CBD for Cats: Benefits, Side Effects, Dosage & More

By | Updated on December 9, 2023

Medically reviewed by
Kimberly Langdon

Evidence Based 16

Key takeaways:

  • CBD offers many potential benefits to cats, including helping with anxiety, mobility, cognitive decline, and digestive health.
  • CBD oil administered to the gums is arguably the best way to give your cat CBD, but there are also other options like treats.
  • CBD is relatively safe for cats. Still, be sure to consult your vet if your cat is taking any meds, buy from reputable brands, and check third-party test results, especially to make sure the THC levels are not too high.

Every cat owner wants to ensure their feline companion enjoys a long and comfortable life.

If you’re looking for natural remedies to help your cat with problems like stress, joint discomfort, or the general decline of aging, you may want to consider CBD. 

Early research indicates that CBD offers many of the same benefits to cats that it does for humans, like relieving anxiety, pain, and inflammation.

What is CBD?

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a non-intoxicating cannabinoid abundant in hemp, a low-THC variety of cannabis. Decades of research have shown that CBD has a long list of potential health benefits for both humans and animals.

Benefits of CBD for Cats

CBD research in cats and dogs is still in its early stages, so the scientific data is limited. However, pet owners are already using CBD for their companions, and the results look promising (1, 2).  

Based on the current understanding of how CBD works in most animals (3), the potential benefits for cats include:

  • Relief of fear, anxiety, and stress
  • Support of joint health and mobility
  • Support for digestive health
  • Protecting against cognitive decline
  • Improving skin conditions
  • Anticancer effects

Additionally, a handful of studies have reported more detailed findings:

  • A 2021 study of eight dogs and four cats found that CBD improved behavior problems like fear, aggression, and self-injury (4)
  • A 2023 placebo-controlled study found that CBD helped with pain in 22 cats with chronic gingivostomatitis, a painful oral infection (5)
  • Another 2023 placebo-controlled study in 40 cats found that CBD reduced fear caused by thunderstorms (6)
  • A 2023 case report of a 10-year-old cat with chronic osteoarthritis pain found that full-spectrum cannabis oil (1.8% CBD and 0.8% THC) improved the pain (7)

Happy Pets, Happy Owners

We may not have a lot of clinical studies on CBD for cats yet, but we do have data collected from pet owners.

For example, the American Holistic Veterinary Medicine Association surveyed more than 600 cat and dog owners on their feelings about using hemp CBD products for their four-legged companions (1).

The survey found that most people felt that they saw benefits like:

  • Reduced separation anxiety
  • Better sleep
  • Improved comfort and mobility
  • Less digestive upset
  • Improvement of skin conditions

Additionally, 89% of the pet owners rated CBD products as very safe, with a combined 93% saying it worked as well or better than standard treatments.

Meet Delilah the Maine coon from St. Petersburg, Florida, one of our CBD product testers.

How Does CBD Work for Cats?

It might seem surprising that CBD could have many of the same benefits for our pets that it has for us. The answer lies in the endocannabinoid system or the ECS.

The ECS is an array of receptors, enzymes, and endocannabinoids that play a role in just about every part of the body. Most animals on Earth have an ECS (3).

To make this system work, humans and other animals naturally produce tiny molecules called endocannabinoids (endo meaning made within) that interact with the ECS.

Think of endocannabinoids as the messenger that “talks” to the receptors in the ECS and tells them it’s time to get to work. 

Although it doesn’t interact with our cannabinoid receptors in the same way, it can still influence their function and have other effects, like increasing endocannabinoid levels by suppressing an enzyme that breaks them down (3, 8). 

What Does the ECS Do?

So we know that CBD can interact with the ECS…but why does that matter? Because the ECS is vital to nearly every function our bodies perform (3). 

Although scientists are still learning more, we know the ECS is tasked with maintaining homeostasis, a healthy state of internal balance. To do this, it regulates many important processes, including: 

  • Sleep 
  • Gastrointestinal function
  • Brain function, including memory and cognition
  • Mood regulation
  • Stimulating appetite
  • Immune system modulation
  • Pain regulation

When you take CBD, it interacts with this complex and far-reaching system, supporting its many balancing effects. It’s no surprise that CBD appears to have a broad range of effects on overall health and wellness. 

While we don’t yet know exactly how CBD works for cats, we do know they have an ECS that works much like ours.

