Not every human medical treatment is also used for cats, of course, but cannabidiol, aka CBD, happens to be one at the forefront for both people and pets. That’s because we share something in common. “Cats, like all animals — including humans and excluding insects — have an endocannabinoid system that regulates the neurological, physiological and immunological systems of the body, including the central nervous system,” says Jodi Ziskin, director of communications with Treatibles in Petaluma, California.
“When there is a deficiency of cannabinoid production in the body, the addition of phytocannabinoids — cannabinoids from plants — can help the endocannabinoid system regulate calm, balance and ease.”
While CBD products have only trace amounts of THC (the component of marijuana that causes a “high”), there are state and federal regulations that restrict the wording manufacturers can use to tout the benefits of CBD. Generally speaking, many manufacturers report that cat owners have said CBD has helped with the following feline conditions: inflammation, pain, chronic anxiety, discomfort, mobility issues, digestive tract upset, loss of appetite and seizures.
Then there’s also the use for specific circumstances to help kitty cope. “Cats are far more creatures of habit than their canine counterparts, and even the slightest change in routine, diet, environment or schedule can cause anxious or fearful actions, aggressive behavior, or even improper elimination,” says Paul DiBrito, president of Paw CBD in Charlotte, North Carolina. “In fact, litter box issues and marking behavior are among the main reasons cats are surrendered to shelters each year.”
Chelsea Gennings, vice president of business development and special projects of Pet Releaf, in Littleton, Colorado, offers: “CBD is extremely helpful in helping situational anxiety, which cats often experience during travel or when there are a lot of people in the house, because of its soothing and calming properties.”
Paul adds: “Any product that can contribute to a daily wellness regimen would be a welcome option for cat owners looking to help their feline friends. CBD is a great natural option for supporting balance and maintaining overall health and wellness.”
When it comes to using CBD on your cat, there are different form factors. “The most common application methods for cats are typically oils or tinctures, topicals, sprays and capsules,” explains Grace Kaucic, digital marketing specialist at Bluebird Botanicals in Louisville, Colorado. “Oils and tinctures are typically lumped into the same category but have slight differences. Oils are, as you might guess, an oil-based solution, while tinctures are typically an alcohol-based solution.
Topicals include creams, salves and balms that are applied directly to the skin. Sprays are another common method. They typically involve an alcohol-based solution that you can spray onto your cat’s fur. Finally, soft gels contain an oil solution contained in a gelatin capsule.”
Paul says that CBD oils or tinctures are given under the tongue, allowing CBD to release throughout the body. He adds this specific tip: “Make sure the product you choose has a plastic dropper and not glass. Sharp teeth and glass droppers are an accident waiting to happen!”
Jodi points out, “When applied directly into the mouth, the oil is absorbed both via the mucosal membranes under the tongue and through the digestive process. Benefits are often experienced more rapidly, sometimes in as soon as five minutes. That’s not to say it is more effective, just that the results can be experienced sooner.”
And there may be other issues. “You can place the tincture right in your kitty’s mouth,” says Angie Krause, DVM, with Boulder Holistic Vet in Boulder, Colorado. “This provides for the best absorption but is the least desirable for most cats.”
Jodi further explains the differences when adding CBD oil to your cat’s food, which is also a popular delivery method. “When placed on or mixed into food, the CBD oil is digested along with the food,” she says. “That slows down the absorption but not the benefits. It may take 20 minutes or more for the kitty to begin experiencing desired results.” She adds a food tip for extra finicky felines — mix the CBD with a strong-tasting liquid such as the water from a can of tuna or plain yogurt.
If you decide to add CBD to your cat’s food, there are still options to consider — dry or wet? “If the oil has a distinct smell or flavor that would cause food aversion, it would not be recommended to add it to the food,” says Judy Morgan DVM, CVA, CVCP, CVFT, of Naturally Healthy Pets, based in Woodstown, New Jersey. “Cats have a good sense of smell and can get very picky and back off their food easily if they smell anything they aren’t pleased with. I feel it is much easier to mix into canned or other wet food than dry food.”
Grace concurs: “Wet food is typically more pungent and flavorful and can easily disguise the taste and smell. Plus, many wet foods are oily, which allows the CBD oil to mix in easily.”
