Does CBD Oil Work to Help With Cat Anxiety?
- In a study published in PLoS ONE, the authors found that the most common sign of cat anxiety was destructive behavior. Two in every three cats showed signs of stress when left alone (1).
- A 2018 study in Frontiers in Immunology demonstrated CBD as a potential remedy to depression in humans (2). The researchers noted that CBD exhibited anti-anxiety, anti-epileptic, and antipsychotic characteristics that might be useful in reducing depression associated with stress.
- The endocannabinoid system (ECS), which maintains balance by regulating bodily functions, is present in all vertebrates and mammals (3). CBD’s anti-anxiety characteristics, as shown in studies conducted on human and animal models, may also translate to similar benefits for cats.
- Unfortunately, scientific evidence proving the efficacy of cannabis medicine in cats is still lacking. Also, the results from studies conducted specifically on CBD use in cats were not promising for cat owners.
- A 2019 study in Animals examined how CBD in dogs’ and cats’ diets affect their blood chemistry (4). The cats showed lower serum concentrations in their system and some behavioral changes, including excessive head-shaking and licking.
Why Cat Owners Are Turning to CBD Oil for Cat Anxiety
Research studies and anecdotal evidence have shown the benefits of CBD on humans and other animals on specific ailments. Veterinarians and pet owners have also become interested to see if there are similar benefits of CBD oil for cats.
Some doctors, like Dr. Gary Richter, MS, DVM, a certified veterinary acupuncturist and veterinary chiropractic, are advocates for the safe and effective use of medical cannabis, specifically hemp or CBD, in cats and dogs.
Dr. Richter integrates medical cannabis with other conventional and alternative therapies. His book, The Ultimate Pet Health Guide–Breakthrough Nutrition and Integrative Care for Dogs and Cats, published in 2017, includes a discussion on the use of cannabis for pets.
Unfortunately, scientific evidence proving the efficacy of cannabis medicine in cats is still lacking. Also, the results from studies conducted specifically on CBD use in cats were not promising for cat owners.
In October 2019, results of a study on how CBD-rich hemp nutraceuticals in pets’ diets affect their blood chemistry was published in the journal Animals (5).
In the study, the researchers administered 2 mg/kg total CBD concentration orally two times per day to eight dogs and eight cats.
Results noted that the cats showed lower serum concentrations in their system and some behavioral changes, including excessive head-shaking and licking.
The other adverse effects of CBD oil that were noted were pacing, salivating or foaming, chewing, vomiting, gagging, jumping, and grimacing.
However, this is only one study on CBD use involving a small sample of cats, and the results are not conclusive.
Still, there are cat owners who believe that their feline friends may benefit from CBD’s therapeutic benefits, based on how the endocannabinoid system (ECS) works.
The ECS, which maintains balance by regulating bodily functions, is present in all vertebrates and mammals, including humans and cats (6).
Given that the ECS in mammals works in similar ways, the benefits that humans experience from CBD oil may be comparable to the benefits that cats may get when administered with CBD.
Below are some feline anxiety causes and symptoms where CBD’s purported benefits may be able to help, as suggested by studies conducted on humans and other animals.
CBD for Anxiety, Stress, and Depression
In a study published in PLoS ONE, researchers sought to gain a better understanding of the prevalence of separation-related problems in pet cats (7).
Among their sampled cats, 13% met at least one of the behavioral criteria for separation-related problems. The criteria included destructive behavior, depression or apathy, agitation or anxiety, and aggressiveness.
The authors found that the most common sign of cat anxiety was a destructive behavior. Two in every three cats showed signs of stress when left alone. The new study cast doubt on the common notion that cats always prefer to be left alone.
In conclusion, cats and their owners form strong social bonds, that when owners leave, cats become anxious and experience separation anxiety.
CBD has been shown to help in alleviating a cat’s anxiety, as well as conditions linked to it, like stress and depression.
