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Using CBD To Treat Anxiety In Cats

Treating anxiety in cats


Wellness is a hot topic in the information age, as people seek out new and unconventional ways to improve their physical and mental health.  This partially explains the recent hubbub surrounding medical cannabis, and the wave of interest in cannabidiol (CBD), an important therapeutic component in the plant with no psychoactive effects.

But it’s not just humans who can enjoy the benefits of CBD.  Most of the compound’s medicinal value comes from its impact on the endocannabinoid system (ECS), a biological network which is present in many mammals, including cats. While giving a cat potent and intoxicating THC would be a complete no-no, it seems to be a completely different story with CBD.  Indeed, several manufacturers are capitalizing on the compound’s newfound popularity, producing CBD products especially designed for pets.

Anxiety is one of the most common reasons humans take CBD, and it’s also the most common one for giving it to their cats.  Let’s take a closer look at this mental disorder and explore why CBD may help anxiety in cats.

Cats and anxiety

When a cat becomes fearful or stressed, anxiety is the natural response. The body’s fight-or-flight response becomes activated, and the cat prepares himself to do whatever is needed to steer clear from harm. Levels of adrenaline and cortisol increase, while heart rate increases and muscles tense. In humans, cognitive performance may even be boosted in the short-term.

The fight-or-flight response is clearly essential for when a cat becomes threatened.  Unfortunately in anxious cats, this response is triggered unnecessarily by imagined threats, keeping them constantly on edge and unable to relax and enjoy a high quality of life.

How to know if your cat is suffering from anxiety

It’s not always easy to detect anxiety in cats, as they are unable to simply describe their plight as a human could. Therefore, it’s up to the cat owner to study their pet’s behavior for oddities.

An anxious cat may hide away more often than usual, or on the flipside, start meowing all the time. Cats with anxiety also exhibit signs of tiredness or behave aggressively towards strangers and even their owner. Cats are renowned for having remarkable independence, but an anxious feline may become clingy and restless. Many humans with anxiety experience reduced appetite, and this also happens with cats. Furniture scratching is perhaps not an indication of anxiety on its own but may accompany other symptoms.

Anxiety in cats


Why do cats suffer from anxiety?

There are several reasons why a cat may suffer from anxiety, but it is often a result of previous experiences which become ingrained. Anybody with anxiety knows that triggers aren’t always rational, but that doesn’t stop them having a debilitating impact on day-to-day life.

Anxiety medication for cats does exist, but many owners opt to stay away from pharmaceutical drugs and treat their pets with natural alternatives, hence the curiosity with CBD.

Changes to the cat’s environment may cause anxiety. For example, relocating or bringing a new pet into the home can be unsettling. Adjustments to routine, such as suddenly being alone for long periods after receiving constant attention, can be a trigger. Abandonment is an extreme case, but this does happen and can lead to separation anxiety. The more these sorts of changes occur, the worse these changes may be. After all, such drastic alterations to day-to-day life can be psychologically damaging for humans, too.

Cats are social creatures, and therefore need regular interaction with other cats. Kittens who are kept shut away from other cats and humans will not develop important social skills and are more vulnerable to nervousness and anxiety. Exposure to unfamiliar environments will help to strengthen a cat psychologically so they can cope with troublesome situations more easily.

These forms of behavioral anxiety may be aided somewhat by CBD treatment.  However seeking help from a cat behaviorist for specific training may be required.

Understanding situational anxiety

Situational anxiety, however, can theoretically be managed by CBD alone. This form of anxiety may be triggered by loud noises, such as lightning and thunderstorms or fireworks. The hustle and bustle caused by having friends and family over may also make a cat nervous. Long journeys can also set off anxiety due to the cat being kept in a confined space.

In humans, anxiety worsens when the balance between inhibition and excitation in the brain is lost. Despite the lack of many clinical studies, we know that cats also have the important inhibitory neurotransmitter gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA), which is key to reducing anxious symptoms.

When the brain is excessively excited, nerve impulses fire off at an increased rate, causing a surge in thoughts. This leads to anxiety and paranoia in humans, as we hunt for potential threats, even if this is ultimately irrational. Again, it’s perfectly possible that this brain excitation is what causes anxiety in cats.

CBD works as a psychological relaxant, freeing the mind from anxiety by facilitating an upsurge in GABA. These neurotransmitters block nerve impulses, thereby reducing thoughts. Cats also have a serotonin system, and pharmaceutical anxiety drugs can ease anxiety by addressing chemical imbalances here. In humans, CBD is a partial agonist of the serotonin 1A receptor, and this may also account for some of CBD’s anxiolytic effects in cats.

O’s Story

In May 2018, user randomraindrops left a positive story about CBD on Reddit’s CBD subsection. Traumatic circumstances had left their 16-year-old cat named O with severe anxiety.  This caused multiple behavioral issues, including excessive meowing and jumping on his owners while they were asleep, which the user noted was uncommon. However, after taking the cat to the vet, no specific health issue was found.

Short of solutions, randomraindrops decided to start treating O with CBD, adding it to his wet food. Within days, all of the anxiety symptoms “vanished.”

Mia and Milo

Milo and Mia

Milo and Mia are resident cats belonging to Instagram user Kristi Bellis of whiskersnpurrs in Vancouver Island, BC, Canada.  They were extremely close to each other for several years until Milo suddenly started bullying her.  Mia would began to disappear from their property for days then weeks at a time.  She was recently found after going missing for four months.  In order to help ease anxiety between them, and to help Mia become comfortable at home again, Kristi began using CBD.  Her recent post updating their status came with great results!  Now they are eating side by side again and sleeping on opposite sides of the room under supervision.  

Kristi has also been using CBD with her stray/semi feral foster kitty.  ” She seems way more relaxed.  Since I started using it she moves around when I’m in the room which she never did before.  And she doesn’t hiss as much when I reach out to give her treats.  She’s been laying on her side and showing more relaxed body language.”

Final thoughts

Some people choose to give their cats CBD oil, while other buy infused products intended for pets – these are mostly CBD edibles. While CBD can be beneficial, because there are no studies on using it for cats, it’s important to exercise caution. Therefore, start with very low doses, or the cat may become uncomfortable or ill.  Be sure to avoid CBD products for humans on cats.  They tend to be stronger, making it more difficult to administer an accurate dose.

If you’d like to learn more about CBD and cats check out this article. The Boutique for Cats now carries CBD products for cats!  You can check them out here:



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