FAQ: Can CBD Oil Help Calm Cats with Situational Anxiety?

by K Marie Alto December 15, 2021 14 min read

CBD for cats by toe beans

Did you know that cats can experience situational anxiety?

The truth is, though, animals of all sorts can have different personalities, and those personalities can include proclivities towards certain attitudes, including situational anxiety and stress.

If you use CBD oil to help manage your own anxiety you may have at some point wondered: Can CBD oil help calm cats with situational anxiety?

Unfortunately, while humans have plenty of medications and therapy techniques available to handle stress, very little is available for our kitties.

When you have a scaredy cat 🙀, like I do, you have to find ways to cope and help them cope, to give them the best life possible.

In this post I go into great detail to discuss situational anxiety in catswhile answering an important question about CBD oil for pets: Can CBD oil help calm cats with situational anxiety?

From often overlooked symptoms to causes of situational anxiety to how to help with it. I also share my own journey with my own scaredy cat and how I use CBD oilto manage her own situational stress and anxiety. 

If you are interested in learning more about CBD for pets, my blog is packed with resources đź“š. I have written extensively about it. So, make sure not to skip the read further section at the bottom.

What Are the Symptoms of Situational Anxiety in Cats?

Before you can determine whether or not to formally address your cat's situational anxiety, you first need to know whether or not your cat actually has it. There are many symptoms and behaviors your fur baby can exhibit that may or may not be part of it.  

Symptoms of Situational Anxiety

According to PetMD, there are several symptoms and behaviors that can indicate your cat suffers from situational anxiety. These include:

  • Mild: Avoiding eye contact.
  • Mild: Shifting body or head away from you.
  • Mild: Holding their tail close to their body.
  • Mild: Nervous flicking of the tail.
  • Mild: Partially dilated pupils.
  • Moderate: Ears tilted to the sides.
  • Moderate: Further dilation of the pupils.
  • Moderate: Faster than normal breathing.
  • Moderate: Fixed staring at a source of stimulus.
  • Moderate: Crouching and leaning away.
  • Severe: Attempting to escape a situation.
  • Severe: Freezing in place.
  • Severe: Holding ears back.
  • Severe: Fur standing up straight.
  • Severe: Aggression.

You've likely seen many of these behaviors as part of regular play, but there's a difference between play and stress.

Hemp extract for cats calmness and serenity by Momma Knows Best

Situational anxiety is tense, cautious, and fearful, while play is more rambunctious and energetic. Cats in a stressed state may also growl, yowl, or make warning noises, particularly if the source of their stress approaches them.

What Causes Situational Anxiety in Cats?

There are several primary causes of situational anxiety in felines, and it can manifest in different ways.

What Causes Cat Anxiety

These triggers include:

  • Pain, illness, or injury. Cats in distress often display signs of nervousness. Cats are notorious for hiding pain and sickness since it makes them feel vulnerable, which is why many cat parents worry when their cat displays outright symptoms of uneasiness; they may also indicate a much deeper and more concerning ailment.
  • Trauma. Fear and apprehension are common responses to trauma. Trauma can be fresh and new, or it can be an older trauma your cat remembers (from their time as a kitten or in a prior household as in the example of a rescued adult cat). It's actually rather similar to PTSD in humans.
  • Poor socialization. Cats tend to be very flexible in their behaviors when they are young, but solidify in their responses as they age. This means that cats that are not properly socialized as kittens may develop situational anxiety responses to otherwise common stimuli, including boisterous people or loud environments. Anyone who has adopted a stray or a rescue that hides when something changes in the environment will recognize this source of situational anxiety.

There's also the case of separation anxiety. Many cats are social creatures, and if they bond closely to you as their parent, they may grow anxious when they are left on their own for too long.

Some cats that are raised in a home and are later abandoned can also develop this form of situational anxiety.

Can You Help Relieve Situational Anxiety in Cats?

Above, we mentioned that situational anxiety in cats doesn't have as much research or study into it as anxiety in humans. While this is true, that doesn't mean there is nothing you can do about it.