How to Give Your Cat CBD

ProductAbsorptionTime to EffectsAverage Duration
CBD oilMedium~10-30 minSeveral hours
CBD capsulesLow~30-120 minMany hours
CBD ediblesLow~30-120 minMany hours
CBD topicalsLow~10-60 minA few hours

If you’ve ever tried to medicate a cat—or even simply changed foods—you know it can be tricky to get your finicky friend to eat anything they’re not interested in.

Luckily, CBD comes in several forms, so you can try different options until you find something that works for your cat.


Most pet owners opt to use CBD in oil tincture form. It’s not only versatile and widely available but also absorbed better than edible products, especially when it’s applied sublingually (under the tongue) or to other areas with easily accessible blood vessels (9). 

Although CBD oil is not as well-absorbed when it’s swallowed, it still appears to be superior to edible CBD products like treats for cats and dogs (10). 

CBD tinctures can be given to your cat in a few ways, going from most to least effective:

  • Rubbed onto the gums
  • Massaged into the ears
  • Dropped directly into your cat’s mouth using the supplied dropper
  • Mixed into food, water, or applied onto treats

Mixing CBD oil into food is the least effective method because much of the CBD is lost in the digestive tract and liver before it can be absorbed, a phenomenon scientists call the first-pass effect (11). It’s also difficult to ensure that your cat gets the full dose if they don’t finish their meal.

austin & kat cbd oil
An example of a CBD oil designed specifically for cats and dogs.

CBD-Infused Treats & Capsules

If your cat doesn’t like CBD oil, you can also find cat treats that are infused with CBD. Feed according to the dosage instructions on the package. Treats can be a good option for a picky eater but will not be as effective as oil tinctures because of the first-pass effect.

You can also use capsules, which can be more effective if CBD is already dissolved in oil, improving its absorption. But they’re difficult to administer.

CBD Topicals

Topical products combine CBD with standard skincare ingredients like beeswax and plant oils. These products can be applied to any joints or areas of the skin, like the ears and paw pads. Because they only work where applied, CBD topicals work best for localized relief. 

How Do You Choose the Best Product For Your Cat?

Researching CBD products can be confusing, so here are some key points to keep in mind as you shop around: 

  • Opt for products labeled “full-spectrum” or “broad-spectrum.” Full-spectrum means it contains all the other flavonoids, terpenes, and other cannabinoids that naturally occur alongside CBD. Broad-spectrum includes most of the same compounds but does not include THC. These compounds work together to make CBD more effective than it is on its own (the “entourage effect”) (12).
  • While CBD oil is almost always hemp-derived, products labeled “hemp” or “hemp seed oil” are not CBD oil. They usually don’t contain CBD at all.
  • Studies have found that many CBD products are inaccurately labeled, so be sure to purchase high-quality CBD oil from a reputable brand (13). Quality CBD manufacturers will always provide third-party certificates of analysis (CoAs) to back up their CBD and THC content claims. You should check these CoAs to ensure the product is labeled accurately. 

Dosage Tips

When you’re just starting out, keep in mind that every cat’s response to CBD will be unique. 

The amount they need will depend on factors like their weight, genetics, age, the issue you’re addressing, and their overall health. The CBD concentrations of products will vary too, so check the product label for dosage guidelines. 

Here are some general dosage guidelines and tips to get you started:

  1. A typical dosage range for cats is 2-6 mg for every 10 pounds of body weight per day. For example, a 10-pound cat would start with 2 mg per dose. 
  2. Use the “start low and go slow” approach (14). Begin with the lowest dose recommended by the product manufacturer and increase gradually as needed. 
  3. You can give CBD once or twice daily; for example, if your cat shows signs of discomfort later in the day, you can give the dose during the evening.
  4. Be cautious with the THC content in your CBD product since cats can experience unpleasant effects from THC intoxication (15). Reliable CBD manufacturers make it easy to confirm how much THC you’re getting with third-party test reports. 

Is CBD Safe for Cats?

Although more research is needed, it appears that CBD is well-tolerated in cats.

For example, two small studies tested various dosages of CBD on cats while monitoring their blood chemistry for changes (10, 16). At the end of each study, researchers assessed the cats and found no concerning changes in behavior or overall health. Blood chemistry remained stable throughout. 

