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.
Why Do Cats Love Cannabis Leaves?
Did you know a lot of cats (and dogs) love cannabis leaves? Every cat I’ve owned loves to nibble on my plants if given a chance. I’ve heard the same from many other growers. One day you check on your garden only to see cat-sized bites all over your plants!
No kitty! Not my weed plant!
This cat is 2 seconds away from taking a bite
Why do cats love cannabis leaves?
I realized my cats loved cannabis leaves many years ago when one snuck into my tent and ate half of my plants. I was so angry at the time but it seems funny now. They eventually learned not to eat leaves off the plants and instead sit patiently next to me as I work in the tent. I reward good behavior with free leaves at the end. My cats go crazy if they see any leaves in my hands because they know they’re getting a treat.
Am I a bad owner for letting my cat eat leaves? She’s 13 years old now, and I feel like she seems happier after eating leaves. Yet could it be in my head?
I’m not sure whether cats love leaves because of cannabinoids, the leaf texture, the fact they just like nibbling on plants, or something else. I’ve heard from other growers that some cats seek out weed plants, while other cats don’t seem to have any interest. Every cat is different.
Is cannabis bad for cats?
I wish I had an answer for you but I am not certain. I’m not a veterinarian and I have no medical background. I only know what I’ve seen, read, and heard from other growers.
For example, I’ve read online that cannabis buds are bad for cats. Yet my cats only eat the leaves. Even if it seems they’re going for a bud, they only nibble on the leaves around the outside.
I’ve never seen any evidence that eating leaves can hurt cats, and I’ve spoken to dozens of growers who’ve noticed their cats (and dogs) love taking bites out of the garden without any apparent harm. But those are anecdotes, not proof.
There are reports that CBD and other cannabinoids found in weed or hemp have therapeutic effects for cats (and dogs). As a result, there are many CBD products aimed at helping pets feel relief from pain, anxiety, inflammation, or other ailments. The most common “treatment” is CBD oil, which is concentrated oil from a cannabis or hemp plant grown without significant amounts of THC. Many people believe CBD oil helps their pet appear more comfortable and relaxed, but unfortunately, there aren’t many scientific studies or evidence to prove the effectiveness or safety of CBD one way or the other.
I personally have found that both CBD oil and fresh cannabis leaves seem to help my elderly cat seem more relaxed and happy, but I don’t have any evidence to prove that. I haven’t noticed any adverse effects. I’ve spoken to other growers who’ve experienced similar results. However, I’ve also read reports online that some cats react poorly to high doses of CBD oil so like all new things, moderation is key. And of course, always contact a veterinarian with any medical questions about your pet.
The Challenge of Growing Weed Around Cats
Almost all plants have to deal with herbivores in the wild. This tendency for leaves to be eaten may be part of why some plants are so resilient to defoliation and may even react favorably to certain types of defoliation. But who knew a cat might be a cannabis predator?
Common cat owner challenge – your kitty tries to sneak a bite when you’re not looking
My current kitty doesn’t seem to like leaves with trichomes on them. She prefers plain leaves. I’m not sure if that has to do with cannabinoids, smell, or if she just doesn’t like the texture of sticky trichomes on her tongue. The bonus is that my plants are safer after they start flowering.
My kitty staring longingly at this little marijuana plant I grew in a sunny window. She wants a bite but she knows better by now!
I decided to grow a plant with no THC just for her. It’s currently about 3 weeks old and she already approved of the first leaf I gave her 🙂
A Pink Kush CBD autoflowering plant I’m growing just so my cat to enjoy the leaves. She’s so lucky!
Warning: Many dogs and bunnies also love eating cannabis leaves!
This bunny loves her greens 🙂
Oh no! What happened to this garden?!
The plants were devastated by an excited puppy [Pictures by @big_f_grows). Don’t be too hard on errant pets, we all know what it’s like to love cannabis!
Why Do Cats Love Cannabis Leaves? Did you know a lot of cats (and dogs) love cannabis leaves? Every cat I’ve owned loves to nibble on my plants if given a chance. I’ve heard the same from many