Unlike THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), another active compound of the cannabis plant, CBD (cannabidiol), is non-addictive and does not induce a euphoric high, making it an appealing, safe option for anxiety and stress in cats.
A 2018 study in Frontiers in Immunology demonstrated CBD as a potential remedy to depression (8).
In the study, researchers analyzed the clinical and experimental use of CBD. They noted that CBD exhibited anti-anxiety, anti-epileptic, and antipsychotic characteristics that might help reduce depression associated with stress.
CBD is a Cannabis Sativa constituent with great psychiatric potential, including therapeutic uses as an anti-anxiety-like and antidepressant-like compound, as a 2014 study published in CNS and Neurological Disorders – Drug Targets suggested.
Results showed that CBD could induce rapid-acting antidepressant-like effects and help with neurotransmission (9). Neurotransmission is the process of communication between nerve cells.
CBD’s anti-anxiety characteristics, as shown in these studies conducted on rats and mice, may also translate to similar benefits for cats.
If a cat is on other medications to help with its anxiety, depression, or mood changes, CBD alternatives may be a safe and non-toxic alternative to consider.
CBD for Sleep Problems in Cats
Cats who cannot sleep well can become anxious. Likewise, an anxious cat may find it challenging to get a restful sleep.
Sleeping disorders are not healthy. As with humans, disturbed sleep patterns may be a sign of old age, disease, or life-altering illness.
Narcolepsy and cataplexy are sleeping disorders that are most dangerous to an animal’s health (10).
Narcolepsy is characterized by severe, irresistible daytime sleepiness. Additional symptoms include a sudden loss of muscle tone (cataplexy), sleep paralysis, and fragmented nighttime sleep (11).
Old cats may also experience behavior changes in sleep cycles or waking in the night, restlessness, and pacing.
With narcolepsy, the animal appears asleep. With cataplexy, the animal is alert but cannot follow motion with eye movements. These disorders are not curable (12).
Omega 3 fatty acids and diets that are enriched with antioxidants may help cats in their sleeping troubles. Full-spectrum CBD oil rich in omega fatty acids and antioxidants may help with sleep.
In a study published in The Permanente Journal 2019, sleep and anxiety scores were measured in human subjects. The findings showed that CBD could hold health benefits for anxiety-related disorders (13).
Results of an animal study published in the Neuropharmacology Journal in 2012 also had comparable results that supported the use of CBD treatment (14).
The findings suggested that CBD might block anxiety-induced sleep disturbances through its anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effects on the brain.
A case report in The Permanente Journal, meanwhile, noted the effectiveness of CBD oil for anxiety and insomnia as part of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (15).
However, note that the studies mentioned above were done on humans and rats, not cats. Cat owners who wish to try CBD for their cat’s sleep troubles are advised to first consult with a veterinarian before giving CBD to their feline companions.
CBD for Alleviating Pain and Inflammation in Cats
Many feline diseases are characterized by an inflammation of a specific organ or body part. Feline osteoarthritis, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), colitis, and bronchitis are some of the feline diseases linked to inflammation.
Treating inflammation or diseases that cause severe pain and discomfort can help treat anxiety in cats.
To eliminate the possibility of an anxious cat being physically ill or having a disease, responsible cat owners take them to the vet for a diagnosis.
An examination by the vet assures cat owners there are no underlying medical conditions that may be causing their cat pain and discomfort.
Ironically, however, there is mounting evidence to suggest that routine veterinary care may be contributing to lifelong patient anxiety. This anxiety usually starts with the first puppy or kitten physical examination, according to a 2017 study in Veterinary Sciences (17).
The authors defined anxiety as the anticipation of future danger that may be imagined, unknown, or real. Chronic anxiety is abnormal behavior that can cause concern for an animal in a continuous state of anxiety.
This study is essential for people to understand how real or imagined danger or pain, both from past or future experiences, may be causing anxiety in their cats.
CBD has been shown in studies to be useful not only as an anti-anxiety agent but also for pain relief. CBD may offer an option for treating different types of chronic pain (18).
