Cannabis and Cats: What to Do if Your Cat Eats Marijuana
Saturday May 25, 2019
C at owners have known for a long time that catnip to our feline friends is like, well. catnip. Your cat may roll around in, lick, or eat this herbal feline treat, which could cause your household mouser to grow aggressive and wild. Or, they may become very docile, while others could give it a sniff and walk away, tail turned up. Whether your cat enjoys catnip or not, one thing to always keep in mind is that cannabis and catnip are not the same thing. Even though your feline friend might enjoy expanding their mind, cannabis may induce some negative effects. Here’s what you should do if your cat eats your cannabis stash.
Similarities Between Catnip and Cannabis
Believe it or not, catnip and cannabis have at least a few things in common. Originating from Europe, Asia, and Africa, catnip is an herb from the mint family, but now grows pretty much everywhere like a weed, and is often used in gardens because it repels insects and is drought tolerant. The intoxicating compound in catnip is nepetalactone, a stimulant that is thought to produce a high for the cat, much like cannabis for humans. Catnip acts in a cat’s brain much like cannabis compounds THC and CBD do, by binding to receptors that activate different areas of the brain that control emotion and behavior.
Like humans, cats have an endocannabinoid system (ECS), which plays a role in the regulation of many physiological systems, like movement and coordination, mood, appetite, sleep, and immune response. A properly balanced ECS is important to the overall wellbeing and health of our furry family members, too.
Actions to Take if Your Cat Ingests Weed
Your cat is pretty unlikely to confuse cannabis with catnip, but nevertheless, what should you do if your cat gets in your stash? The first thing to do is ascertain the safety and health of your cat. Here are some symptoms of cannabis poisoning to look for:
Steps to Take if Your Cat Eats Your Stash:
- Lack of Coordination: keep an eye out for lack of coordination, and a swaying, wobbly, or awkward gait
- Signs of Depression: if your cat is disinterested in play, being aggressive, acting withdrawn, or refusing to use the litter box, your cat may have eaten too much cannabis
- Litter Issues: Speaking of litter boxes, if your cat has diarrhea, urinary incontinence, or bowel movements in places other than the litter box, it may have cannabis poisoning
- Drooling is also a very common symptom of cannabis poisoning
- If you notice very serious symptoms like vomiting, seizures, irregular heartbeat, and shivering, take your cat to the vet immediately!
If you happen upon shredded edible packaging, empty tincture bottles, gnawed on nugs, or any other such scenario, don’t wait it out to see how your cat responds. It’s always best to call your vet right away so they can get the appropriate medical attention. But, if they consumed a very small amount, keeping in mind a cat’s reduced weight and body size, it may be okay to keep them at home – just be sure to keep them in your sight at all times and monitor them for the next 24-48 hours. Should you make the choice to keep your kitty at home, water may help, but the most helpful thing you can do is reassure your pet, and keep a close eye on them for increased symptoms.
Cats are most frequently exposed to cannabis through ingesting dried marijuana, nibbling on the leaves of a home grown plant, eating packaged cannabis products, or being exposed to secondhand smoke – which can be especially dangerous to a cat that has asthma or breathing problems. However, not at all cannabis compounds are bad for your furry family member. It is thought that CBD could be very beneficial to your cat’s long-term health and help with pain management, anxiety, and inflammation. However, giving THC to your cat, or any pet, should be avoided completely.
But when it comes to your own personal supply, the best line of defense to keep your cat out of it is to store your cannabis – especially edibles, concentrates, and oils – like you would any other medicine, out of reach of your pet. This could include locked drawers, high cabinets, and other inaccessible areas. Cats are very clever indeed, but they haven’t developed opposable thumbs. Yet.
Do you have any tips for cat-owners who may be dealing with their furry friend ingesting cannabis? Share your helpful tips in the comments below.
It's no secret that cats are curious creatures and love to explore. Plus, many cats enjoy catching a buzz on some catnip as well. But catnip and cannabis are two completely different substances when it comes to cats. Learn exactly what to do in the event of your cat ingesting marijuana.
Marijuana Toxicity in Cats
Many pet owners want to know if their cat will experience any issues when inhaling second-hand pot smoke, eating marijuana brownies, or chewing on the leaves of the plant. While several cat owners out there think marijuana is just another form of catnip, it’s true that there is a drastic difference.
