by K Marie Alto March 17, 2022 11 min read
Just as mental healthcare is growing in focus for people around the world, so too is the mental and emotional well-being of our pets. Some people stereotype cats 🐱 as aloof and uncaring, though we pet parents know better.
Modern medical science is hard at work addressing cognitive and behavioral issues in humans, but both study and treatment development are lagging behind in animals. This has led to a lot of uncertainty about how to handle issues, after all, it's not like our kitties can tell us how they're feeling.
Today, we've done our best to put together a resource for cat parents looking into one of the more recent and popular alternatives for cats: CBD.
One common question pet parents have is whether it is a good idea to share their human grade CBD oil with their cats. After all, it's human grade and so, if it's safe for me, it should also be safe for my cat, right? Well, not quite.
If you are interested in learning more about CBD for pets, make sure not to skip the read further section at the bottom. I've written extensively 📚 about this topic.
CBD is the abbreviation for the chemical compound cannabidiol. Cannabidiol is found within the cannabis plant, and cannabis has been used for centuries as a holistic form of medicine.
The plant itself has several different compounds including THC, which has been stigmatized for a long time as a psychoactive substance, labeled a "gateway drug.”
In recent years, social pressure has shifted. More attention has turned away from pharmaceuticals and towards traditional medicine. People are trying everything, from Ayurveda to Chinese ginseng and beyond. CBD is just one of many substances currently being used and studied for its effects on the body.
If you're initially put off by CBD coming from the cannabis plant, don't be.
There is so much confusion surrounding CBD. The first thing to understand is that not all CBD tinctures are created equal. Some are made from hemp while others are made from cannabis. So, there is hemp CBD tinctures (hemp extracts) and cannabis CBD tinctures.
Certain cannabis sativa plants have a much lower concentration of the psychoactive compound THC and a much higher concentration of CBD.
For example, hemp plants generally contain more CBD, and cannabis plants contain more tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the compound associated with the ‘high’ that people think of when they think of the use of cannabis.
Hemp extracts (A.K.A hemp derived CBD oils) generally contain between 0% (broad spectrum) to less than 0.3% (full spectrum) of THC. Under federal law, hemp derived CBD tinctures are legal.
It’s important to differentiate these plants from those with a higher THC and lower CBD concentration. These plants are considered marijuana and while legalized in many states, it’s still a controlled substance heavily regulated by the FDA.
The 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp from the legal definition of marijuana in the Controlled Substances Act. This made some hemp-derived CBD products with less than 0.3 percent THC federally legal.
However, CBD products containing more than 0.3 percent THC still fall under the legal definition of marijuana, making them federally illegal but legal under some state laws.
You can rest easy, CBD alone won't get you or your fur baby high.
Scientific studies have revealed that most (if not all) animals, including humans, have a hormonal system called the endocannabinoid system. To quote some scientific papers:
"The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a widespread neuromodulatory system that plays important roles in central nervous system (CNS) development, synaptic plasticity, and the response to endogenous and environmental insults." - NCBI.
That's a lot of fancy scientific words, but the meaning is surprisingly simple. The endocannabinoid system is at least partially responsible for your nerves and brain, your ability to learn and adapt, and your ability to handle or fight off damage to your brain. (That's what "insult" means in this context; we're not talking about taking a drug to feel better about a devastating joke 😆)
The endocannabinoid system helps regulate memory, learning, emotional processing, sleep, pain control, temperature regulation, immune responses, inflammation, and more. With such a direct connection to so many critical parts of your overall health, it's no wonder that people are starting to investigate it for how it interacts with various substances, right?
According to Peter Greenspoon, MD at Harvard Medical School, exploration of the ECS may lead to new drug discoveries.
