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Is CBD Right For Your Cat?

For a host of cat lovers, CBD has proved a miracle cure, helping cats with everything from arthritis and seizures to pain and anxiety

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CBD oil gave Lee Ellis four extra months with the furry love of her life. The story of Lee and Molly, a long-haired Tabby, started more than 20 years ago. Born to a feral mom, Molly was rescued by the Scarborough, ON resident when she was only four months old.

“She slept next to me every night and woke me up early every day—whether I wanted an early wake-up call or not,” says Lee, who owns Three Star Pet Sitting Services. “Even though I loved other kitties, she was my number one.”

As Molly grew older, she developed arthritis. In November 2018, Molly was almost 21 years old, and had fallen trying to get out of the litter box, and again when she tried to jump on a chair. Gabapentin, a medication prescribed to treat neuropathic pain in cats, wasn’t working—it made her “a bit wobbly,” says Lee. “I was running out of options because of her age and I didn’t want to keep giving her medication because it gets processed through the liver.”

She made the difficult decision to put her beloved cat down, but changed her mind, and decided to wait and see if the CBD oil she had recently started giving Molly made a difference.

She’s so glad she waited.

A few days later, Lee noticed that Molly was getting in and out of the litter box easier and jumping on the couch without problems. “One day I saw her cleaning the base of her tail with one leg behind her head, something that struck me only because I hadn’t seen that in a long time.”

Lee attributes the vast improvements to CBD oil, which gave her four more precious months with her cat. She is one of many pet owners whose ‘cat came back’ after turning to cannabidiol—more commonly known as CBD—to treat their cat’s ailments.

“Most are seeking a safe ‘natural’ option for their cats; some are looking for alternative options to add to conventional therapies that may not be working well,” says Dr. Katherine Kramer, medical director for VCA-Canada Vancouver Animal Wellness Hospital, a small animal integrative hospital in Vancouver, B.C. Whatever the reason, the decision as to why and when to use a product should be discussed with one’s veterinarian, Dr. Kramer adds.

“Your veterinarian should always be your first resource for any health question that involves your pet,” says Dr. Kramer, who is also a director of the Canadian Association of Veterinary Cannabinoid Medicine. “CBD (as well as other supplements) can potentially interact with many medications so your veterinarian needs to know. Although your veterinarian cannot legally recommend, prescribe or dispense any cannabis products, they can help guide their clients on how to find and use safe, quality products.”

“I love that it works for her when she needs it, isn’t something she has to take all the time, and she is still mobile and playing at her age. If she’s walking stiffly with her back hunched a little unusually, I rub along her back and hips and gauge her responses to see if she needs the assist.”

There are many ailments and symptoms that can be treated with CBD. There are several good indications for the use of CBD in cats, only one of which is pain and inflammation conditions such as the one Molly suffered later in life. Other conditions that could benefit include cancer, chronic pancreatitis, inflammatory bowel disease, seizure disorders, and behavioural conditions (such as anxiety, inappropriate urination, obsessive grooming, cognitive decline), says Dr. Kramer.

She continues: “More research is needed, but CBD may also be potentially helpful for allergies, asthma, diabetes, hypertension, glaucoma, and bone fractures. As we learn more about how these products interact with the endocannabinoid system, we should find even more indications for their use.”

Many pet parents turn to CBD when conventional medicine is not providing relief, says Dr. Kramer.

After his worst arthritis flare-up, Bingley, a 14-year-old Maine Coon cross, was barely able to walk in the fall of 2018. His owner, Michelle Kempenich, took him to the emergency vet, where he was given gabapentin and anti-inflammatories.

“After a week, he seemed better, but he still was having regular flare-ups in his front end—mostly his neck,” says Michelle. “In November of 2019, I decided to try CBD oil with some skepticism.”

The Calgary, AB resident started Bingley with one dose per day with the intent of increasing over time. Although the oil’s manufacturers said it can take up to two weeks before a difference is noticed, Michelle saw a difference in less than a week.

