Recent legalization of marijuana in various states across the country has resulted in a 450% increase in veterinary visits and calls to animal poison hotlines due to exposure or toxic effects of marijuana.
Marijuana is a tobacco product made of cannabis plants. There are two kinds of cannabis plants: Cannabis indica and Cannabis sativa. Each plant has different properties, creating different effects when consumed, absorbed or inhaled.
Marijuana can be used in many ways. Marijuana comes from the flowers, leaves, stalk or hemp seed oil of the marijuana plant
Over eighty cannabinoids have been discovered and studied on the most, with THC and CBD being the two most commonly tested. Of those, THC is the active ingredient which leads to toxicity in cats.
How Marijuana Affects Cats
Cats are more sensitive to the effects of marijuana than humans. This can be caused by smoke, ingesting dried leaves, or taking products containing THC like those found in dispensaries.
When you inhale or ingest THC, it binds to receptors in the brain and changes how normal neurotransmitters function.
There are a number of common side effects in cats that include:
- Loss of motor coordination or balance (stumbling)
- Urinary incontinence
- Low heart rate
- Low blood pressure
- Respiratory depression
- Dilated pupils and glazed over eyes
- Vocalization such as crying or whining
- Increased stimulation to noises or fast movements (some cats may experience hallucinations)
The signs of exposure can begin anywhere from 5 minutes to 12 hours after contact with the contaminated item, lasting for anywhere from a half-hour to several days.
If your cat is showing symptoms of marijuana intoxication, please call your veterinarian immediately.
Is THC Okay for Cats?
THC is easily stored in the body’s fat tissue, such as the liver, brain, and kidneys. The liver metabolizes the THC in weed, and much of it is excreted via fecal matter and urine.
The good news is that marijuana exposure and ingestion in cats are usually not fatal, while long-term complications are uncommon. Toxicity of marijuana is low for cats, requiring roughly 1.5 grams per pound of body weight to be fatal. The most severe effects relating to exposure or ingestion in cats have been from high concentrations of medical-grade THC.
High Cats: Marijuana vs. Catnip
Giving your cat a pinch of catnip can cause an effect similar to that experienced by humans when consuming marijuana. When the cat has their pupils dilated, they usually become playful or crazy. They’ll look around like they’re partying and then fall asleep from exhaustion.
It’s important for cat owners to understand that while both catnip and marijuana make your kitty feel good, they don’t work the same way- not even close. Although the cannabinoids in marijuana bind with a cat’s endocannabinoid receptors, catnip interacts with different cannabinoid receptors.
In fact, instead of behaving like a drug, catnip behaves more like a pheromone – stimulating the cat’s sensory neurons and creating a sexual response. According to scientists, after sniffing catnip kittens are more “in heat” than they would be under the effects of cocaine. If they eat it, their euphoria is diminished in favor of sleepiness.
Unlike with marijuana, an “high” cat cannot overdose on catnip. In most cases, the bad digestive effects of consuming too much of this natural herb will discourage a curious feline from seeking more plants to ingest. A typical cat can sense when he is approaching the maximum amount that it can consume and will stop hunting for the plant material.
Although research is limited, marijuana intoxication in cats has a much more serious consequence.
Marijuana Intoxication in Cats
While marijuana intoxication can affect both cats and dogs, it primarily affects dogs (only 3% of cases involve cats while 96% are for dogs). This often happens when a person’s pet cat has taken in marijuana indirectly, such as through secondhand smoke or the ingestion of contaminated edibles.
The effects experienced vary with the kind of cannabis that was consumed. A cat eating a pot plant usually shows small signs of THC intoxication, since the process was not decarboxylated (activated by heat or curing). As a person consumes more marijuana, the effects become greater. Meanwhile, as cats get into concentrated forms of THC-infused substances like coconut oil or cannabutter, they are at risk for poisoning if too much is consumed.
Cats, like humans, are affected by marijuana intoxication in the following ways: dilated pupils and a loss of coordination being the most obvious sign. The danger lies in invisible effects THC toxicity: heart rate that becomes dangerously slow and body temp etc.