Relieve Situational Anxiety in Cats

Some potential alternatives include:

  • Environmental management. If your cat experiences situational anxiety when the environment changes, minimizing that change can help.
  • Antidepressants. Depression and anxiety are very similar in both humans and animals, so medications for depression can also help relieve situational anxiety. Some antidepressants are long-term medications you have to administer every day; others are meant for short-term treatment during a move or major shift, or can be used preemptively for traumatic events like the 4th of July fireworks. You should speak to your veterinarian in more detail if you think your cat needs medical intervention.
  • Behavioral modification. While complex, certain kinds of therapy such as exposure/desensitization training and counter conditioning can be effective, when applied consistently. Be prepared for this method to take time.  Whatever the modification is, it should be done slowly and not forced upon your kitty.  Forcing a behavior will only exacerbate the problem.

Unfortunately, for many pet parents these aren't always the ideal options. You may not want to medicate your fur baby, or sometimes they may have a bad reaction to medications in general.

They may also be difficult to train so managing their triggers may not work. Additionally, some pet parents may prefer a more holistic approach to help their fur babies.

Using CBD to Manage Situational Anxiety in Cats

CBD, or cannabidiol, is a chemical found in the hemp plant. It is distinct from the psychoactive tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) found in marijuana, which is broadly illegal. CBD is non-psychoactive and not defined as a controlled substance, making it both legal and useful.

Using CBD to Manage Situational Anxiety

CBD is relatively unstudied in both humans and animals, but many studies are currently being conducted.

These studies are part of a push to both legalize THC products, and to study the long-term benefits of both THC and CBD. Fortunately, there's preliminary evidence to suggest that CBD has two major benefits for both humans and animals.

  • Pain relief. CBD may have the ability to dull pain, particularly the pain that comes from inflammation and joint issues.  
  • Calming situational anxiety. While CBD is not psychoactive, it may have the ability to reduce situational anxiety and help promote a calmer demeanor.

It's worth reiterating that, as of now, there is no firm evidence of these benefits that has been acknowledged by regulatory bodies like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). A lot more studies need to be conducted before these compounds can be proven as effective.

You may have some questions before deciding to try CBD with your scaredy fur baby. We understand, and we'll do our best to answer.

Will CBD make my cat high?

Cat and CBD Oil

No! CBD is not psychoactive at all.

That said, you want to make sure you get products that are 100% CBD diluted in a carrier oil for example MCT coconut oil. Some CBD tinctures include a very small percentage of THC (less than 0.3%), these are known as full spectrum CBD oils.

Others will contain zero THC, which are commonly known as broad spectrum CBD oils. In either case, as long as the CBD is extracted from the hemp plant (also known as hemp extracts), these  products are not only federally legal but also have no psychoactive properties.

Keep in mind that you should look for CBD oils with a certificate analysis showing its purity and level of CBD contents. We’ll discuss this in more detail below.

Are there side effects to CBD use?

CBD oil is not toxic or dangerous in high doses, but it can still potentially cause some rare side effects.

CBD Oil Side Effects

The side effects from excessively large doses include:

  • Excess licking.
  • Head shaking (possibly due to dizziness or nausea).
  • Pacing.
  • Gagging.
  • Excess salivation.
  • Vomiting.

One study performed on both dogs and cats found that cats tend to absorb or eliminate CBD more quickly evidenced by their lower serum values.  

This suggests any potential side effects will be shorter in duration for cats than dogs. This study also indicates that CBD has more frequent adverse effects in cats than in dogs.

It’s worth bearing in mind that this is just one preliminary study and does not fully represent all cats, across different methods of administering CBD, and across different issues like situational anxiety and pain management.

CBD is generally considered safe in that your cat is not at risk of being permanently harmed from taking it or taking too much of it. If your furry friend experiences negative side effects, it's generally easy to spot, and you can discontinue the use of CBD oil immediately, with no further harm done.

Whenever beginning CBD with your kitty, you should err on the low end of the quantity recommended for administration.  Then, over time you can slowly increase the dose until desired effects are observed.

Are CBD products illegal or approved?

Marijuana products are legal at the state level in certain states, but are currently illegal at the federal level. However, CBD products are not marijuana products. They are hemp products, and hemp products have been deemed fully legal since 2018.

Approved CBD Product

While it has been legal to purchase for several years, the FDA has not analyzed, processed, or approved any CBD products. 

The only exception is one medication that treats a specific type of seizures in humans. Significant testing must be performed for approval. As such, CBD is classified as a nutraceutical,and is not approved or meant for the treatment of any disorder, ailment, or disease.

Are CBD products regulated?

