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How Much CBD Oil Can I Give My Cat?

CBD has been gaining popularity as a holistic wellness supplement for people and pets. Interested in adding CBD to your cat's supplement routine? Here's everything you need to know about CBD dosing and administration.

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Last Updated: December 13, 2023 | 9 min read

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CBD has become one of the world’s fastest-growing industries, with new brands popping up each day. There are countless CBD products for pets on the market, but the lack of standardized labeling makes purchasing a quality CBD product downright overwhelming. Some brand list the amount of “hemp oil,” while others list “hemp extract” or “CBD oil.” Some products highlight the total milligrams in the bottle, while others include the dosage per serving. Then, regarding dosage, each company seems to have its own recommendation. How much CBD oil should you give your cat?

CBD dosages can differ depending on the size and weight of the cat, along with what issue you’re trying to treat. Cats may get results from a small amount of CBD or need higher dosages to feel relief. Don’t let the confusion behind dosing stop you from trying CBD for your cat.

What Is CBD?

CBD, or cannabidiol, is a chemical compound found in hemp used as an alternative to conventional therapies in treating various health disorders. CBD was first discovered in 1940 when Dr. Roger Adams found that CBD, along with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), makes up the majority of cannabis extract. While research into THC and CBD began in the 1940s, it wasn’t until the mid-1980s that scientists discovered what is now referred to as the endocannabinoid system (ECS), or our body’s regulatory system.

The ECS contains a series of receptors throughout the brain and body that help maintain homeostasis. Think of homeostasis as the body’s state of balance. For example, our body’s ability to regulate temperature, blood sugar, and blood pressure are all examples of homeostasis. As CBD helps maintain homeostasis, it can affect the whole body and helps support a wide range of bodily processes—reproduction, metabolism, digestion, and neurological function.

Aside from receptor sites, the ECS consists of two other components: endocannabinoids and enzymes to degrade and recycle cannabinoids. Since the discovery of the ECS and cannabinoids, research has continued to reveal how CBD interacts with the body.

How Does CBD Work?

The term “cannabinoid” refers to any chemical compound that can stimulate the ECS. CBD is called a phytocannabinoid, a cannabinoid derived from plants. While typically associated with cannabis plants, cannabinoid-like compounds can be found in various other plants, including cacao, sunflowers, echinacea, and kava. Humans also naturally create cannabinoids, called endocannabinoids. The first endocannabinoid discovered was named anandamide, taken from “ananda,” the Sanskrit word for bliss.

Cannabinoids like CBD bind to receptor sites found in the endocannabinoid system, known as the CB1 and CB2 receptors, and moderate communication between cells in the body. CBD increases levels of endocannabinoid anandamide to calm the brain. How? CBD partially deactivates the FAAH enzyme that’s responsible for breaking down anandamide. With the enzyme not working as quickly, levels of anandamide rise and give the CBD user a feeling of contentment. And that’s only one piece of the puzzle.

CBD interacts with two serotonin receptors; serotonin is the “happy chemical” and helps regulate mood. CBD affects dopamine receptors, triggering a feeling of motivation, satisfaction, and pleasure. Research links CBD to pain reduction and relief from anxiety, depression, and insomnia. It functions as an anti-inflammatory, anticonvulsant, and antioxidant. Unlike THC, CBD is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid, meaning it won’t create a high sensation.

Is CBD Safe For Cats?

CBD research was hindered for decades due to its legal status, and while we’ve seen research and sales of CBD boom in recent years, there is still much to be discovered about CBD’s effect on humans and companion animals. We know the ECS is present in nearly all animals, including vertebrates and invertebrates. But does this mean CBD is safe for supplementation in pets? While safety data shows that CBD is well-tolerated in dogs, CBD literature on cats is scarce.

One study testing how cats and dogs utilize CBD found that cats absorb or eliminate CBD differently than dogs. The study found that cats had a much lower CBD plasma peak and absorption than dogs, meaning they would need more CBD to get the same effect. Cats were also more likely than dogs to experience adverse effects from CBD oil, including excessive licking and head-shaking.

Another safety study using escalating doses of CBD oil in healthy cats found that administering a CBD isolate in an MCT oil base increased the incidence of diarrhea compared to a sunflower oil blend, indicating that the carrier oil used in a CBD formula affects the GI system and absorption. While mild, other adverse effects noted during the study included lethargy, impaired balance, and membrana nictitans protrusion—also called cherry eye.