Chronic pain is a major clinical problem that is difficult to treat, according to the author of a study on the neuronal mechanism for neuropathic pain (19).
An earlier study in The Journal of Experimental Medicine demonstrated, using rats, the mechanism by which CBD acts as an anti-inflammatory agent, alleviating inflammatory and neuropathic pain (20).
Given how the ECS works in the same way among all mammals, CBD’s anti-anxiety and pain-relieving properties may also be beneficial to felines.
How CBD Works to Help With Cat Anxiety
The therapeutic effects of cannabinoids, like CBD, are realized by their interaction with the body’s ECS and its receptors. CB1 and CB2 are the two primary cannabinoid receptors.
While the CB1 receptors are primarily involved in the activities of the brain and central nervous system (CNS), the CB2 receptors are situated on cells in the immune system and its associated structures.
CB1 receptors influence motor regulation, memory processing, appetite, pain sensation, mood, and sleep (21). Various studies of these receptors have shown that endocannabinoids attenuate and suppress the perception of pain (22).
Meanwhile, CB2 receptors, when activated, trigger a response that fights inflammation, reducing pain, and minimizing damage to tissues. These anti-inflammatory responses have been found useful in treating inflammation-related conditions (23).
A 2005 research published in the Neurochemical Research Journal indicated that cannabidiol could inhibit the reuptake of serotonin in the brain, making serotonin more available for the body (24).
The researchers found that with better regulation of serotonin, CBD could help stabilize mood and reduce anxiety.
Moreover, a 2012 study in the Translational PsychiatryJournal demonstrated CBD’s ability to trigger the ECS to produce more of its natural cannabinoids, including anandamide, which regulates emotions (25). Results showed that subjects exposed to CBD had an increased level of the neurotransmitter anandamide in their brain.
An increased anandamide level is believed to provide more protection against anxiety and stress. It also reduces behavioral signs of anxiety and fear, according to a 2019 study published in the Journal of Neuroscience (26).
The studies above were not conducted on cats. However, given that the ECS in mammals works in similar ways, cats may experience similar results when they are given CBD.
The Pros and Cons of CBD Oil for Cats
- CBD’s potential anti-anxiety benefits in cats may be attributed to how the endocannabinoid system (ECS) functions similarly in the bodies of mammals, like humans and cats.
- Human and animal studies have shown that CBD holds characteristics that may be beneficial to cats in treating certain illnesses or their symptoms. These conditions include anxiety, depression, inflammation, pain, and sleep problems.
- In humans, CBD is non-addictive, says Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) (27). However, studies are yet to show if cats will become resistant to doses over time, even when CBD is administered correctly in veterinarian-approved doses.
- There are many manufacturers that offer CBD oil for cats. Industrial hemp-derived CBD oil is legal in many countries.
- The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), as of March 2020, has not received reports of adverse events associated with animals given cannabis products (28). However, there have been reports of adverse events from the accidental ingestion of cannabis by pets.
- There have been no extensive studies on CBD for specific use in cats and no longitudinal studies on its effects.
- The FDA has not approved the use of cannabis in animals. The agency warns pet owners against the use of CBD products. It strongly suggests a consultation with a veterinarian about appropriate treatment options for pets (29).
- CBD is still categorized as a Schedule I controlled substance by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) (30).
- Except for California, state legislation does not authorize veterinarians to discuss cannabis with their clients. As a result, vets lag in working with cannabis and researching its use in pets (31).
- CBD may cause drug interactions with other medications that are currently taken by the cat, including those prescribed by veterinarians.
How CBD Oil Compares to Alternative Treatments for Cat Anxiety
Three calming herbs known to help alleviate anxiety are catnip, valerian, and chamomile (32). Many CBD brands include any of these herbs as one of the ingredients in their CBD cat products.
The anti-anxiety effects of cannabis combined with the calming effects of these herbs make a potent remedy for anxiety issues in cats.
