The market is exploding with cannabis products for cats. I get asked regularly about the medicinal use of CBD for kitties. Over the past few years, I have been using cannabis (CBD) for many of my feline patients with excellent results. I have been extremely impressed with the improvement in quality of life for so many cats and I want all cat parents to know about this  powerful and natural resource. Unfortunately, our feline friends are underserved members of our families,  as we have less treatment options for many of their diseases.  In this article I will give you an overview of what cannabis is, how it may help your feline friend, and the products I trust.

Cannabis, CBD & THC

There is much debate and stigma around these terms. I think it is important to understand their meanings and bust a few myths. Cannabis sativa is a general plant name. There are many different strains of this plant. Some strains make the federally illegal marijuana and others make hemp for industrial and therapeutic use. It is important to understand that the cannabis plant that makes industrial hemp is different than the plant that makes medicinal hemp. In general, cannabis plants contain both CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). These are both medicinal compounds. CBD cannot cause a ‘high’ and THC is the psychoactive component that will cause a ‘high’. Products made with less than 0.3% THC are legal in all 50 states. These are the products I use in my practice with excellent results. 

Products made with less than 0.3% THC are legal in all 50 states.

These are the products I use and recommend in my practice.

Cannabis Plant for Pet. Image by Miran Rijavec.Marijuana is currently legal in a few states including Colorado. As a result, I frequently see cat parents sharing their cannabis products with their cats. While cats are thought to have a similar sensitivity to THC as humans, the sensation of being ‘high’ can be very uncomfortable. Kitties can’t tell us that they are scared or hallucinating and therefore I recommend avoiding THC in kitties. 

While THC has many therapeutic properties, legislation to make it legal and research to find therapeutic doses for pets is needed.

To keep the content of this post practical and legal, we will focus on products that contain high amounts of CBD and less than 0.3% THC. Even though I practice veterinary medicine in Colorado (a state in which marijuana is legal), I hold a DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) license at the federal level. Therefore, I keep my recommendations in line with the federal law. 

What’s so great about CBD anyways?

Using cannabis as medicine is not new.

We are not the first civilization that has used this plant for it’s medicinal purposes. What’s great about modern technology and medical research is that we now have the technology to harness the medicinal properties of cannabis and to innovate pure products.

While there is emerging research on the use of cannabis for dogs (cat studies to follow!), much of what we know today is anecdotal or extrapolated from human medicine. Anecdotal evidence is mainly composed of individual reports. For example, a cat might have accidentally ingested some medical marijuana and the guardian noticed a resolution of symptoms. Maybe after consuming the cannabis, the pet was able to jump on the bed again or was more playful.

CBD has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties, reduce anxiety, improve overall well being, reduce pain and lessen or eliminate  seizure activity. To learn more about CBD and the physiology behing cannabis, check out this article

Below are some conditions that CBD may be helpful for in kitties:

1. Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD): This is frustratingly common in cats. CBD may have a place alongside other therapies to help reduce inflammation and therefore symptoms. Cats with IBD may vomit, have diarrhea or may lose weight. To learn more about why cats vomit click here. I generally use diet and herbs to help control IBD symptoms in kitties. 

Dosing: I start with 0.2 mg/kg twice daily and increase gradually for kitties with IBD. If you are using HempRx, I start with 1-2 drops twice daily and then increase. 

2. Pancreatitis: Many cats with IBD also have pancreatitis. Like IBD it can be frustrating to treat. I use a low fat diet, HempRx, herbal remedies, and digestive enzymes to help control inflammation of the pancreas.

Dosing: I start with 0.1 mg/kg twice daily and increase to 0.5 mg/kg twice daily. If you are using HempRx, start with 1 drop twice daily and increase gradually. If your kitty tolerates this product, I recommend getting the HempRx Forte as it will require smaller volumes of oil for the same dose. It is twice as concentrated. It is very important to minimize fat consumption in these kitties. 

3. Arthritis: Cats that suffer from arthritis need all the help they can get. Unfortunately many painful cats suffer because we don’t have great pharmaceutical options that are safe. Because cats tend to be reclusive and don’t travel as readily, they are less likely to get treatment for their aches and pains. I have found CBD to be an extremely effective anti-inflammatory for these kitties. 

