Anxiety is not unique to humans.
Many animals experience it too, and your furry feline is no exception. In essence, anxiety is the anticipation of danger or a threat and is a perfectly normal response.
However, if you’ve ever had a cat with anxiety, it can feel far from normal. Cat anxiety caused by illness, trauma, or improper socialization can be most severe. However, even milder anxiety due to a new home, a new member of the family, or late-age adoption, is something you can treat.
While there are myriad ways to address anxiety, many cat owners have turned to a plant compound we’ve all heard of by now: CBD. Made up of cannabidiol, the active ingredient found in hemp, it has a calming effect.
But don’t be alarmed; CBD, unlike THC, will not get your cat high. Instead, this cannabinoid is used to treat a wide range of conditions including seizures, arthritis, and chronic pain. Older cats who develop dementia, also known as cognitive dysfunction, may also benefit from CBD oil. But if you’re curious about trying CBD for cats’ anxiety, read on.
What Is CBD Oil for Cats?
Most CBD products are essentially the same. Usually, they consist of pure cannabidiol in a suspension with a generic oil to dilute the effects. They come in various strengths. CBD oil marketed to cat owners is blended with cats in mind, featuring a less concentrated dose, and blended with nutritious omega-3-rich fish oils that cats crave. Sometimes, CBD oil for cats is even flavored especially for your cat’s senses.
Does CBD oil help cats with anxiety?
Research lags behind the rise of CBD oil’s widespread availability—and that’s for humans. Research on the use of CBD products for cats in general, let alone for anxiety, is preliminary. Before scientists can link CBD oil to specific outcomes, early studies must attempt to discover its general mechanisms in the brain.
Like their human counterparts, felines have receptors throughout their nervous system that respond to cannabinoids, lending holistic benefits to their cats and relief to their human companions. This system is called the endocannabinoid system. The fact that these receptors aren’t limited to the brain may account for CBD oil’s many benefits.
Many pet owners and veterinarians alike are not content to wait for all the research to trickle in. After all, there is little to no evidence of harmful outcomes. Anecdotally, many vets and pet owners insist that CBD oil has been effective for cats with anxiety, citing cases where major symptoms abated in a rather short time. It is likely that its benefits have to do with the way it interacts with neurotransmitters affecting fear and moods, and the endocannabinoid system.
Studies have also shown CBD oil’s effectiveness for insomnia in humans, which may be promising for cats with anxiety, and especially helpful if they also experience trouble sleeping.
Is CBD Oil Safe for Cats?
There is little to no evidence that CBD oil is harmful to humans nor pets. Notably, in 2018, the FDA approved a cannabis-derived medicine for children with epilepsy. That should say something about its safety for felines. And recent studies have come to the conclusion that it is safe for cats and dogs.
Side Effects of CBD Oil in Cats
In a recent study published in Animals, the most common side effects in order are as follows:
- Head shaking
However, these side effects should be noted within context. Firstly, “licking” and “pacing” are behaviors that cannot be distinguished from ordinary feline behavior. Secondly, “head shaking” was often noted as the CBD product was administered directly to their mouths rather than observed afterward. Finally, no significant change in blood chemistry values was reported during the study period.
That said, always monitor your cat whenever introducing medicines or supplements to their system. And if you do notice these symptoms, contact your veterinarian immediately.
How to Administer CBD for Cats with Anxiety
If you’re wondering how to give your cat CBD products, here are 5 different tips.
1. Ease In
As cats are small creatures, err on the side of caution and increase the dose gradually. A good starting point is 0.25 milligrams of CBD oil for every pound of body weight.
2. Mix it in Their Food
Use the dropper included with all CBD oil and fill it to the prescribed dose. Mix it in with your cat’s favorite food. Wet food works best here.
3. Apply Directly
If you’d like to try giving CBD oil to your cat directly, that is perfectly acceptable. In fact, if you’re trying to maximize its effects, CBD oil administered this way will enter their system faster. It is safe to give your cat CBD products on an empty stomach, but refer to tip one and begin by easing in. Bear in mind that most felines will not enjoy the process. However, mixing the oil with tuna juice or using a flavored oil can make this process a breeze.
