Alternative treatments are on the rise—a 2020 survey1 revealed that a third of Americans have used CBD oil at some point. CBD oil is used to ease the symptoms of conditions like pain, anxiety, insomnia, and inflammation in humans and now, some cat parents are giving it to their cats in the hope that it will help them feel more relaxed. But does it actually work?
Those who tout the benefits of CBD oil for cats claim that it can relieve anxiety, pain, inflammation, and even feline dementia. However, to date, there have been no official scientific studies to prove that CBD oil is effective in cats or other pets, so there’s no guarantee it will work for your cat.
In this post, we’ll check out what experts have to say about using CBD oil to treat anxiety in cats to make you aware of the facts.
What Is CBD Oil?
Cannabidiol—CBD for short—is a cannabis plant compound. To make the CBD oil you may find online or in stores, CBD is taken from the cannabis plant and then diluted in oil like hemp seed or coconut oil.
Will CBD Oil Help a Cat with Anxiety?
Though there have been official studies into the effects of CBD in humans, no such studies have been conducted as to how they affect pets.
However, some organizations—like the CFAH (Center for Forensic Science of Drug Rehabilitation and Recovery)—claim that growing evidence suggests CBD oil can relieve the symptoms of phobias, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder in cats.
The CFAH also lists relief from pain and swelling, including joint pain and swelling which may lessen a cat’s quality of life and contribute to anxiety because CBD stimulates pain control and inflammation control receptors in the body.
Furthermore, the CFAH argues that CBD oil can improve symptoms of dementia (this condition can also cause anxiety in cats) due to its antioxidant effect on the brain cells.
What Do Vets Say About CBD Oil for Cats?
According to PetMD, some vets, including Dr. Liza Guess (a clinical assistant professor at Ohio State University) would not recommend CBD oil due to the lack of official research into its effects on cats.
Dr. Guess explains that she does not feel comfortable using a non-FDA-regulated treatment, especially as she can’t be sure it won’t cause adverse effects.
Dr. Daniel Imran, a veterinarian, states that he does not recommend CBD oil for patients, though some holistic veterinarians do. He also points out that CBD oil is only used to treat the symptoms of conditions, not cure them.
Is CBD Oil Safe for Cats?
Responses to this question by experts are somewhat mixed. According to holistic veterinarian Gary Richter (medical director, Montclair Veterinary Hospital), CBD oil is generally safe but, as mentioned above, Dr. Liza Guess expressed concerns about CBD oil not being FDA-regulated. She also notes that, because of the number of CBD products on the market, it’s hard for pet owners to ascertain whether they’re offering the right dosage.
On this note, Dr. Richter warns pet parents about the risks involved in purchasing CBD online and advises only purchasing laboratory-tested CBD oils. If you do buy CBD oil, look for ones with the Certified Seal of the U.S. Hemp Authority or the National Animal Supplements Council (NASC) quality seal, and choose products formulated specifically for cats.
Adverse effects of CBD oil may include sedation and gastrointestinal issues according to PetMD. The CFAH also lists possible side effects, including low body temperature, incoordination, and lethargy. These side effects tend to occur when cats are given a too high dosage of CBD.
For this reason, we strongly recommend seeking veterinary advice before offering your cat CBD oil.
Is CBD Oil Legal?
This depends on where you’re based in the world. In the U.S., purchasing hemp-sourced (not marijuana-sourced) CBD is federally legal when it contains 0.3% or less THC (tetrahydrocannabinol).
However, different states have different laws. Some require you to have a prescription to obtain CBD oil and it’s completely illegal in some states. For this reason, we recommend checking your local laws on CBD.
Due to the restrictions on CBD oil in some states, your veterinarian may not be able to discuss the option of CBD oil with you for legal reasons. Vets also cannot prescribe or recommend CBD oil in the U.S.
According to some holistic veterinarians and organizations, CBD oil is safe for cats and may help with anxiety-related issues. Other vets aren’t so sure due to the lack of official studies on the effects of CBD oil on cats and favor approved, tested medications for anxiety over CBD oil.
What is clear is that there are potential side effects and even legal issues with using CBD oil depending on where you live. For these reasons, please never offer any medications or supplements, alternative or mainstream, to your cat without first discussing it with your vet.