Go with the method you think will be most appealing to your cat because ultimately, consumption is linked to proper doses. “It is more about your pet eating all the pieces that are covered,” says Jon Neveloff, partner with King Kanine in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. “If cats don’t finish the food then you will not know how much of the oils they received.“
As a bonus, the option that’s best for your cat is also best for your wallet — CBD oil that’s consumed is CBD oil not being wasted.
While many manufacturers recommend giving CBD orally, topical application is an option, as well. In fact, King Kanine is one of the manufacturers that makes both. “Our line of topicals are specifically made for the paws and skin issues,” Jon says. “Our CBD-infused King Kalm Soothe Spray was formulated to help pets with dermal abrasions, hot spots and dry, cracked skin.”
Grace echos the precise placement provided by skin application. “Topicals can allow you to deliver CBD to specific target areas of your cat’s body, while ingestible CBD is a good option for those looking to promote overall wellness for your cat.”
Keep in mind that if you go the topical route, your cat may have other ideas. “For cats, most topical exposures quickly become oral exposures due to grooming behavior,” says Tina Wismer, DVM, MS, DABVT, DABT, medical director of the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center in New York City.
Because of that “dual use,” another consideration is ingredients. “It’s important to make sure any topical balm or salve used on cats is approved and safe, as they often contain essential oils and other ingredients that could be harmful for cats,” cautions Heidi Hill, Holistic Hound founder and trained homeopath based in Berkeley, California.
However, you can use the real estate mantra to deter oral consumption of a topical treatment with — yep — location, location, location.
“Generally, the inside of the ear tip is a great spot for rapid absorption that is harder to clean immediately for the cat,” Dr. Morgan says.
“If you want to put a topical CBD product somewhere they can’t lick, try right at the base of their head or on their chest closer to the chin,” Grace suggests.
And if you really need to deter licking, there’s always the “shame” option. “CBD lotions are typical for addressing skin conditions, so cats will often have to wear a cone to restrict their licking,” Chelsea says.
Whether you opt for oral or topical administration, how much is just as important as how. Most manufacturers have suggested dosages based on weight. “We worked with an integrative veterinarian who is also an expert in cannabis, to help formulate our products,” Heidi says. “We recommend approximately 1 mg CBD per 10 pounds of body weight, given once or twice daily, depending on the condition.”
But that’s just a starting point. “You know your cat better than anyone,” Jodi says. “Start with the low dose and observe the response. If your cat’s issue doesn’t seem to be improving, double the dose the next time. Some cats only need one dose per day — some two or three.”
And don’t hesitate to ask your vet for guidance — for multiple reasons. “Like with any product, you should consult with your veterinarian to determine if CBD products are right for your pet and what the proper dosage should be,” Dr. Wismer says. “There’s a lot of information online that can be misleading, and consulting with a professional should always be your first step. That’s especially important if your pet is on other medications. Mixing medications and substances can affect animals’ livers.”
If you want another option to topical or orally administering CBD oil, we have a treat for you and your cat – treats! Several manufacturers make this option.
“For cat’s that won’t comply with either of these options, CBD-infused chews are a good alternative,” says Dr. Krause says., citing improved palatability and compliance. She adds that treats “can be more costly per milligram of CBD and might contain other ingredients that your kitty might be sensitive to.”
Grace adds that treats can be another great way to introduce CBD to your cat. “Cats typically associate treats with fun times, so you’ll likely have the easiest time getting them to try CBD in treat form,” she says. “However, the challenges come with the other ingredients in the treats. You’ll want to make sure you research the brand and product ahead of time to ensure that your product actually contains the amount of CBD it says it does and is free from any harmful ingredients.”
According to Jodi: “One of the great benefits of offering a CBD chew is that the dose will be consistent each time. The challenge is whether the cat likes the taste and mouth feel of the chew.”
There’s a pro and a con to treats, says Dr. Wismer. “CBD in treat form can be a highly effective method if the treat is tasty and of interest to the cat. The biggest downside to anything in treat form is that they may become curious and get into the bag of treats causing an overdose of CBD, which may cause issues in your pet.”
And if you’d like a hybrid solution with treats and CBD oil you already have, there’s the DIY method. “Freeze-dried food or treats are great as they absorb the oil like a sponge,” Dr. Krause says.
Remember how you and your cat share something in common? As a reminder, while that applies to many conditions treated with CBD oil — it does not mean you can share the same CBD products. CBD products for humans can contain toxic flavorings. If you have a dog taking CBD oil, you can give that to your cat. Just maybe don’t tell your cat she’s getting the dog’s leftovers.