“He was behaving like he did before all his pain began. He was playing again, and wrestling with his brother, and hunting his toys at night. I have been able to wean him down to one dose of anti-inflammatory per week (instead of every day) and so far, so good. He’s still on the Gabapentin and I’m not willing to risk taking him off it, but the CBD oil has made such a huge difference for him. I just ordered my second bottle so I don’t risk running out. I’m still amazed at the change in him. I really didn’t think it would work, but I was so wrong.”


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CBD oil also helped Theresa Horne address her three-year-old Calico cat Chloe’s severe food allergy. CBD “helped a lot with the itching and that helped with the rash since she wasn’t over grooming or chewing at her paws as much,” Theresa says. While Theresa was changing Chloe’s diet (the culprit was chicken), CBD also helped Chloe relax, she says, which was an important factor in letting her skin heal. (Stress can contribute to overgrooming.)

“She was on the once-to-twice-a-day dose for a little over a month while we were trying new foods and eliminating all the chicken from her diet. Since we have changed her diet and she is feeling all better, I don’t have to give her CBD drops on a regular basis anymore,” says the Stratford, P.E.I. resident.

Diana Miller believes that CBD is giving her more time with her cat, Miss Piggy.

Adopted at eight weeks old, Miss Piggy, a yellow shelter cat now on the cusp of 22, is feeling the effects of age (renal issues and arthritis in the spine), but her pain meds weren’t agreeing with her. 

“She has been in considerable pain the last year,” says the Clinton, Mo. resident, who was using CBD oil for her own osteoporosis. She learned the company also made CBD oil for pets, and the rest is history.

“After five days, we started seeing a difference in her activity… She is sleeping without pain now and is able to go up and down stairs again and jump up on the couch again,” says Diana. “Seeing her out of pain is worth it… Hopefully it will buy us more time together as my cats are family.”

Kayla Loney of Silver Spring, MD, gives Amalie, her 14-year-old tortoiseshell cat who she adopted as a stray, CBD oil for her back pain.

“We moved to Maryland from Arizona, so both she and I have barometric responses to weather changes throughout winter,” says Kayla.

“Amalie was between having regular days and days where she would beat and yell on everyone in the house—humans or cats,” says Kayla. Those were the days that Kayla would administer the CBD oil.

For Kayla and Amalie, intermittent CBD usage seems to be the most effective and reliable. “Amalie will get hers twice a week, depending on the weather and season. If the weather change is making my body hurt, I empathize with her and give her the CBD before she gets cranky.”

“I love that it works for her when she needs it, isn’t something she has to take all the time, and she is still mobile and playing at her age. If she’s walking stiffly with her back hunched a little unusually, I rub along her back and hips and gauge her responses to see if she needs the assist.”

“The CBD definitely helps,” says Kayla, who works for a local pet supply business that focuses on nutrition and holistic options. “Usually within an hour, she gentles down and goes on with her day.”

A leader in her field, Dr. Kramer says she credits a cat for introducing her to the field of veterinary cannabinoid medicine.

“Eddie was an 18-year-old cat with severe arthritis, chronic pancreatitis, chronic kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, and heart disease,” says Dr. Kramer. “His quality of life was threatened by his pain level and he was not tolerating his pain medications very well. As we discussed euthanasia, Eddie’s family asked about using CBD. This was all very new to me, but…we were running out of options so we worked together to start Eddie on CBD. Within a few days he started eating again. Soon he was playing again and we were able to stop his other pain medications. He enjoyed a very good quality of life until the end. Eddie’s response to CBD was so amazing that I began to look at using it with my other patients. Now, I can’t imagine practising without it!”

Lee agrees that CBD oil works wonders. Last year, on March 17, Lee finally had to put Molly—who also had a chronic renal insufficiency and a heart murmur—to sleep due to a mass on her abdomen. Lee’s adamant that the CBD oil gave Molly “a reasonable quality of life.”

“I was thrilled with the extra four months,” says Lee. She recalls her vet telling her, “‘every day’s a gift’—which was exactly how I felt.”

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