Cats are more susceptible than large dogs to these symptoms because their median lethal dose is so much less
If your cat has ingested marijuana, it should be taken to a vet immediately. Though you can’t reverse the ingestion, the veterinarian may administer activated charcoal to help absorb any THC and fluids to keep the pet hydrated. The only way for a cat to recover is if they sleep off any effects from ingesting marijuana; however, vets will monitor them
As some states prohibit the use of marijuana, pet owners are reluctant to come forward when their pets have ingested drugs. Many veterinarians say they prioritize the well-being of animals over laws enforcement and urge people not to be afraid if they fear being reported for violating drug laws.
Cannabis and Cats: Potential Benefits
Cannabis has been used for centuries to treat a wide range of diseases and symptoms, but it is only recently that the voices in favor of legalization have grown louder.
“What about medical marijuana for pets?”
Cats have an endocannabinoid system that allows them to benefit from the cannabinoids in cannabis like humans can. Many pet owners find that they can treat their cats’ medical problems with cannabis.
CBD has a calming effect on both animals and humans. It’s useful for bouts of anxiety as well as generalized anxiety and insomnia, but CBD doesn’t cause extreme sedation like many other anti-anxiety and sleep medications can.
Meanwhile, cannabis can be used to treat pain in cats and other animals. THC is an analgesic but cannot be given to small animals because of toxicity risk. This is why most pet owners rely on the safer CBD that provides similar benefits without potential harm.
Over the years, cannabis has become well-known as a natural anti-nausea treatment – particularly for patients who are undergoing chemotherapy. It also works well for animals who have lost interest in food or who are experiencing digestive problems. In addition to calming nausea, it also stimulates appetite, which is a double benefit to cats that have lost weight due
CBD has been proven effective at treating certain kinds of epilepsy in humans, and many cat owners are finding that it helps their furry friends, as well. While animal studies are still ongoing, one study from Colorado State University’s veterinary teaching hospital found that 89 percent of epileptic dogs treated with CBD showed reduced seizure activity.
The potential benefits versus risks of using marijuana for medical purposes depends on the type of product used. Giving any amount of products containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) can be risky, but pet owners often find success with CBD products and hemp.
Medical Cannabis for Cats
When considering cannabis products for cats, it’s important that you understand the difference between hemp-based CBD (which does not contain THC) and marijuana with THC which could lead to adverse reactions.
Marijuana and Cats
When you are talking about medical marijuana and cats on the internet, make sure you distinguish between hemp and THC. Most of today’s human-grade cannabis contains high levels of THC which can be toxic to felines.While some pet owners insist that very low doses of THC are beneficial for treating their animals’ illnesses, most veterinarians are unable to discuss giving animals marijuana or recommend doses. Relying solely on internet research and trial/error leaves pet owners at the mercy of other people’s knowledge. For medical marijuana to be effective when treating an animal, it must be prescribed by a veterinarian.
While some people claim to have found success treating external ailments with topically applied THC oils or ointments, research has shown that cats who lick this off can internally ingest the substance. Pet owners who live in states where marijuana is legal usually use cannabinoid-based treatments for their pets. The most common treatment being CBD treatments, and other hemp products as well.
CBD Products for Cats
When it comes to medical marijuana and cats, the safest option is for owners to skip marijuana entirely and treat their pets with CBD. It’s effective at treating a host of ailments including pain, anxiety, depression, nausea, and many others; therefore many owners are finding that CBD is a natural alternative. Best of all, CBD won’t result in a high cat; unlike THC, CBD has no psychotropic effects.
One of the most popular ways to give cats CBD is through cannabis oil, a.k.a. CBD oil and it’s important to note that the cat owner makes sure their oil does not contain THC.Hemp-derived cannabis oil does not contain THC, while marijuana-derived oil may. CBD oil derived from hemp is legal everywhere. In addition to food containing CBD oil, pet owners can also find treats for cats that are infused with CBD oil.
