confused with one another because both are sourced from Cannabis plants. Hemp oil may or may not contain significant amounts of CBD, but it is always extracted from a specific strain of Cannabis sativa called hemp that contains less than 0.3% THC, the phytocannabinoid that is responsible for the high of marijuana. CBD, on the other hand, can be extracted from either marijuana or hemp, although hemp-derived CBD is far more common.
Does CBD Oil Contain THC?
THC is the abbreviation for delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol and is the psychoactive component of marijuana. Marijuana plants contain significant amounts of THC; hemp plants do not. Many people who want to use CBD oil specifically look for THC-free or low THC CBD oils, which is why they are usually purchasing hemp-derived CBD. Any product containing significant levels of THC (higher than 0.3%) should not be administered to cats and may pose safety concerns.
Is CBD Found in Marijuana?
CBD can be derived from marijuana plants, but most growers are more concerned about the THC content. Marijuana should never be administered to cats regardless of how much CBD is in it. Hemp-derived CBD is legal and safer for cats than marijuana-derived CBD.
Why Is CBD Oil Popular for Cats?
Cat owners want to give their pets safe and effective treatment options, and some medications may have negative side effects or not work well enough to help their cat’s specific issues. The anecdotal, media, and early scientific success of CBD oil in people and dogs has caused it to grow in popularity for use in cats, too. Some owners report major successes in treating a variety of ailments in their dogs that were taking CBD oil after being unable to achieve it using other products. However, it’s important to remember that cats and dogs process medications and supplements very differently, and the safety and effectiveness of CBD is still being researched in cats.
Risks and Concerns in Using CBD Oil in Cats
Since there really isn’t any research that has been done supporting the safe use of CBD in cats, there is a lot still unknown. Whether or not there are side effects, especially with long-term use, the efficacy for use in supporting a variety of bodily systems, contraindications with medications, and administration amounts for specific uses in cats still need to be studied.
In addition to the lack of research, another concern with CBD oil is finding a consistent and pure source. There is almost no regulation over the manufacture of CBD so widely-available products may contain little to no active ingredient and/or be contaminated with potentially harmful substances. Consumers should talk to their veterinarian and look for a company with strict quality control measure to ensure products meet label claims before giving CBD to their cats.
If you suspect your pet is sick, call your vet immediately. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know the pet’s health history, and can make the best recommendations for your pet.
The Spruce Pets uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
Hilderbrand, R L. Hemp & Cannabidiol: What is a Medicine?. Missouri Medicine vol. 115,4 (2018): 306-309
Is CBD Oil Safe for Cats?
Our feline companions are pretty self-sufficient. In fact, sometimes our cats may even come across as moody, aloof, or skittish. It’s easy to stereotype cats into a group that has one particular type of personality.
A particular orange-furred, cartoon cat that exhibits constant dominance over his owner and terrorizes his yellow dog “brother” comes to mind. However, cat personalities vary greatly. In fact, a study from 2017 assessed the personalities of over 2,000 cats and developed a categorical system for feline personalities now dubbed “the feline five.”
Feline personality types can sometimes make it difficult for their human owners to understand when they aren’t feeling well. Cats that are sick or experiencing discomfort may not appear to act much different than they normally do, depending on their personality.
For instance, it isn’t uncommon for cats who aren’t very social to hide or seek out a spot under a bed to sleep, this can be their normal behavior. However, it can also be a sign they are not feeling well or have been injured. If your cat normally sleeps under a bed or hides the majority of the day, you will have to look for other indications your cat is ill to determine if there is something wrong.
If your cat is not feeling well, has been injured, or is otherwise not herself, you can look for signs.
Here are some of the most common behaviors of cats who aren’t feeling well.
- Hiding . Again, this can be hard to spot if your cat typically hides the better part of the day. Look for cues that the hiding is lasting longer than normal. For instance, a cat that doesn’t remove herself from hiding when she hears food being poured into her dish may be in discomfort or not feeling well.
- Sitting very still and hunching. If your cat is consistently in a “crouched” or hunched position, with her legs tucked neatly under her body, it could be a symptom she is experiencing some type of discomfort.
- Grooming issues. Cats who are normally meticulous groomers may stop grooming if they are ill, or over-groom to the point of self-harm like gnawing off fur or creating open sores on their skin.
- Unusual or excessive meowing. Is your normally quiet kitty suddenly meowing non-stop? This could be an indication she is in discomfort.