As mentioned, the FDA – the primary organization responsible for validating and approving medications for both humans and animals – has not yet approved any CBD products for use in animals.

Regulated CBD Product

Here's a quote directly from the FDA:

"FDA recognizes the potential opportunities that cannabis or cannabis-derived compounds may offer and acknowledges the significant interest in these possibilities. However, FDA is aware that some companies are marketing products containing cannabis and cannabis-derived compounds in ways that violate the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) and that may put the health and safety of consumers at risk." – FDA.gov

The USDA provides guidance and regulation on USDA has guided and regulates the growth and production of hemp and hemp-based products like CBD, but there's no straight forward list of USDA-approved CBD products available.

That said, there are a range of third-party organizations and laboratories that have established themselves to test and verify the chemistry and efficacy of CBD products.

It's important to verify the products you consider purchasing, as well as the veracity and authority of the organizations that certify it.

In general, just make sure you trust the product and the seller when you buy it, and only consider products that come with third-party testing or COA (Certificate of Analysis) that ensures the quality of the products you purchase. 

CBD products aren’t cheap, so if you’re going to spend the money, it’s worth checking that what you think you’re getting is actually in that bottle by reviewing the lab analysis. 

A CBD product without a lab analysis could contain contaminates such as heavy metals or solvents.  And even if there is no contamination the claimed amount of CBD can vary greatly from one batch to another so the strength in a bottle may not be correct.

How long would it take for CBD to work for my cat?

In many cases, CBD will start to take effect within 15-30 minutes of administration. This does, however, depend on the size of the dose and the size of your fur baby. For more serious issues you’ll need to allow 2-4 weeks of regular use.

CBD Working for Cat

While there is no consensus on dosing as CBD tinctures come in different concentrations, it's generally recommended that you administer CBD based on the weight of your feline.

A small cat may need much less compared to a larger chonker. Given that CBD products come in different concentrations, be sure to follow the instructions on the product you purchase. 

Additionally, the quantity of CBD can be adjusted depending on your fur baby's reaction, so as we mentioned earlier start on the low end and then work your way up.

How long will the effects of CBD last?

Some experts suggest CBD remains in a cat's system for around 4 to 6 hours.is eliminated relatively quickly from cats.

How Long CBD Last

However, this depends on several factors, including:

  • Your fur baby's age.
  • Their personal brain chemistry.
  • Their weight and activity levels.
  • Their breed.
  • What response you're looking for.

Just like us humans, every cat is different so it's important to observe your fur baby carefully to ensure no adverse reactions are happening.

What should I look for in a good feline CBD tincture?

Buying anything your cat consumes orally or via dermal absorption should never be taken lightly. I can not emphasize enough that this is a serious endeavor where your #1 priority should always be safety of ingredients.

Unfortunately the unregulated nature of many segments of the pet products industry has made it very dangerous for unsuspecting pet parents to buy almost anything for their fur children.

I constantly write extensively on the topic of safety of ingredients and raw materials to help pet parents make educated purchases that reduce the risks to their beloved fur babies. Despite the general lack of regulations in cbd products, you can look for a few key qualities in a good CBD product for your cat.

Good Feline CBD Product

  • Look for USDA-certified organic products. The USDA regulates hemp producers, and as such, will regulate many sources of CBD, though not all. Among other benefits, certified organic products are non-GMO as well as pesticide and heavy metals free. 
USDA Certified CBD for Cats by Toe Beans
  • Look for lab tests and reports. Independent labs test batches of products and will certify them by product and batch number. Check to see if your chosen product is verified. Reputable online retailers will sell CBD products that come with a COA (certificate of analysis)
  • Watch for purity levels. Some CBD products may include trace amounts of THC (over 0.3%), which can affect your cat strongly enough to cause a negative reaction. Others may claim a strong concentration that isn’t actually present.
  • Buy only CBD oils that have been extracted using the CO2 extraction method.The CO2 extraction method is the purest and safest way to extract CBD. Many manufacturers will use extraction methods that leave traces of toxic substances in the final product.
  • Look for evidence or assurances in manufacturing quality. No two CBD oils are created equal. Keep in mind that the quality of your CBD oil will always be a function of the quality of its manufacturing process. One of the highest standards in manufacturing processes is the CGMP certification. CGMP regulations assures the identity, strength, quality, and purity of hemp derived products by requiring that manufacturers adequately control manufacturing operations. There are many unscrupulous sellers that will sell anything that pays without regards to your fur baby's safety.
  • Look for CBD products that are made in the USA.This may seem like an obvious recommendation but as we've discussed on multiple occasions throughout all my related blog posts on CBD, the pet products industry's wild west nature can be a very dangerous place for the unsuspecting pet parent. 