Catnip and Marijuana
Catnip is a plant that comes from the mint family. The perennial herb has downy leaves, purple-spotted white flowers, and a pungent smell that makes cats go crazy when smelled and sleepy when eaten. Marijuana, on the other hand, comes from a plant called Cannabis sativa. The chemical in Cannabis that produces the altered states of consciousness humans enjoy is called Delta-9 Tetrahydrocannabinol or THC.
Marijuana is sometimes prescribed for relief from pain and nausea due to chemotherapy in cancer patients, and for certain conditions in AIDS patients. However, it’s still questionable whether there is anything beneficial in the plant for feline friends. In fact, it is strongly suggested that cats do not come close to any smoke from marijuana use, or any other smoke from cigarettes, cigars, or pipes.
How Cats Are Exposed to Marijuana
The most common ways cats are exposed to marijuana is by inhaling smoke or ingesting dried marijuana. Although people who have experimented with smoking catnip become happy and relaxed, cats should not be forced to “smoke” any substance.
Because of the cumulative effects of inhaling any kind of smoke, it is inadvisable to smoke marijuana anywhere near a cat, particularly one with asthma or other lung diseases. It’s important to be mindful of this, as humans are able to make educated decisions around topics like these, while cats are not.
In some cases, cats may nibble on the leaves and/or buds of the growing marijuana plant. Humans may also feed their cats cookies or brownies made with marijuana. This is a double whammy of injury to the cat, as the brownies and/or cookies may also contain chocolate, which is toxic to cats on its own.
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), your cat may experience extreme sleepiness or excitation, hypersalivation, dilated pupils, or low blood pressure. There may also be instances of low body temperature or even death (although it’s rare). Additional symptoms most commonly observed include:
- Uncoordination, falling over
- Depression, sometimes alternating with agitation or anxiety
- Bradycardia (slow heart rate)
- Seizures, sometimes coma
If your cat demonstrates any of the symptoms above, you should take it to the veterinarian as soon as possible.
- If you have reason to believe your cat was exposed to marijuana smoke or has ingested marijuana in any form, it’s important to mention this to the vet. Quick treatment may ameliorate the most severe symptoms, and even save your cat’s life.
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Illustration: The Spruce / Hilary Allison
Medical Marijuana for Painful Conditions
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) publishes several articles about marijuana treatments and drug monitoring programs for animals. In 2017, AVMA House of Delegates members urged the Association to develop policies and guidance around marijuana treatments at the Veterinary Information Forum. One of the topics discussed included the increase of toxicity cases. Delegates like Dr. Dick Sullivan encouraged more research to be performed and for the national association to write to or petition the FDA in order to address marijuana issues to clients.
One article published in June 2013 tackled veterinary marijuana and pet owners who are looking to legalize marijuana for painful symptoms of the disease. The article quoted a woman who owned a 12-year-old labrador-retriever type of dog which had a tumor of the spleen metastasized to his liver and lungs. Unfortunately, the dog had been given two months to live, and the tramadol given for the pain was not doing the job. Of course, the poor dog was obviously in pain and completely inactive.
Because California legalized marijuana for humans, the dog’s owner was able to buy a glycerin tincture of marijuana that’s sold as a pet medicine in licensed medical marijuana dispensaries throughout Los Angeles. The dog’s improvement in activity and the easing of pain was such that the pet owner recommended the drug to other dog owners.
Under the same circumstances, it’s understandable that many pet owners wouldn’t hesitate to give medical marijuana to their own cats if it were available in their state. Thus, there needs to be more research and medicines available for cats experiencing pain.
Until it’s legal for vets to prescribe Cannabis to pets, they won’t have the authority to prescribe the drug. Overconsumption of THC may also create serious health risks in cats. However, hemp-based treatments high in Cannabidiol (CBD) can help. With more research, it’s possible that there is a dosage that can help cats with conditions like Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), pancreatitis, arthritis, asthma, and cancer.
There are HempRx vitamins and oils that can act as a medication or supplement for your cat. Additionally, there are holistic and integrative veterinarians who can work with you to find the right product for your cat.
Pet owners want to know if marijuana is toxic to cats. See whether eating the leaves of the plant or inhaling second-hand smoke makes a difference.