Massage therapy is also beneficial for cats with anxiety. Therapeutic massage is the manipulation of the soft tissues of the body using specific techniques that include holding, the movement of tissues, and the application of pressure in a variety of ways.
A 2014 study published in Topics in Companion Animal Medicine noted that massages have many effects on the muscles, the circulatory system, the nervous system, and the mind (33).
Meanwhile, CBD massage creams and oils contain CBD, which is inherently therapeutic for the mind and the body. The person giving the massage and the cat getting the massage can both reap the soothing benefits of a CBD-infused massage.
Pet owners should make sure that the CBD products are safe when consumed.
Most CBD massage creams and oils include other natural ingredients, like coconut oil, jojoba oil, or almond oil. Full-spectrum CBD oil also contains high concentrations of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids.
Studies have shown that Omega-3 fatty acids can help alleviate stress (34) and may even help with anxiety disorders (35).
How to Choose the Best CBD Products for Cats
CBD oil is a Cannabis Sativa extract which may come from either the marijuana plant or hemp plant. The primary types of CBD oil are CBD isolate, broad-spectrum CBD oil, and full-spectrum CBD hemp oil.
The full-spectrum variety contains an entire range of cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and other compounds naturally present in cannabis.
Broad-spectrum CBD oils are full-spectrum oils that are THC-free or contain trace amounts (less than 0.3%) of THC. CBD isolates, meanwhile, carry only isolated CBD that is substantially pure cannabidiol oil.
Not all oils are the same. Cat owners must only insist only on the highest quality of pet CBD oil to have a better chance of it working.
To help consumers make educated purchases for their cats and ensure the safety and reliability of the cat CBD oil products purchased, consider the following:
- Buy only GMO-free, organic hemp-derived CBD oil products from legitimate CBD brands. Reputable CBD companies grow their hemp from their farms, or they source their hemp only from licensed producers.
- Choose CBD pet products that use only organic CBD oil and other natural ingredients. Some CBD cat products may also have additional natural ingredients, like essential oils, vitamins, and herbs extracts.
- Look for CBD pet products that used the CO2 extraction method. This method uses pressurized carbon dioxide to extract the essential cannabinoids, terpene oils, and waxes from the hemp plant safely and cleanly.
Some of the most natural carrier oils used in CBD pet tinctures include hemp seed oil, MCT oil (medium-chain triglycerides from coconut oil), and extra-virgin olive oil.
- Ask for the lab results or the certificate of analysis (COA) of each product. Compare company claims about their products’ potency with that of the third-party lab test results.
The COA lists the other active cannabinoids contained in the CBD product. The COA also indicates whether or not the products are non-GMO or if they contain other additives, preservatives, or contaminants, such as heavy metals, fungicides, and herbicides.
- Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on dosing, and administer CBD to cats only upon the advice of a veterinarian.
- Consulting with a trusted medical professional experienced in CBD use is ideal before using any CBD products.
CBD Dosage for Cat Anxiety
There are many factors involved in knowing the most beneficial dose of CBD for pets, like cats. The dose also depends on the cat’s age, body weight, diet, and health condition.
However, finding the right dosage or mg of CBD oil for cat anxiety can be challenging, as CBD is not regulated by the FDA or veterinarian bodies. There are no official dosage guidelines that indicate how much CBD oil to take for any specific health issues, like anxiety.
Adding to the challenge is the fact that different cat CBD oil brands recommend different dosing guidelines. Most manufacturers give dose values in ranges.
When in doubt, err on the side of under-dosing, and then slowly increase the dose until the desired effect is achieved.
Note that there is a bell-shaped response curve with CBD isolates. In a 2019 study published in the Brazilian Journal of Psychiatry, the authors noted the anti-anxiety effects of CBD and described the bell-shaped dose-response curves in their findings (36).
This type of response means that the therapeutic effects of CBD are only observed when given within a minimal dose range. No beneficial effect was achieved at either lower or higher doses.