“Study of the ECS was initially focused on attempts to understand (and demonize) an illegal drug, but new research has since flourished into a far more broad-based exploration into what is an astoundingly intricate and far-reaching system by which our bodies learn, feel, motivate, and keep themselves in balance. We are truly at the dawn of an age of discovery of the ECS and the development of new medicines that may help alleviate some of the cruelest diseases that people (and animals) suffer from. I am incredibly excited to see what discoveries await us as we continue to untangle the mysteries of the ECS.” HHP – Harvard Medical School.
Note: It's worth mentioning that CBD is not the only cannabinoid substance and is far from the only chemical that interacts with the endocannabinoid system. There are over 100 different chemicals termed cannabinoids; CBD is simply one of the most easily isolated and potentially useful of them.
Taking a CBD oil interacts with the endocannabinoid system to help support your body in a variety of ways. Proponents of CBD will tell you it can support your body in the fight against inflammation and anxiety, though it’s still much too early in scientific studies to make any formal claims on the matter.
The truth is, we don’t fully understand how CBD works on the body just yet. And while numerous studies are currently being conducted, and many may show encouraging results about its benefits, it may be years before definitive results are verified.
CBD is in an interesting position. As a cannabis-derived substance, CBD was part of the controlled substances list and was illegal up until 2018. It has since been decoupled from its cousin compound, THC, which remains on the Schedule I list on controlled substances.
Since its removal from the controlled substances list, CBD has been broadly available in a wide range of products, from extracts and tinctures to CBD-infused foods and more.
They have not been approved by the FDA to treat anything and cannot be marketed as such, though, of course, there will always be people who skirt the line.
I’ll add a word of caution here. If you come across a CBD product claiming it’ll solve this or that, it’s best to keep it moving and to look for a more reputable company that shares honest, factual based information.
CBD has been approved as a medication for exactly one thing: epilepsy. The FDA has approved one specific CBD-derived drug, called Epidiolex, to treat epileptic seizures.
Something important for every pet parent considering CBD for their cat to understand is that while CBD may help soothe your cat’s situational anxiety, inflammation, or other ailments, CBD is not an approved treatment yet. The Food and Drug Administration is looking into it, but the approval process can take years.
CBD is gaining broader acceptance as a way to support the body's ability to handle problems and stay healthy. As pointed out above, that doesn't mean it's widely tested or approved, but neither are some other healthy habits.
The fact of the matter is, you don't need the FDA's approval to eat a healthy salad, do you?
The real question is, can you give CBD to cats? If you’ve read any of our previous posts on CBD, you already know that CBD oil is safe to give to your kitty and your pup.
Above, we mentioned that most or all animals have an endocannabinoid system. That includes humans, cats, and dogs. That means cannabinoid chemicals like CBD can have an effect on the bodies of these animals.
However, just because we have the same system doesn't mean it works the same way, right? Well, that can be true, but in the case of CBD, it pretty much works the same way for cats and dogs as it does in humans. The only difference is one that's pretty obvious: dosage.
Cats are much smaller than people. As such, the amount of CBD necessary to elicit a response is much lower. With a person, most products range from 20 to 1,000 milligrams of CBD per day. That's a huge range, and it really depends on why you're using it. We're not going to go into it here, though.
For pets, the general rule is around 0.25 milligrams for every 0.5 kilograms of body weight. Most adult cats should weigh around 4-5 kilograms (8 – 11 lbs), so that's 2 to 2.5 milligrams of CBD.
According to a study published by the National Institute of Health on Single-Dose Pharmacokinetics and Preliminary Safety Assessment with Use of CBD-Rich Hemp Nutraceutical in Healthy Dogs and Cats, several studies with cats that were administered CBD were given 2 mg of CBD so it may be a good place to start with an adult cat.
We recommend pet parents to start low and slowly increase the dose as you observe desired results.
Another question you might have is whether there's a difference between human-grade CBD products and pet-grade CBD products.
The answer is, yes, of course. Differences come in a few different forms.
Dosage. Since the amount of CBD a person takes is generally so much higher than the amount you would give to a cat, the concentration of CBD is going to be a lot lower in a pet-focused product. Now, it’s important to note that this isn't consistent across manufacturers. There are no regulations governing CBD products because they're so new, and there are already far fewer regulations for pet products than there are for humans.
