How Much CBD is Safe for Cats?
- Several factors are involved in knowing the most therapeutic CBD dose for pets, like cats. Doses depend on the animal’s age, body weight, diet, and health condition.
- No official dosage guidelines indicate how much CBD oil should be taken for any specific health issues in humans and animals.
- The disparity among different dosing recommendations for cats is primarily because the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other veterinarian bodies do not regulate CBD.
- Some manufacturers have their own vet-approved CBD dosage chart. As a general rule, err on the side of under-dosing regardless of the cat’s size, gradually increasing the dose until the desired result is obtained.
- A bell-shaped response curve with pure CBD is shown in a study published in the Brazilian Journal of Psychiatry in 2019 (1). In the study, CBD’s therapeutic effects were only realized when given within a specific dose range. No benefits were observed at either lower or higher doses.
CBD Dosage for Cats
As cat parents try to find CBD dosage instructions for their pets, they usually encounter sites that give numerous variations in dosing instructions and calculations.
The disparity in dosing is primarily because the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other veterinarian bodies do not regulate CBD.
No official dosage guidelines indicate how much CBD oil should be taken for any specific health issues in humans and animals, like cats.
Adding to the challenge is the reality that different cat CBD oil brands give dose values in ranges, depending on the product type.
Until the FDA can run medical trials and continued research on CBD and other cannabinoids, cat owners need to seek and heed the advice of veterinarians.
Some sites say that a general rule of thumb in CBD dosing for cats is 1 mg to 5 mg for every 10 lbs that a cat weighs. This range is supposedly applicable regardless of the cat’s size.
From 1 mg, one can steadily increase the pet CBD dosage until the desired result is reached.
Basic Dosing Rules for Cats
Several factors are involved in knowing the most therapeutic dose of CBD oil for pets, like cats. Doses depend on the animal’s age, body weight, diet, and health condition or well-being.
As a starting point, check out the dosing guidelines of reputable CBD brands that cater to pets, like cats.
For example, Holistapet has its vet-approved CBD dosing chart for cats and dogs, recommending between 0.25 mg (considered a regular dose) to 0.5 mg (a strong dose) of CBD for every pound of pet body weight (2).
The company also lists down some health conditions that these recommended dosages may benefit.
- A regular dose (0.25 mg of CBD) is recommended for daily health and wellness. This dose may help with conditions related to old age, as well as improve appetite, digestion, and immune function.
- A strong dose (0.5 mg of CBD) is recommended for the relief of chronic pain, severe arthritis and joint inflammation, and mobility issues.
A strong dose may also be beneficial for epileptic seizures, cancer-related symptoms, tumors, severe anxiety, extreme nausea, and vomiting.
Consider CBD Potency When Dosing
Many variables in the cannabis industry can impact potency, including how the hemp is grown, the hemp strain, and the extraction of the CBD itself.
The amount of CBD in each product, typically given in milligram listed on product labels, determines differences in potency.
However, there is no standard labeling practice across the industry. CBD potencies vary widely, from 100 mg to up to 5,000 mg for a 30 ml bottle.
Some vendors label their product as containing “2400 mg of hemp extract,” while others may say “2400 mg of CBD.” These may sound similar, but they are not the same.
Some vendors use CBD isolate, while others opt for a full-spectrum product. CBD isolate is CBD in its purest form, while full-spectrum CBD oils are extracted using the whole hemp plant.
Full-spectrum CBD contains all the cannabinoids, terpenes, and other nutrients in hemp. So, for example, a full-spectrum product containing “2400 mg of hemp extract” may contain only 50 mg of CBD.
Note that potency can also vary by concentration and supplier. For instance, most distributors would consider a 300 mg bottle as a low-potency option, and a 5,000 mg bottle as a high-potency option.
Dosing frequency varies among CBD manufacturers, but most of them recommend giving CBD to cats:
- every eight hours or as needed to control pain and inflammation
- at least 30 minutes before the event (fireworks, leaving home, or going to a noisy and crowded place) to control anxiety
- once to twice daily for all other uses
Other manufacturers suggest that CBD may be given to a cat before it begins to experience any issues.
For example, if the cat gets nervous during storms, it should be given a serving of CBD at the first sign of rain. This way, the cat can relax before the storm and stay calm through the night.
Still, similar to dosage, dosing frequency should be approved by a veterinarian.
Finding the Optimum CBD Dosage
Knowing the optimum CBD dosage size should be a priority for cat parents. When beginning to use CBD, they should start with a low dose and observe how the cat’s body reacts.
Once the cat owners have established that their cat has no adverse reactions to the product, they can begin to gradually increase the CBD dosage size until the preferred outcome is achieved.
Finding the optimum dosage for one’s cat may take a little time and some experimentation, initially. However, once this has been figured out, the optimum dose can give the most significant benefit for the cat.