Dosing: I start with 0.5 mg/kg of CBD twice daily and increase gradually. If you are using HempRx, start with 2-4 drops twice daily and increase. It can take 2-4 weeks to see results with body pain. Be patient!

4. Cancer: This is a popular use for CBD in both animals and people. There are many reports of longer survival times with better quality of life for both people and animals with cancer. Unfortunately, we don’t have any great studies that prove how or why this happens. This will change in the near future.

Dosing: I start with 0.5 mg/kg of CBD twice daily and increase gradually. If you are using HempRx, start with 2-4 drops twice daily and increase.

5. Asthma. Like all of the disease listed above, asthma is a common inflammatory disease of cats. Some cats have very minor symptoms that need little to no medical interventions. Other cats require life long treatment by inhaler. CBD may be a great option to help these kitties have less inflammation and therefore less asthma attacks. It is important that you never stop medications your kitty is taking before speaking with your veterinarian. If your cat needs an inhaler to breathe, don’t substitute CBD oil for their daily inhaled medications.

Dosing: I start with 0.5 mg/kg of CBD twice daily and increase gradually. If you are using HempRx, start with 2-4 drops twice daily and increase.

6. Chronic Upper Respiratory Infections. This has been an unexpected but delightful side effect of patients that have been given HempRx for arthritis or asthma. Kitties that  have had life long symptoms of chronic viral infections have experienced significant relief.

Dosing: I start with 0.5 mg/kg of CBD twice daily and increase gradually. If you are using HempRx, start with 2-4 drops twice daily and increase.

7. Seizures. While these are uncommon in kitties, I have seen amazing responses in kitties that suffer from seizures. If your kitty is already taking medications for seizures, do not stop those abruptly and always work with your veterinarian.

Dosing: I start with 0.5 mg/kg twice daily and increase as needed. Some kitties may need up to 3 mg/kg twice daily. If you are using HempRx, start with 2-4 drops twice daily and increase. If your kitty tolerates this product, I recommend getting the HempRx Forte as it will require smaller volumes of oil for the same dose.

What products should I use and where can I get them?

As products flood the market, it is important that consumers make an educated purchases for themselves and their pet. My inbox is full of people asking about products they have purchased or considering purchasing. When I vet these products, I am looking for the following criteria.

  1. Farming practices. Has the plant been grown with the use of pesticides?
  2. Extraction method. Watch out for methods that use chemicals as these residues will be present in the final product.
  3. Concentration. Some products contain too little CBD to be effective.
  4. Guaranteed analysis. Does the company test their product for the constituents beyond THC and CBD? Does it look at the terpenes and flavonoids? Check out the HempRx guaranteed analysis here.
  5. Other ingredients. Make sure you know what other ingredients are present. I prefer HempRx because it only contains hemp. For my very sensitive patients introducing one ingredient at a time is beneficial.
  6. Terpene/Flavanoid. As discussed earlier, CBD and THC are not the only medicinal components of cannabis. I only use products that have the terpene and flavanoid profile analyzed as well.

My absolute favorite product line is HempRx by Rx Vitamins for Pets. This line is specifically made for cats and dogs. It comes in an oil and chewable form. For cats I recommend getting the regular strength HempRx and starting with 1-2 drops twice daily. This bottle will last approximately 2-3 months.

Are there any side effects?

This is a great question and something you should always consider for any medication or supplement you are giving your kitty. The most common side effect I have seen in my patients is increased appetite and decreased anxiety. Some animals can become sedate on CBD products. CBD can promote relaxation and some animals are more sensitive than others. If you notice your cat has become too sedate, stop giving the product and work with your veterinarian. Allergic reactions are always possible. Some cats that are allergic to grass can also be allergic to cannabis. This is rare but is a possibility.

Remember to work with your veterinarian when deciding on a treatment plan for your cat. If you would like to work with a holistic or integrative veterinarian check out these sites to find one:

As always, I want to hear from you! Please leave a comment below.

With love,