Products with high levels of CBD can be expensive. For this reason, it is most economical to determine the minimum CBD dose that would give the desired effect, as too much CBD is useless.
CBD is remarkably safe, but every cat responds differently to CBD oil. Follow the instructions on dosing as per the manufacturer’s recommendation. However, make sure to follow the advice of a veterinarian experienced in the use of cannabis oil.
How CBD Oil Can Be Given to Cats
Hemp CBD for cats is available in different forms, the most common of which are CBD tinctures, cat CBD treats, and cat CBD capsules.
CBD cat treats are convenient and useful for keeping cats happy during training. A busy cat has no time to feel bored and anxious.
Another way of giving CBD to cats is through CBD cat tinctures. These products usually come with a marked dropper, making it easy to measure and give accurate doses to cats.
If the cat is cooperative enough, sublingual (under the tongue) application of tinctures allows for CBD oil to be absorbed directly into the bloodstream.
The cat may experience results within 30 to 60 minutes after its use, and the effects can be felt for 4 to 6 hours.
If the cats dislike the grassy taste of pure CBD in their mouth, consider adding it to their cat food or treats. In the same way, cat owners may sprinkle the contents of CBD capsules into the cat’s food.
Meanwhile, CBD topicals, like CBD massage oils, creams, salves, or balms, may be applied transdermally to the bare skin inside a cat’s ears or dabbed on its paws to safely lick.
However, some transdermal medication applications, like fentanyl or buprenorphine, can only be absorbed via the skin or gums. Once ingested, the medication is not absorbed.
CBD topicals may also be used in massage therapies. These products are excellent for cat owners who want to manage their cat’s seasonal allergies, rashes, or muscle aches. Topicals make it easy to target a specific area of the body, and they are only used when needed.
Consider keeping a journal or a log of the cat’s CBD dosing, reactions, and behavior. Remember to share this information with the veterinarian in charge of the cat’s therapy.
A Close Look at Cat Anxiety
Cats can be sensitive creatures and may often become anxious or frustrated by the way humans interact with them or by the things around them.
Cat owners need to understand what causes cat anxiety and stress. Identifying these life stressors can help them manage and reduce stress in their feline friends. Life stressors are events and changes in a cat’s environment that may affect its well-being.
Some cats are unusually sensitive to the things around them. They may respond to life stressors by becoming nervous, fearful, or uncomfortable. Particularly susceptible cats may also fall sick or develop behavioral problems, such as aggression (37).
Cats are creatures of habit, and they depend on their owners to keep their surroundings stable and safe.
Cat owners, especially new ones, often do not realize how sensitive their feline friends can be. Cats can react to something as trivial as moving furniture around the room or having a guest over at home.
Stressed cats may lose their appetite or get sick occasionally. They may also exhibit behaviors that the owners may have never seen in them before, such as spraying urine indoors or behaving aggressively.
Other signs of cat anxiety include a sudden change of mood, failing to use the litter box, and always hiding away from people, even family members.
Excessive meowing, change in pet’s weight or appetite, increased lethargy, and vomiting may also indicate cat anxiety.
Studies have shown that CBD may help alleviate anxiety in cats. CBD may be given as a tincture, combined with cat food or treats, or massaged onto the skin to provide calming relief.
However, there is no standard dosing recommended as of yet, as the US FDA does not regulate CBD. Also, longitudinal studies on CBD and cat anxiety are still lacking, with long-term side effects remaining unknown.
With many parts of the world still under lockdown due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, humans and pets alike may be prone to anxiety staying at home.
Cat owners must be vigilant at this time in monitoring their cat’s behavior and general disposition and see what could be causing anxiety in their furry friends.
As pain can cause anxiety, cat owners should rule out the possibility of an undiagnosed disease or disorder, or if there is one, address that.
Simple massages and plenty of activities with the cat may help ease its anxiety. For those wanting to try CBD, first consult with a veterinarian experienced in cannabis use for advice and guidance, especially on dosing.
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