In a study published in the Brazilian Journal of Psychiatry in 2019, the authors noted the anti-anxiety effects of CBD. In their findings, they described the bell-shaped dose-response curves with pure CBD (3).
This type of response means that CBD’s therapeutic effects are only realized when given within a specific dose range. No benefits were observed at either lower or higher doses.
CBD cat products with increased levels of CBD can be expensive. Thus, it is most economical to determine the minimum CBD dose that could give the desired results, as too much CBD is useless.
High doses of CBD can also increase the risk of its potential side effects, although these are extremely rare even from large doses.
Computing for CBD Dosage
CBD is generally safe, but every cat responds differently to CBD oil, and reactions may vary depending on the type of CBD product used.
For reference, here is a list of vet-approved recommended dosing. Note that these are recommendations and starting point suggestions.
The table below shows Holistapet’s vet-approved dosing guidelines that are not very different from those of other vendors.
Upon the advice of a veterinarian and in consideration of the manufacturer’s dosing instructions, cat owners may also use this table for reference (4).
|Cat Body Weight||Regular Dose = |
0.25 mg X 1 lb body weight
|Strong Dose = |
0.5 mg X 1 lb body weight
|2 lbs||0.5 mg||1 mg|
|6 lbs||1.5 mg||3 mg|
|10 lbs||2.5 mg||5 mg|
|14 lbs||3.5 mg||7 mg|
|20 lbs||5 mg||10 mg|
|30 lbs||7.5 mg||15 mg|
Whatever the product type, always determine first how much CBD is contained in each bottle. Then, divide that with the number of servings to calculate the CBD content in every drop, capsule, or cat treat.
Dosing recommendations are computed based on the cat’s body weight and the severity of a medical condition, indicating whether a regular dose or strong dose should be administered.
Most product labels for tinctures show specific volume conversions for easy dosing. A standard dropper produces 20 drops per milliliter (20 drops = 1 ml = 7 mg).
Dropper sizes can vary, but a 30 ml bottle usually contains 450 drops. Cat owners should be careful when doing the computations, as they determine how much CBD is contained in every drop.
Holistapet’s label for its CBD Pet Tincture 150 mg, for example, indicates that its 15 ml bottle contains 450 drops of a tincture, with 1 drop = 0.33 mg CBD.
For its cat CBD capsules and treats, the dosing guidelines are the same as that for tinctures.
For example, a cat owner wants to give CBD to a 20-lb cat for anxiety. The owner may choose to give CBD tincture, capsule, or CBD cat treats.
First, it is essential to determine how much CBD is contained in the product per serving. If it is a tincture, and 1 drop contains 0.25 mg CBD, note that. If the product is a capsule or a cat treat, know how much CBD is in one capsule or one serving of cat treat.
Then, using the table as a guide, a 20-lb cat would need 5 mg of CBD for anxiety. As mentioned earlier, anxiety is a condition that requires a regular CBD dose.
For this example, CBD may be given 30 minutes before an event that makes the cat anxious. Administer this dose only after consulting with a veterinarian.
As a general rule, cat owners should err on the side of under-dosing regardless of the cat’s size. Some vendors recommend starting at 1 mg CBD for every 10 lbs of the pet’s weight, gradually increasing the dose until the desired result is obtained.
Why Cat Owners Are Turning to CBD Oil for Cats
The benefits of CBD on humans and animals on specific ailments have been shown in several studies and anecdotal evidence. For this reason, veterinarians and pet owners are trying to see if there can be similar benefits to cats.
Doctors, such as Dr. Gary Richter, MS, DVM, a certified veterinary acupuncturist and veterinary chiropractic, believe in the safe and effective use of medical cannabis in pets, like cats and dogs.
Richter integrates medical cannabis with other traditional and alternative therapies. In his book, The Ultimate Pet Health Guide–Breakthrough Nutrition and Integrative Care for Dogs and Cats, published in 2017, he discusses the use of cannabis in pets.
Unfortunately, however, scientific evidence proving the efficacy of cannabis medicine in cats is still inconclusive. Also, results from studies conducted on CBD use specifically in cats did not prove promising.
In October 2019, a study on how CBD-rich hemp nutraceuticals in pets’ diets affect their blood chemistry was published in Animals (5).
In the study, eight cats and eight dogs were given 2 mg/kg total CBD concentration orally twice a day.
The cats exhibited lower serum concentrations in their system. They also showed some behavioral changes, such as excessive head-shaking and licking.
Other adverse side effects of CBD oil that were reported were vomiting, salivating or foaming, chewing, pacing, gagging, grimacing, and jumping.
However, this was only one study, and it involved a small sample of cats, making the results inconclusive.
Some cat owners believe their cats may benefit from CBD’s therapeutic benefits, based on how the endocannabinoid system (ECS) works in mammals.