In general, most pet-focused CBD products are going to be very diluted, as compared to human-targeted CBD products, which might be a pure concentration of CBD oil. This varies from product to product, though; some might expect you to dilute them with a carrier oil or be very careful with a dropper, while others are infused treats or other products that give your fur baby the right dosage every time.
Flavoring. This one might seem obvious in retrospect, but many people overlook it. Human-grade CBD is usually either neutral or flavored, possibly as part of a vape cartridge, or as part of a snack or food. For pets, it's either a neutral flavor, or it's some kind of meat flavoring, or peanut butter, i.e. something our carnivorous friends prefer. Your cat might not like what you enjoy, and you might not like what they enjoy. That doesn't mean you can't share, just that it might be less pleasant than you expect.
Purity. Unfortunately, pet products are less regulated than human products, even in something as unregulated as CBD. Some "pet-grade" CBD products might use the designation as an excuse to be less pure, less filtered, or less processed (in this case we mean more THC).
The truth is, though, it varies a ton based on the manufacturer of the product. Some of them are extremely sketchy, while others like our Momma Knows Best Hemp Extract are USDA certified organic and can provide an independent Certificate of Analysis (COA) confirming the concentration noted on the label.
Certification. As we've mentioned, the FDA doesn't certify any CBD products except for that one epilepsy drug. However, that doesn't mean that they can't be certified at all. There are at least four different certifications you should look for.Regulated and unregulated by the US government.
The first two represent the highest thresholds for safety, purity, quality, oversight, product and process quality control and accountability. They are regulated by the US federal government and should be your minimum threshold for product confidence.
The two remaining on the list are not associated or regulated by the federal govermnent and are somewhat easier to meet. And while not as popular or reputable, they represent nice additions on top of the first two:
So, while there are differences, they vary from product and manufacturer, and it's difficult to make any sweeping generalizations.
The simple answer to this one is yes. Human-grade CBD is, if anything, more likely to be pure and refined than pet-grade, simply by nature of how much more oversight human-grade products have.
That's not to say it's completely safe. You want to watch out for a few things.
So, should you give your fur baby human-grade CBD? That's ultimately your call. We know CBD oil isn’t cheap, so it’s tempting to share, but frankly, we don’t recommend it, because of the possible additives we noted earlier.
Instead, look into a pet-specific CBD product designed for your fur babies.
As always, if your fur baby has common issues such as inflammation, joint pain, low appetite, or situational anxiety, your best bet is to take them to the vet and discuss medical treatment options.
Never try to use holistic treatments for serious medical issues that may require veterinary attention. In addition, we always recommend chatting with your vet before administering CBD oil.
However, as a way to support the overall health and wellness of your fur babies (and yourself), CBD might be a good product to try. We'll leave that decision up to you.
Have you ever given your feline friend CBD before? How did it go? Do you have any funny stories to share about the experience? Did you get more CBD on you instead of in your kitty? Be sure to leave all your thoughts and stories in the comments section down below! I'd love to hear your thoughts!
If you found this post informative, please feel free to click on any social media button located around this post. Alternatively, if you are looking for more education on CBD for pets, you are at the right location. I have written extensively about this topic!
One more thing, if you are feeling like getting a little special something for your fur baby that is unique, made right here in the USA (or anywhere but in China), 100% pup and cat safe, USDA certified organic and brought to you by a US company, check out Toe Beans online pet supplies store!
K. Marie is an animal lover, wife, kitty mom, dog auntie, writer, and co-founder of Toe Beans, a proud American family-owned online boutique pet supplies store focused on the improvement of the life of furry family members via pet parent education, better products, and advocacy. She has over 20 years of experience as a pet momma. She loves sharing her personal journey and experience as a pet parent via her blog and Facebook page where she currently has more than 22K followers (@furrytoebeans) and counting :-).
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