4. Keep It Consistent
While your cat may only need CBD occasionally, some veterinarians believe consistency matters, especially for chronic issues. Additionally, splitting the dose between morning and evening will spread its benefits throughout the day.
5. Anticipate Your Cat’s Anxiety
If you’re aware of your cat’s triggers and can predict a potentially stressful situation, you can plan ahead by giving your cat CBD oil thirty minutes ahead of time. This is helpful if, for example, there’s a second cat you’re introducing to the home and you let it roam the common areas at a certain time of day.
CBD for Anxious Cats: FAQs
Should I use CBD or hemp oil with my cat? What’s the difference?
While hemp oil is perfectly safe for cats with its own profile of benefits, it usually only contains trace amounts of CBD.
While hemp oil is made by cold-pressing hemp seeds, CBD oil is made by extracting the compound from hemp leaves, flowers, and stalks.
How much CBD should I give my cat?
If you’ve decided to try CBD to treat your cat’s anxiety, you may be wondering how to dose it. While there are no federal standard guidelines, we advise you find a trusted producer and follow label guidelines, beginning at the lower end and working your way up to the recommended dose over a week or so.
On average across the industry, cats with anxiety are recommended 0.25 milligrams mg of CBD per pound of body weight per day, but this can vary by age and condition. Effects can range from 4 to 8 hours and the dose can be split into smaller doses throughout the day.
Will CBD get my cat high?
No. The psychoactive component of cannabidiol is THC. It’s a different cannabinoid than CBD. While CBD oil does affect the nervous system, it does not cause the cognitive changes, such as euphoria or hallucinations, that THC does. But do vet your CBD brand and make sure that it’s certified THC-free.
How do I find the best CBD oil for cats?
That’s a great question, and we devoted an entire article to it! In short, seek out cat-specific brands that vets trust. The oil should be full-spectrum and 100% THC-free. And might we recommend our own non-GMO organic CBD oil?
More Natural Ways to Calm a Cat with Anxiety
CBD is not the only way to calm cat anxiety. In fact, her CBD dose is best used in conjunction with other methods and devices. For starters, cat owners should never punish an anxious cat as it will only make things worse. Do try comforting your cat while being mindful of its need for space. Comforting doesn’t have to mean coddling or picking up your cat but instead using a soothing voice or giving it a gentle rub. It may sound crazy but even squinting at your cat from a distance can help signal that everything’s under control! But certainly don’t stare.
1. Try Pheromones
That’s right! You can actually find cat calming collars and diffusers that emit a scent reminiscent of the pheromones a mother cat uses to soothe her kittens.
2. Try Calming Cat Food and Treats
Did you know that there are actually anti-anxiety cat formulas and cat treats? These formulas often contain tryptophan—a safe compound found in turkey that accounts for that Thanksgiving slumbers, and it works on cats too. Speaking of diet, you can consult our guide to the best grain-free cat foods here.
3. Variety is the Spice of Life
While an anxious cat certainly needs a quiet, stable home environment, sometimes the missing ingredient is fun, believe it or not! When was the last time you intentionally played with your kitty? Have you tried out different toys or different times of the day? Included in our cat bundle is both catnip to get the party started as well as freeze-dried minnows (can you say yum?) to reward your cat when the fun is done!
4. Keep Your House in Order
Cats, probably more so than dogs, are sensitive to their environment. Anything from clutter to messes to major changes in layout can stress a cat out. A cat prone to anxiety will benefit from the Marie Kondo treatment! And as cat whisperer, Jackson Galaxy emphasizes, giving your cat clear access to a clean litter box makes a world of difference.
5. Give your Cat a Perch
Does your cat have any high ground from which to survey her queendom? You may be surprised how much that can help an anxious cat. It’s no secret how much cats enjoy the high ground, so even a cat tree can help. Bonus points for a comfy top to nap on. If you’re feeling more ambitious, installing high shelves with stepped access will give your cat the distance from the din it desires.
We Know That’s A Lot of Information
But we hope that this article armed you with the knowledge and know-how to treat your cat’s anxiety. As always, consult with your veterinarian before starting any home remedies.
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