The ECS, which maintains balance by regulating bodily functions, is in all vertebrates and mammals, like humans and cats (6).
Given that the ECS works in similar ways, the benefits that humans experience from CBD oil may be comparable to that of cats when administered with CBD.
How CBD Works
CB1 and CB2 receptors are the two primary cannabinoid receptors in the ECS.
CB1 receptors are mostly involved in the activities of the brain and central nervous system (CNS). These receptors also influence motor regulation, memory processing, appetite, pain sensation, mood, and sleep (7).
Meanwhile, when CB2 receptors are activated, they trigger a response that combats inflammation, reducing pain and damage to tissues. These responses have been found useful in treating inflammation-related conditions (8).
By stimulating the endocannabinoid system, CBD naturally promotes homeostasis, or a sense of balance, among the processes involved in keeping the body functioning at its best.
The Pros and Cons of CBD Oil for Cats
- CBD’s potential benefits in cats may be attributed to how the ECS functions similarly in mammals, like humans and cats.
- CBD is not addictive, says Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) (9). Thus, CBD oil is safe for cats when administered in veterinarian-approved dosages.
- Industrial hemp-derived CBD oil is legal in many countries.
- The FDA, as of March 2020, has not received reports of adverse events linked to cannabis products given to animals (10). However, there were reports of adverse effects due to the accidental ingestion of cannabis by pets.
- There are 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 strongly suggests a consultation with a veterinarian on appropriate treatment alternatives for pets (11).
- CBD is categorized as a Schedule I controlled substance by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) (12).
- Except for California, state legislation does not allow veterinarians to discuss cannabis use with their clients. Thus, vets lag in working with cannabis plants and researching their use in pets (13).
- CBD may cause drug interactions with other medications that are currently taken by the cat, including those prescribed by a veterinarian.
How CBD Oil Compares to Alternative Treatments for Cats
Most veterinarians advise feline parents to change their cat’s diet to include specific nutrients that may help improve health conditions.
Although a diet change is only one aspect of treatment, better nutrition is always beneficial to cats. Getting a well-balanced diet is excellent whether the cats need to supplement with some lacking essential nutrients in their diet, or they want to avoid common cat diseases.
For example, feline inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), a condition in which a cat’s gastrointestinal (GI) tract becomes chronically irritated and inflamed, is common in cats (14).
As GI bacteria may cause the development of IBD, newer therapies include prebiotics for specific bacterial populations and GI health probiotics.
The addition of soluble fiber, such as psyllium, to the diets of cats with inflammatory colitis may be helpful. Also, supplementation with folate or vitamin B12 should be provided if an affected cat is deficient in these B vitamins.
Meanwhile, hemp-derived CBD may be an excellent alternative source of essential fiber and folate for feline friends.
According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, a serving of 2 tablespoons of hemp seeds weighing 30 grams contains 1.2 g of dietary fiber and 33 µg of folate, among other vitamins and fatty acids (15).
Full-spectrum CBD contains a complete range of cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and other compounds naturally present in cannabis. These include other compounds and minerals, like fatty acids and fiber.
Terpenes are natural compounds in cannabis that give it distinctive aromas and flavors. Flavonoids give plants their vivid colors.
Combining all these compounds creates a synergy known as “entourage effect,” where all of the constituents working together are more efficient than their isolated elements (16).
How to Choose the Best CBD Products for Cats
CBD oil is a Cannabis Sativa extract that can come from either the marijuana plant or hemp plant. This extract can be full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, or isolate.
Full-spectrum CBD oil contains an entire range of natural cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and other compounds 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 (tetrahydrocannabinol).
Meanwhile, CBD isolates carry only isolated CBD that is substantially pure cannabidiol oil.
To help cat owners make educated purchases and to ensure the safety and reliability of cat CBD oil products, consider the following:
- Buy GMO-free, organic hemp-derived CBD products from legitimate CBD brands. Most reputable CBD companies grow their hemp from their farms or source their hemp from licensed hemp producers.
- Look for CBD pet products that used the CO2 extraction method. This method uses pressurized carbon dioxide to safely and cleanly extract the essential cannabinoids, terpene oils, and waxes from the hemp plant.
- Ask for the certificate of analysis (COA) of each product. Compare company claims about their products with that of the third-party lab test results.
The COA lists the other active cannabinoids contained in the CBD product. The certificate indicates whether or not the products contain additives, preservatives, or contaminants, like fungicides, herbicides, and heavy metals.
- Follow manufacturers’ instructions on dosing, and administer CBD to cats only upon the advice of a veterinarian.
How CBD Oil Can Be Given to Cats
CBD hemp oil for cats is available in several forms, the most common of which are CBD tinctures, cat CBD treats, and cat CBD capsules.
CBD cat tinctures usually come with a dropper, making it easy to measure and give consistent doses to cats.