- Vomiting and/or diarrhea. A tell-tale sign of gastric discomfort is vomiting and diarrhea. In either case, this requires an immediate visit to her veterinarian, as she can become dehydrated very quickly.
- Restlessness. When your cat can no longer catch a cat-nap, she may be experiencing environmental stress. Environmental stress can come from many factors, and it’s important to see her veterinarian to determine the root of the behavior.
- Refusal to use her litter box . It’s understandable this will make a cat owner upset, but it is not an indication that your cat is “naughty,” it’s likely an indication she isn’t well.
If you notice any of these symptoms in your cat, you should make an appointment to see her veterinarian right away. Her vet can help determine what’s wrong and develop a treatment plan for her.
In addition to seeing her vet, you can also look for ways to help promote your cat’s overall health and wellness, and care for her body through the use of all-natural, plant-based supplements. One supplement that carries a vast array of benefits for felines is cannabidiol, or “CBD” oil.
What is CBD Oil?
CBD oil is one of over one hundred chemical compounds found in the leaves, flowers, and stems of the cannabis-sativa plant. The cannabis-sativa plant has many varieties and cannabinoid profiles with varying degrees levels of each compound, however, the variety used predominantly for CBD-focused products is an industrial hemp plant containing mostly CBD and other cannabinoids and less than 0.03% of tetrahydrocannabinol, or “THC,” which is the compound associated with producing intoxicating effects.
CBD oil can be extracted from the hemp plant in three different ways that are available for pets.
- Isolate. CBD isolate is CBD oil that contains only cannabidiol, or CBD. No other plant parts, i.e. phytonutrients, are included in this formula. CBD isolate is inexpensive to manufacture and mass-produce, though the quality of the CBD is very low and doesn’t offer as many health benefits.
- Full-spectrum. Full-spectrum refers to the cannabinoid extract from the hemp plant containing CBD along with all other usable phytonutrients, as well as a trace amount of THC (don’t worry, it’s always less than 0.03% and does not intoxicate your animal!). This blend includes flavonoids, terpenes, other cannabinoids, vitamins, minerals, and proteins, which are vital in allowing CBD to deliver maximum benefits to your cat when administered. This benefit is often referred to as the “entourage effect,” and it refers to all portions of the hemp plant working together synergistically to provide the highest benefit level available to your animal.
- Broad-spectrum. This refers to CBD oil that has been extracted with most phytonutrients, but not THC, which makes its ability to produce the entourage effect less impactful.
When looking for a CBD oil for your cat, always seek out a full-spectrum product, like our CBD oil tincture here at VETCBD . It’s also a great idea to find a CBD oil tincture that uses a healthy fat as the carrier oil, (the oil which CBD is dissolved into to create the tincture) like organic extra virgin olive oil. Research shows that the bioavailability of CBD is higher when taken along with a healthy fat, as it helps the CBD avoid first pass metabolization in the liver.
Is CBD Oil Safe for Cats?
Because CBD oil is relatively new for approved use even in humans, studies of its effects on cats are rapidly developing. CBD oil is generally well tolerated by cats, with very few incidents of negative side effects reported. Side effects of cats who have been improperly dosed (i.e. given too much CBD oil) may have side effects like gastrointestinal upset or tiredness.
Additionally, as we mentioned earlier, full-spectrum CBD oil contains less than .03% THC so there are no possible intoxicating effects to your cat.
It is essential, however, that your CBD oil contain this trace amount of THC, so that the oil can properly deliver the entourage effect in terms of CBD benefit. Remember, that without all the necessary parts of the plant, your CBD oil is not as effective.
What Can CBD Oil Help With?
- Support healthy bone and cartilage function. As our cats age, they experience a decline in cartilage between their joints just like humans do. This can create discomfort that can limit your cat’s mobility. CBD oil is packed with cannabinoids that work to lubricate and support your cat’s joints and cartilage, bringing her comfort and helping her maintain her mobility.
- Provide temporary soothing for occasional gastric distress. Cats who experience digestive issues can get temporary soothing from occasional gastric distress with CBD oil. CBD oil soothes your cat’s tummy and helps her feel better, faster.
- Support normal brain function . We all want our cats to live the longest, healthiest lives possible, and part of giving them the best care we can is helping ensure their brain function is supported in the best manner possible. Research shows that CBD helps support healthy brain function in all mammals, which means your cat can benefit from supplementation, too!
- Calms and relaxes. All pets deserve to relax every now and again, and CBD oil can promote relaxation and overall emotional balance in your furry companion.