Feline CBD Dosage
CBD oil comes in liquid form, capsules or as infused treats. Unfortunately there are no set rules for dosage in cats because the amount of CBD varies between different products.
The recommended dosage for cats varies depending on the size of the animal. Your veterinarian will be able to provide a specific dosage based on your cat’s weight. Experts recommend starting with the smallest dose of CBD and increasing it if neccessary.
Hemp Products for Cats
For people who are interested in giving their cats medical cannabis and want THC-free products, hemp is a good option as it has almost no THC. Hemp extracts, oils, or treats can be given to your pet to alleviate certain symptoms like pain or stress without risking them being high on marijuana.
CBD oil created from hemp extract is often called “hemp oil” for short. Very high in CBD, it’s an excellent option for owners who want to use medical cannabis to treat their cat’s ailments but wish to avoid products that may contain THC. When they sound the same, many consumers can confuse high-CBD hemp extract with hemp oil.
Hemp extract is made from the entire plant, while hemp oil is extracted from hemp seeds. Hemp oil contains high levels of calories and protein as well as vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids. Unlike hemp extract, hemp oil does not contain CBD in high doses. For these reasons, hemp oil is not ideal for health issues that should be targeted with concentrated doses of CBD.It’s good as a general health supplement in cats, can help soothe arthritis and achy joints, and hemp oil has even been shown to improve cardiovascular health in animals. Hemp oil can also help cats with skin problems, as it makes their hair softer and improves the quality of their fur.
Some cats may have difficulty consuming extracts and oils, so hemp-infused treats are an easy way to dose finicky felines. In addition to candy, you can currently find CBD products in nutritional supplements and as oils infused with hemp oil.
About Cats and Cannabis
As marijuana has become more mainstream, some people are using the product to treat their pets. There are still places in the world where you will get arrested for using cannabis, and many vets refuse to discuss it because of this. Some pet owners hesitate to ask their vet about it, which leaves them with lots of questions. Here are some common queries that people have about their pets and cannabis.
Do cats have cannabinoid receptors?
All mammals have an endocannabinoid system, including cats. This includes CB1 and CB2 receptors (they react to THC and CBD respectively). Cats are more sensitive to cannabinoids than humans, due to their larger abundance of these receptors.
Can cats get high on marijuana?
Yes. When cats inhale marijuana smoke, flower or concentrates they can be subject to highs similar to humans but due to their size and number of receptors the effects become intensified. Signs of intoxication in cats include dilated pupils, lack of coordination, lethargy, agitation or vomiting.
Is marijuana bad for cats?
Unfortunately, a high cat is no joke. Marijuana containing THC can be toxic to cats and ingestion may require veterinary care. However, hemp that contains only small amounts of THC or CBD are not likely to cause problems.
What should I do about my cat eating marijuana?
THC intoxication in a cat typically does not result from the cat smoking marijuana normally. Cats more often eat flowers or cannabutter. If a cat displays mild signs of marijuana intoxication, activated charcoal can be administered. If symptoms worsen, they should be taken to the vet immediately.
Treatment of Marijuana Ingestion in Cats
There are no drugs to reverse the effects of marijuana, and treatments typically involve eliminating the drug from the body, controlling secondary symptoms, and providing support until it is eliminated. The process can take longer than a day.
Treatments may include:
- Administering of activated charcoal to help absorb or bind any marijuana in their system.
- Medications, such as maropitant, may be given to control vomiting or control seizures in extreme cases.
- Intravenous (IV) fluids, which can help eliminate the drug from the body.
Understanding Marijuana’s Risks to Cats
Like humans, cats can be affected by THC. Unlike catnip, it’s less harmless to a cat and can cause seizures, coma or death if they consume enough of it.
While some cat owners insist that they have successfully used small amounts of THC to treat feline medical issues, most experts advise against it due to the risk. Meanwhile, CBD products and those derived from hemp can be safely used for medical purposes as well as dietary supplement with general health benefits.
Understanding the difference between these products – as well as the risks of THC ingestion in cats and what action to take if it occurs – will allow cat owners to help their four-legged friends have long and healthy lives.