Cats and CBD: An International Cat Day report

Here's what our experts want you to know

Pet owners will do just about anything to ensure the health and comfort of their animals. Sometimes that means considering alternative treatments when illness strikes.

Many have already turned to a somewhat controversial remedy which has quickly gained national attention. Why? The medicine in question, known as cannabidiol — or CBD — is the second most prevalent active ingredient in cannabis (marijuana). But keep in mind, CBD’s not for getting high. Quite the opposite. According to a Harvard Health Publishing report, cannabidiol has “little, if any, intoxicating properties.”

Possible benefits

Instead, evidence suggests that this hemp plant extract might help with ailments including anxiety, chronic pain, insomnia and even diabetes. And all 50 states, including the 17 without medical marijuana, have now legalized hemp-derived CBD (typically oil), albeit with certain restrictions.

“There is very little regulation over CBD at this time, and the possibility that products containing potentially harmful contaminants is real. It’s a special concern for cats because they are very sensitive to a number of different types of toxins.” — Dr. Jennifer Coates, DVM

International Cat Day, created by the International Fund for Animal Welfare over a decade ago, arrives on Thursday. It’s a good a day to ponder whether or not CBD can help cats, especially now that the stigma surrounding it has decreased.  Much of the interest in CBD focuses on treating cats with anxiety, a condition that tends to spike during Fourth of July fireworks — but as millions of us humans know — can strike anytime.

Not surprisingly, medical professionals as well as those who work in the CBD field, have varying opinions.

Dr. Sara Ochoa, DVM, a Texas veterinary consultant for DogLab, has used CBD oil on cats with anxiety, but advises pet owners not to rush things. “Since there are not a lot of studies done on the effects of CBD oil on cats, we do not know of any side effects,” she says. “It’s best to start at a very low dosage, usually just one drop and slowly work up to the full dosage. If the CBD oil does not come with dosing instructions, it’s best to ask your vet for the best dosage to start for your cat.” 

“Cats who experience arthritis, pain, anxiety, seizures and many other chronic conditions are likely to see the most significant improvements.”  — Soul CBD’s Sam White

Everyone seems to agree that more studies are necessary. Colorado’s Dr. Jennifer Coates, DVM, who serves on the advisory board for Pet Life Today, emphasizes that only anecdotal information exists regarding the effectiveness of CBD on cats.

Most veterinarians seems to agree that more studies are needed when it comes to cats and CBD oils.
Most veterinarians seems to agree that more studies are needed when it comes to cats and CBD oils. (Lesterman)

 “CBD is most often used for treating inflammatory conditions, like osteoarthritis, as well as for anxiety, seizures, pain, and nausea,” says Dr. Coates. “There is very little regulation over CBD at this time, and the possibility that products containing potentially harmful contaminants is real. It’s a special concern for cats because they are very sensitive to a number of different types of toxins.”

Taking it slow

Still, CBD experts remain optimistic. “Cats who experience arthritis, pain, anxiety, seizures and many other chronic conditions are likely to see the most significant improvements,” says Southern California-based Soul CBD Marketing Manager Sam White. But he still suggests starting with “one-third of the recommended dose and slowly increasing. If you find that your cat is lethargic or vomiting after taking the CBD oil, keep them at a lower dose.” White also says that pet-specific CBD oil can act as a healthy supplement to your cat’s daily diet.

Perhaps the most important lesson, when it comes to cats anyway, is to proceed with caution. “While some research has been done that supports the use of CBD in people and even in dogs, the same cannot be said for cats,” says Dr. Coates.