CBD oil is a great supplement for cats, and can best be administered in the form of a CBD oil tincture. Many cats will take this administration of CBD oil directly from the tincture’s syringe.
Is CBD Oil Legal?
The commercial growth, manufacture, and distribution of CBD was federally legalized with the passing of The Farm Bill of 2018. It should be noted that commercially grown hemp plants and the resulting CBD oil products must contain less than .03% THC to be considered legal.
Additionally, each state has differing laws regarding the legality of CBD oil growth and distribution, so it is important to check your state’s laws to ensure you can legally use CBD oil as a supplement for your cat.
CBD oil has a collection of helpful benefits for your cat, and it can be safely administered to her through the use of a high-quality, full-spectrum CBD oil.
CBD oil can support joint mobility, support gastrointestinal health, promote emotional balance, and even aid healthy brain function.
CBD is a great choice to add to your cat’s current health and wellness stack, but if you ever have any questions about adding anything to your pet’s regular regimen, don’t be shy to reach out to your veterinarian!
CBD for dogs and cats: Is it safe?
A leading veterinary cannabis researcher explains what experts do and don’t know about giving animals CBD.
Danielle Kosecki is an award-winning journalist who has covered health and fitness for 15 years. She’s written for Glamour, More, Prevention and Bicycling magazines, among others, and is the editor of The Bicycling Big Book of Training. A New York native, Danielle now lives in Oakland where she doesn’t miss winter at all.
Analysts predict the CBD pet care market will reach $125 million by 2022, making it one of the fastest-growing segments of the CBD sector.
CBD advocates tout a myriad of benefits for humans — but can it help our four-legged friends too? The answer is complicated.
When Colorado legalized recreational marijuana in 2012, it wasn’t something veterinarian Stephanie McGrath thought much about day to day. But then the phone calls started coming. Pet owners and family veterinarians wanted to know what she thought about medical marijuana in relation to animals, and whether she was researching it.
This story discusses substances that are legal in some places but not in others and is for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You shouldn’t do things that are illegal — this story does not endorse or encourage illegal drug use.
At the time, McGrath had no interest in cannabis and didn’t even know what cannabidiol (CBD) was, so she mostly ignored the topic. But the combination of receiving phone calls and seeing CBD products already lining pet store shelves made her realize she needed to get up to speed.
“Around 2013 or 2014, I started looking into what research was already out there and I realized that there was essentially no real, good scientific literature in the human world, let alone the veterinary research world,” says McGrath, assistant professor of neurology at Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. “And so I started investigating whether it would even be plausible for me to conduct any research.”
McGrath went on to become one of the pioneering researchers in the field of veterinary cannabis but even with her early efforts, research (and regulation) has struggled to keep pace with demand, as people increasingly turn to CBD products to treat their pet’s pain, anxiety and seizure disorders.
Thanks in large part to the 2018 Farm Bill, which legalized hemp-derived CBD, analysts now predict the CBD pet care market will reach $125 million by 2022, making it one of the fastest-growing segments of the CBD market.
For such a rapidly growing industry, there are still a lot of unknowns. Below, what you need to know if you’re considering CBD for your furry friend.
What is CBD?
Dried hemp flowers, like those shown here, naturally contain higher levels of CBD than other varieties of the Cannabis sativa plant.
Picture Alliance/Getty Images
Cannabidiol is part of the cannabinoid family, a class of chemical compounds naturally found in the cannabis plant. Cannabinoids interact with the human body’s endocannabinoid system, which helps the body maintain homeostasis.
Unlike its cousin delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, CBD doesn’t produce a “high,” but it is psychoactive. In 2018, the US Food and Drug Administration approved Epidiolex, an oral CBD solution, to treat Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome, two rare and severe pediatric seizure disorders. CBD is also being investigated as a possible treatment for pain , anxiety and schizophrenia symptoms in humans.
How is CBD administered to animals?
CBD pet care products come in many of the same forms you’re probably used to seeing for humans, including edibles (think: chewable treats and capsules), oils that can be added to food or placed under the tongue and topical creams or balms that are rubbed directly on the skin.
Like the CBD products meant for humans, each of these CBD pet care product types appears to have a different effect on the body — in dogs, anyway.
When McGrath started studying CBD in 2016, one of her first studies analyzed how three different delivery methods — a capsule, an oil and a cream — affected the way CBD moved through the bodies of healthy dogs.