Alternatively, a one-week pharmacokinetic assessment of cats using CBD and CBDA oral paste found no adverse effects (vomiting, diarrhea, hypersalivation, head shaking, lethargy, etc.). This article concluded that a full-spectrum product with various cannabinoids offers superior absorption than a CBD isolate.

An online survey conducted through Colorado State University evaluated consumer perceptions of hemp products for animals. Almost 12 percent (out of 570 respondents) were currently using CBD for their cat. The results indicated primarily positive feedback for cats, with relief from pain, reduced inflammation, sleep support, and decreased anxiety being the top benefits reported. The most notable side effect was mild sedation, followed by over-active appetite and excessive drinking. Those who discontinued usage said that the product was too expensive or ineffective. None reported stopping due to adverse effects.

While there have been many reports of cannabis poisoning in cats and dogs, this was primarily due to the ingestion of human-grade marijuana. While hemp and marijuana are the same plant species, marijuana contains a higher THC content, making it dangerous for cats. If your cat eats marijuana, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible.

What Are The Benefits Of CBD For Cats?

While research specific to CBD’s effect on cats is limited, evidence shows that generally, CBD may be used to treat various health conditions:

  • Anxiety and stress relief: CBD may be calming, supporting behavioral problems like anxiety and fearfulness. A survey conducted in Slovenia showed positive effects in animals that owners attributed to CBD. Seventy-two percent reported improved well-being, with other positive results reported, including calmness, relaxation, and the absence of fear of fireworks.
  • Cancer: CBD inhibits cancer cell invasion and may reduce symptoms associated with cancer.
  • Depression and loneliness: CBD interacts with serotonin receptors, supporting mood regulation.
  • Pain and inflammation: CBD has demonstrated an anti-inflammatory effect on guinea pigs and dogs. While there have not been any trials with felines, CBD may relieve the pain associated with arthritis, cancer, dental problems, infections, injuries, and more.
  • Seizures and epilepsy: In 2018, the FDA approved Epidiolex®, a pharmaceutical-grade cannabidiol, for treating seizures in certain forms of epilepsy. Multiple studies have shown seizure reduction with the use of CBD in epileptic dogs, but studies have yet to be performed on cats.

Factors To Consider Before Giving Your Cat CBD

The global CBD pet market size hit $195.98 million in 2022. With the CBD pet market anticipated to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 31.8 perfect from 2023 to 2030, countess companies are jumping on the CBD bandwagon to gain a profit. The lack of regulations on CBD products has caused inconsistencies in CBD supplements on the market. For example, one study found that of 29 CBD pet products tested, four were contaminated with heavy metals. Purchasing CBD from a quality brand is crucial for your pet’s safety. Consider the following factors before purchasing CBD for your cat:

Does CBD Have Proven Efficacy?

While CBD holds great promise for cats, there’s still much we don’t know about its absorption and action in cats. There’s not enough research yet confirming the safety of CBD for cats or if the product will produce the intended result. If you want the benefits of CBD but hesitate to give CBD oil to your cat, consider the alternatives:

  • Bach Rescue Remedy: This formula is a blend of homeopathic flower essences that supports relief from anxiety, sadness, and more.
  • Turmeric: Supplementing turmeric may provide pain relief. One study found that supplementing curcumin from turmeric positively affected a cat’s activity level, playfulness, and ability to groom and walk up the stairs.
  • Fish oil: The omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil are excellent for brain and joint support.

What Brand Are You Using?

Not all CBD products are created equal. When purchasing a CBD supplement, you must conduct your due diligence. Use this list when choosing a product so that you’ll get a high-quality product:

  1. Read the label: Check the amount of cannabinoids in the bottle, the complete ingredient list, instructions, expiration date, and any warnings on the label.
  2. Look for a full-spectrum CBD: A CBD isolate or broad-spectrum product has cannabinoids removed, altering the effect of the product as a whole. Use a full-spectrum CBD for maximum benefit. Also, confirm that the CBD was produced using CO2 extraction rather than a chemical solvent.
  3. Choose third-party tested: Some companies offer a certificate of analysis for each product, confirming that the product is free from harmful ingredients like heavy metals, pesticides, molds, and bacteria. If you can’t access the lab results, seek a third-party certification. This means that an outside source tested the product for quality and potency.
  4. Look for the USDA organic seal: USDA organic certification ensures the product was made with strict growing, processing, and handling standards.
  5. Check for FDA warning letters: The FDA keeps a list of products that contained little to no CBD when tested.

How Do You Want To Give Your Cat CBD?