If you are buying pet hemp oil (not to be confused with hemp extract or CBD oil for dogs and cats) on the largest US eCommerce site, odds are those products are manufactured in Asia. Keep on administering them at your own peril. Don't believe us? Keep on reading.    

There are several ways in which you can find out if your pet products are made in Asia and the manufacturer is falsely claiming made in the USA or some cleaver variation of this phrase. One simple way is by running what we like to call the "3liv3v3 test" (replace the "3" symbol for the letter "a" and the "v" for a "b" when looking up this website).

For those of you not familiar with this website, it is basically where 90% + of products come from on the largest eCommerce site in the USA. Go on "3liv3v3" and run a search for pet hemp oil.

You will be surprised (or should we say terrified?) to find many of the most popular commercially available products there. Perhaps even the one you're using right now. The horrifying thing is that many of these brands label their products as "handcrafted in the USA" or even "made in the USA."

    And, of course, no matter what you buy, watch your kitty to see how they react. The last thing you want is to stimulate their situational anxiety even further by giving them something that causes an adverse reaction, however rare it may be.

    Should You Invest in Feline CBD?

    At the end of the day, the biggest question is simple: should you pick up a CBD product to try to calm down your kitty, or should you stick with more traditional approaches, behavioral training, and trigger monitoring?  

    Invest in Feline CBD

    The answer depends a lot on you and your cat's issues and triggers. Some cats have triggers that are easily avoidable or behaviors that can be easily minimized. Others take well to medications.

    Some have situational anxiety that seems intractable and impossible to handle. Hemp Extracts with CBD are an option you can explore, particularly if other options are ineffective or difficult to maintain. At the very least, it's unlikely to be harmful if you want to give it a try. 

    My Experience Helping my Old Scaredy Cat with CBD Oil

    From one pet parent to another, I thought I’d share my experience thus far using CBD with my 17-year-old kitty Sosa. 

    USDA Organic CBD for Cats by toe beans

    She’s always been your stereo typical scaredy cat and as she’s gotten older and become the only furry household member, her separation anxiety has worsened. 

    Sosa also has both kidney disease and heart disease, and her appetite has been waning for some time now.  I spoke with my veterinarian a few months back and she green-lighted trying CBD. 

    We got started with her using our own Momma Knows Best USDA certified organic hemp extract 600 peanut flavor.

    Organic CBD for cats by toe beans

    Our goals with starting CBD were three-fold:

    1. Increase her consistency with eating,
    2. Reduce the separation anxiety she experiences at night when Meowmy and Pawpi go to sleep behind a closed door (she knows to blame Pawpi for his cat allergies), and
    3. Help reduce inflammation that causes her to periodically limp.

    It’s been just over two weeks now and there has already been an improvement in her eating.  Anyone with a geriatric kitty knows keeping weight on can be an uphill battle, so I was immediately pleased.  I’m considering this one a win.

    As for her limping, it has stopped.  I can’t help but wonder did the CBD reduce her inflammation?  Is this just a span of good days for her?  The jury is still out on this one, but she is going up and down the stairs with more pep in her step.

    Now on to her situational and separation anxiety. This one is absolutely a more chronic issue since she’s had it since a kitten. On some nights we’ve noticed less crying, but it hasn’t been consistent. 

    We’re slowly stepping up her dose and monitoring her for any changes.  She has a vet appointment next month (Jan 2022), so it’ll be interesting to see how she does in the car and at the vet as compared to pre-CBD administration.

    To our cat parent readers: have you tried using CBD for your furry friend? What were your experiences like? Did everything go as you thought it would, or did anything unexpected occur? What about those of you who haven't given it a go yet? Would you consider doing so now? Be sure to leave all your thoughts and stories in the comments section down below!

    Interested in learning more about CBD for dogs and cats? We've written extensively about this topic.

    Read More CBD for Pets Guides

    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 Alto
    K Marie Alto

    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 30K followers (@furrytoebeans) and counting :-).

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