A few cats displayed elevated liver enzymes, but this was not associated with any harmful effects and returned to normal once the CBD was discontinued. 

Still, you should use care when trying a new supplement with any pet, and CBD is no exception. That’s especially true if your cat is on any prescription meds, as higher doses of CBD can interact with some drugs. Be sure to talk to your vet first if that’s the case.

Can CBD Make Your Cat High?

Your cat won’t get high from CBD because it’s completely non-intoxicating.

The only caveat is full-spectrum CBD products, which contain small amounts (up to 0.3%) of THC. If you’re using a full-spectrum product for your pet, it might be possible for a cat to experience psychoactive effects, but only if you administer a fairly high dose. 

Being intoxicated from THC is not a pleasant experience for cats, so it’s important to make sure you don’t give them a dose of full-spectrum CBD with too much THC.

It’s always best to stick to the smallest CBD dosage that provides the desired effects and double-check the third-party test results to make sure the THC content is accurate.

Support Your Feline Friend with CBD

While we’re still learning more about how CBD may benefit cats, for now, we can say that it’s a safe and well-tolerated supplement. Pet owners have good things to say about using CBD for cats, and it may be able to help your cat feel more playful, calm, and comfortable. 

Remember, CBD products aren’t always properly labeled, and they can contain harmful contaminants like pesticides and heavy metals. 

They can also contain more THC than the label indicates. Take your time choosing a trustworthy source for your cat’s CBD. Check reviews and third-party test results to make sure you’re getting a quality product. You can also consider choosing a brand that specializes in CBD products for pets.


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  2. Milevoj, Nina, Nataša Tozon, and Katerina Tomsič. “USE OF CANNABIDIOL PRODUCTS BY PET OWNERS IN SLOVENIA: A SURVEY-BASED STUDY.” Slovenian Veterinary Research 59.3 (2022).
  3. Silver, Robert J. “The endocannabinoid system of animals.” Animals 9.9 (2019): 686.
  4. MOGI, Chie, and Takaaki FUKUYAMA. “Potential Clinical Impact of Cannabidiol (CBD) in Canine and Feline Behavior: An Open-label Clinical Trial.” Japanese Journal of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (2021): 37-42.
  5. Coelho, Joana Chambel, et al. “Placebo-Controlled Trial of Daily Oral Cannabidiol as Adjunctive Treatment for Cats with Chronic Gingivostomatitis.” Animals 13.17 (2023): 2716.
  6. Masataka, Nobuo. “Possible Anxiolytic Effects of Cannabidiol (Cbd) Administration on Feline Response to a Fear Response Test.” Available at SSRN 4480358.
  7. Gutierre, E., et al. “A case report of CBD and THC as analgesic therapy in a cat with chronic osteoarthritic pain.” Veterinary Medicine and Science (2023).
  8. Mlost, Jakub, Marta Bryk, and Katarzyna Starowicz. “Cannabidiol for pain treatment: focus on pharmacology and mechanism of action.” International journal of molecular sciences 21.22 (2020): 8870.
  9. Ramalho, Ízola Morais de Medeiros, et al. “Current trends on cannabidiol delivery systems: where are we and where are we going?.” Expert Opinion on Drug Delivery 18.11 (2021): 1577-1587.
  10. Deabold, Kelly A., et al. “Single-dose pharmacokinetics and preliminary safety assessment with use of CBD-rich hemp nutraceutical in healthy dogs and cats.” Animals 9.10 (2019): 832.
  11. Boehnke, Kevin F., Winfried Häuser, and Mary-Ann Fitzcharles. “Cannabidiol (CBD) in Rheumatic Diseases (Musculoskeletal Pain).” Current Rheumatology Reports (2022): 1-9.
  12. Russo, Ethan B. “The case for the entourage effect and conventional breeding of clinical cannabis: no “strain,” no gain.” Frontiers in plant science (2019): 1969.
  13. Bonn-Miller, Marcel O., et al. “Labeling accuracy of cannabidiol extracts sold online.” Jama 318.17 (2017): 1708-1709.
  14. Hazzah, Trina, et al. “Cannabis in veterinary medicine: a critical review.” AHVMA 61 (2020): 25.
  15. De Briyne, Nancy, et al. “Cannabis, Cannabidiol Oils and Tetrahydrocannabinol—What Do Veterinarians Need to Know?.” Animals 11.3 (2021): 892.
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