Chewable treats are a popular form of pet care CBD.
Pharma Hemp Complex/Unsplash
“We measured the pharmacokinetics, which basically means you give the dogs a single dose of all three delivery methods and then you measure a bunch of different blood levels over a 12-hour period,” says McGrath. “So how quickly is the CBD absorbed, how high the blood concentration gets at that single dose, and then how fast the CBD is eliminated.”
McGrath found that, out of the three specific formulations they tested, the oil had the best pharmacokinetic profile, meaning it reached the highest concentration in the blood, stayed in the bloodstream the longest, and performed the most consistently across different types of dogs. The capsule also performed well but the cream less so. It performed too inconsistently for McGrath and her team to draw any conclusions.
These results line up with what we know so far about CBD absorption in humans, but the research is too preliminary to be used to make any medical decisions.
How does CBD work in animals?
It’s unclear — and a puzzle researchers are still trying to solve in humans as well. For instance, dogs have an endocannabinoid system but whether CBD interacts with it in the same way experts think it does in humans remains to be seen. For now, all McGrath knows is that in dogs, like in humans, CBD appears to be metabolized by the liver.
Are there any health benefits to giving your pet CBD?
Veterinary CBD research has focused primarily on dogs, leaving a lot of cat owners with unanswered questions.
Research is promising, but it’s still early. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study published in the journal Pain in 2020 found that “Cannabidiol possesses potent anti-inflammatory properties and significantly improved the mobility of large domestic canines afflicted with osteoarthritis.”
This research follows a 2018 study found that CBD can help increase comfort and activity in dogs with osteoarthritis.
In 2019, McGrath published a study showing CBD may help reduce the number of seizures experienced by epileptic dogs. But although these studies were well-designed and peer-reviewed, they’re still small and very preliminary.
“All we’ve basically done is give this drug to these dogs and said, OK, this is what we’re seeing,” says McGrath. “But whether or not the blood levels achieved are adequate enough to treat certain diseases, we don’t yet know.”
Still, McGrath is optimistic. Veterinarians don’t have a wide variety of drugs available to treat these conditions and some of the ones that do exist often come with debilitating side effects, such as weight gain and lethargy. “If CBD works, then I think it would hit the mark of being both effective and not carrying a lot of side effects,” says McGrath. “So that’s kind of what we’re hoping for.”
McGrath and other researchers nationwide are currently conducting larger studies on CBD’s effectiveness in treating osteoarthritis in dogs and cats, epilepsy in dogs and post-operative pain, but it will be a while before the results are published.
Until more is known, it’s best to talk to your veterinarian before giving your animal CBD.
Is CBD safe for animals?
CBD, in its pure state, appears to be safe and well-tolerated by animals, according to a 2017 World Health Organization report. However, both subsequent 2018 canine studies mentioned above noted an increase in the liver enzyme alkaline phosphatase (ALP) during CBD treatment.
As part of her study, McGrath ran a simultaneous liver function test to make sure the dogs’ livers weren’t failing and everything came back normal, so it’s unclear whether the elevated ALP levels were caused by something completely benign or could develop into a more serious problem long term.
“I would definitely be a little concerned about giving CBD to a dog that has known liver issues,” says McGrath. Similarly, because CBD appears to be metabolized by the liver, McGrath says she’d also be wary about giving CBD to a dog who already takes a medication that’s metabolized by the liver. “We don’t really know how these things interact right now,” she says.
The other big thing pet owners need to be aware of is quality control. Because the CBD market isn’t well regulated yet, CBD products can contain ingredients that aren’t listed on their labels — including THC, which is known to be toxic to cats and dogs.
When shopping for CBD pet care products, look for companies that support research and will provide a certificate of analysis, or COA, for every batch they sell.
One way to avoid potentially harmful ingredients is to only use products that come with a certificate of analysis, or COA (the batch number on the COA should match the number on the product’s label or packaging). A COA is issued when an independent lab tests the product to confirm its ingredients and potency, among other things.
Legally, CBD products must contain no more than 0.3% THC, which should be safe for animals. But there’s no reason to take chances. Whenever possible, stick to CBD pet care products that contain 0.0% THC and be on the lookout for symptoms of THC poisoning such as vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, restlessness and trouble standing.
Bottom line: “We haven’t found anything that’s super alarming about CBD,” says McGrath. “But on the flip side, we still know very little about it, and it’s really important for owners to know that and use it with caution until we have more information.”
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.