CBD is available as both an oil or chewable. Let’s compare the difference:

  • CBD oil: CBD oil comes with a dropper top that allows you to give the precise dose to your kitty. In humans, CBD taken sublingually (under the tongue, allowing the oil to stay there for up to one minute before swallowing) makes for quick and effective absorption; however, as you’re unlikely to get your kitty to stay put long enough to hold the oil under their tongue or against their gums, most pet owners add the oil to their cat’s food. Typically, CBD oil has a higher concentration of cannabidiol than chewies.
  • CBD soft chews: For picky eaters, CBD soft chews can be offered as a treat, making supplementation easier than the oil. While chewables may appease your feline, dosing is harder to adjust compared to oil products.

Working With Your Vet

Don’t be afraid to discuss CBD supplementation with your veterinarian. The 2018 Farm Bill declassified hemp as a Schedule I controlled substance but did not specifically address veterinarians and their patients. Because of this regulatory vagueness, your vet may hesitate to make specific recommendations.

When speaking with your vet, avoid using brand names. Instead, keep the conversation as general as possible. Don’t be afraid to consider a second opinion. While your vet may be hesitant to discuss CBD for pets, some vets might be more willing to discuss the topic.

CBD Dosing For Cats

A reputable CBD company will provide products with differing strengths based on your cat’s weight. While there are no established doses for treating specific conditions, such as anxiety or pain, a good rule of thumb is to give your cat 1-5 mg of CBD per 10 pounds of body weight. Start with a smaller dose and work your way up as needed. Look for a company that tells you how many milligrams your pet gets per serving instead of the whole bottle. Alternatively, you’ll have to do the math. For example, say your cat is 10 pounds, and you purchased a 30ml bottle that totals 125 mg CBD. 125 mg = 4.2 mg per ml (1 dropper). In this instance, start by giving your cat half a dropperful.

WeightLose DoseMedium DoseStrong Dose
About 10 pounds1 mg3 mg5 mg

Just like with humans, dosing CBD for cats can be difficult. Every pet is unique and requires more or less CBD to get the desired effect. Your feline may respond to half the recommended amount, or you may need to increase their dosage. Whenever increasing doses, do so slowly. For example, if your 10-pound cat isn’t responding to 5 mg of CBD, increase the amount by 50 percent the following day. Continue increasing the dosage until you get the desired effect.

Tips For Cat CBD Dosing

CBD Hemp Food Delicacy for Dogs and Cats in dishes with the green leaf of hemp close up
  1. Consult your vet, particularly if your cat takes other medications or has underlying medical conditions. If your cat is taking other medications—such as gabapentin—discussing CBD before administering this supplement is essential.
  2. Start low and slow. You can always increase the dosage after observing your pet’s reaction. A cat’s size, weight, diet, and activity level may affect how they metabolize CBD.
  3. Check the potency of the product. Brands will have different concentrations, so a one-ounce bottle from one company may have more CBD than a one-ounce bottle from another company. The potency of CBD products can have huge differences, and marketing and labeling can be deceiving. Confirm that your dosage is for CBD and not the “whole plant extract.”

How To Give A Cat CBD

Administering CBD is all about bioavailability, which refers to the time it takes for a substance to enter the body and have its desired effect. Absorption rates differ based on application, so what’s the best way to give your cat CBD?

  1. Gums: The most bioavailable way to administer CBD to cats is by applying it directly to their gums. This allows the CBD to directly absorb through the mucous membranes and into the bloodstream, bypassing the digestive system. Of course, you’re likely to experience a lack of cooperation through this method.
  2. Food: If you risk limb loss by applying CBD oil to your cat’s gums, the next best choice is applying it to their food or using CBD treats. Because this method requires the CBD to be absorbed through the digestive tract, it will take longer to take effect and is typically less effective.
  3. Ears: If your cat refuses to consume CBD oil, try applying a tincture to your cat’s inner ear (where the fur stops growing). While this is the least bioavailable option, it may work in a pinch.

If using CBD therapeutically, give your cat a dose of CBD each day.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Long Does CBD Take To Start Working?

If administered through the gums, expect CBD to start working within 10 minutes; however, CBD may take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour to take full effect.

How Often Can Cats Take CBD?

Start by giving your cat CBD once per day. While conducted on dogs, one study found that breaking up your pet’s dose throughout the day may encourage the CBD to stay at a higher concentration in the body for longer.

Final Thoughts

Ready to try CBD with your cat? Remember, the effectiveness of the product relies on the quality. We’ve selected our top picks for the best CBD oil for cats and the best CBD cat treats.

small orange kitten next to a wasp

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