For cats that are cooperative enough, the application of tinctures under the tongue allows for CBD oil to be readily absorbed into the bloodstream.
The cat can experience results within 30 minutes to 1 hour after its use. The effects can be felt for 4 to 6 hours.
If the cats do not like the earthy, grassy taste of pure CBD, consider adding it to their food or treats. Cat owners may also sprinkle the contents of CBD capsules into their cat’s food.
Meanwhile, there are CBD topicals, like CBD massage oils, creams, salves, or balms. These may be applied transdermally to the cat’s bare skin inside its ears or dabbed on its paws to lick.
Topicals can also be used in massage therapies. These products are excellent for managing a cat’s seasonal allergies, rashes, or muscle aches. Topical applications make it easy to target a specific area of the body, and they are only used as needed.
Keep a journal or a log of the cat’s CBD dosing, reactions, and behavior. Share this information with the veterinarian in charge of the cat’s therapy.
The endocannabinoid system works in similar ways in the bodies of all mammals, like humans and cats. For this reason, many cat owners are curious if CBD oil’s potential benefits could also work on cats.
Unfortunately, to date, there are no specific dosing guidelines for humans or cats. Adding to the challenge is the disparity in dosing among the different CBD manufacturers that offer products for cats.
Doses depend on the cat’s age, body weight, diet, and health condition. Potency, hemp source and strain, and dosing frequency are all factors that should also be taken into consideration.
Perhaps the foremost goal for every cat parent is to determine the optimal dosage that would give the cat maximum benefits. Once this has been achieved, giving the right dosage would become less of a confusion.
Still, note that a consultation with a veterinarian experienced in cannabis use is ideal before deciding to give CBD to a cat for whatever reason or purpose.
- Linares, I. M., Zuardi, A. W., Pereira, L. C., Queiroz, R. H., Mechoulam, R., Guimarães, F. S., & Crippa, J. A. (2019). Cannabidiol presents an inverted U-shaped dose-response curve in a simulated public speaking test. Revista brasileira de psiquiatria (Sao Paulo, Brazil : 1999), 41(1), 9–14. https://doi.org/10.1590/1516-4446-2017-0015.
- Holistapet CBD Oil Dosage Chart For Dogs & Cats. Retrieved from https://www.holistapet.com/cbd-dosing-chart-for-pets/.
- Linares, et al. op. cit.
- Holistapet. op. Cit.
- Deabold, K. A., Schwark, W. S., Wolf, L., & Wakshlag, J. J. (2019). Single-Dose Pharmacokinetics and Preliminary Safety Assessment with Use of CBD-Rich Hemp Nutraceutical in Healthy Dogs and Cats. Animals : an open access journal from MDPI, 9(10), 832. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9100832.
- UCLA Health. Human Endocannabinoid System. Retrieved from https://www.uclahealth.org/cannabis/human-endocannabinoid-system; McPartland JM, Matias I, Di Marzo V, Glass M. Evolutionary origins of the endocannabinoid system. Gene. 2006;370:64-74.doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gene.2005.11.004.
- ECHO. (2017, April 18). Retrieved from https://echoconnection.org/look-endocannabinoid-systems-cb1-cb2-receptors/
- Turcotte C, Blanchet MR, Laviolette M, Flamand N. The CB2 receptor and its role as a regulator of inflammation. Cell Mol Life Sci. 2016;73(23):4449–4470. DOI:10.1007/s00018-016-2300-4.
- Nora Volkow. NIDA. Researching Marijuana for Therapeutic Purposes: The Potential Promise of Cannabidiol (CBD). National Institute on Drug Abuse website. https://www.drugabuse.gov/about-nida/noras-blog/2015/07/researching-marijuana-therapeutic-purposes-potential-promise-cannabidiol-cbd. July 20, 2015. Accessed January 31, 2020.
- US FDA. (2020, March 11). FDA Regulation of Cannabis and Cannabis-Derived Products, Including Cannabidiol (CBD). Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/news-events/public-health-focus/fda-regulation-cannabis-and-cannabis-derived-products-including-cannabidiol-cbd.
- Peachman, RR. (2019, April 11). Should You Try CBD for Your Pet? Retrieved from https://www.consumerreports.org/cbd/should-you-try-cbd-for-your-pet/.
- Cornell Feline Health Center. (2018, April). Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Retrieved from https://www.vet.cornell.edu/departments-centers-and-institutes/cornell-feline-health-center/health-information/feline-health-topics/inflammatory-bowel-disease.
- USDA. (2019, April 1). Food Data Central. Seeds, hemp seed, hulled. Retrieved from https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170148/nutrients.
- Russo EB. The Case for the Entourage Effect and Conventional Breeding of Clinical Cannabis: No “Strain,” No Gain. Front Plant Sci. 2019;9:1969. Published 2019 Jan 9. DOI:10.3389/fpls.2018.01969.