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CBD Oil for Cats: What it Is, What It Isn’t & How It Works (Vet Answer)

Written by: Dr. Joe Mallat DVM (Veterinarian)

Last Updated on May 20, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

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CBD Oil for Cats: What it Is, What It Isn’t & How It Works (Vet Answer)


Dr. Joe Mallat Photo


Dr. Joe Mallat

Veterinarian, DVM

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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CBD oil has garnered significant attention and momentum in the human medical field. This “medical cannabis” has been used to treat chronic pain, anxiety, skin conditions, migraines, dementia, and other ailments. The rise of CBD oil in human medicine has seen a concurrent rise in interest in the veterinary sphere. As a practicing veterinarian, I have certainly observed more and more cat owners ask questions about this proposed wonder oil.

Can CBD oil be used in our pets? Is it safe? Does it work? Do they get high? The short answer is this: it probably works, and it’s probably safe, but more research is needed. Read on to find out more!

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What Is CBD Oil?

The important difference between marijuana and CBD oil is the THC content. THC is just one active chemical in the cannabis plant, but this is the psychoactive chemical; in other words, this is what makes people “high”.

Cannabidiol is another active chemical produced by the cannabis plant; however, it is not psychoactive, so it will not produce the same high as THC. Cannabidiol is the primary component of CBD oil.

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Image Credit: OMfotovideocontent, Shutterstock

How Does CBD Oil Work?

Cats’ bodies, like ours, contain an entire endocannabinoid system in the brain. Neurons are the cells that make up the nerves and brain, and neurons contain endocannabinoid receptors. These receptors can be “activated” by THC, producing psychoactive effects.

These receptors can also be activated by cannabidiol, the main ingredient in CBD oil, to produce a realm of other potentially positive effects.

How is CBD Oil Given to Cats?

CBD oil is given orally, two to three times per day. It can be given directly into the mouth or mixed with food. Some owners claim you can rub oil onto a cat’s ears, but this is unlikely to be effective, and oral dosing is best. It should only be given on the advice of your veterinarian.

When you first begin giving CBD oil to your cat, observe them closely for any vomiting, diarrhea, sedation, or restlessness. If you miss a dose, do not give a “double dose” when the next one is due; just resume the normal dosing.

Image Credit: Pixabay

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Potential Uses of CBD Oil

Because the endocannabinoid system is located within the brain, most of the uses of CBD oil in cats relate to pain and neurological diseases.

Some examples include:
  • Inflammation. CBD oil may work well, in conjunction with common anti-inflammatory medications, to reduce inflammation.
  • Chronic pain from osteoarthritis. This is probably the most well-researched and understood use of CBD oil in pets.
  • Seizures and epilepsy. More research is needed, but CBD oil may be able to reduce the reliance and/or dosages of common anticonvulsant
  • Anxiety. Cats that suffer anxiety, chronic stress, and other behavioral disorders may benefit from CBD oil.
  • Nausea reduction. CBD oil may help relieve nausea in felines.
  • Appetite stimulation. For cats that won’t eat for whatever reason, CBD oil may help stimulate appetite.
  • Cancer. There are a couple of anecdotal case reports of CBD oil shrinking different tumors in pets.

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Potential Downsides to CBD Oil

Image Credit: Julia-Cherk, Shutterstock

CBD oil should never replace good veterinary care. If you suspect that your cat could benefit from CBD oil, arrange a consultation with a veterinarian and discuss the use of this medication. Do not purchase CBD oil online and begin administering it without veterinary advice. While CBD oil is believed to be generally safe, there are several potential downsides to consider:

  • There are no FDA-approved CBD oil products for cats.
  • Dosages vary based on your cat’s age, weight, condition, and tolerance.
  • Quality control appears to vary, and many products are not third-party tested for purity and potency.
  • THC content should be either very low or zero; cats can become “stoned” and significantly unwell if they receive THC.
  • Vomiting, diarrhea, and nausea are all possible side effects.
  • Research supporting the use of CBD oil in cats is lacking.
  • Drug interactions. If your cat takes other medications, CBD oil may interfere with the absorption or metabolism of these drugs.

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CBD oil appears to be a promising plant-based medication with a range of benefits. Its use in managing arthritis and chronic pain in dogs is fairly well understood. It is likely of significant benefit for arthritic cats, too. The use of CBD oil for seizures, anxiety, cancer, and skin conditions in pets still requires more research.

Always consult your veterinarian before commencing oral CBD oil therapy, and always use pet-grade products. While it may not be the miracle oil some people claim it to be, CBD oil may well prevail as a useful tool in comprehensive treatment plans for our feline friends.

Featured Image Credit: Lightcube, Shutterstock

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