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Is marijuana safe for cats?
After reading an article about a Massachusetts woman who returned home to find her cats lounging on the porch after razing her potted marijuana plants, I asked myself: “is marijuana safe for cats?
So I did some research, and here’s what I learned.
Cats who consume marijuana could experience lethargy and confusion. Fortunately, the minimum lethal dose of THC for a cat is quite high—no pun intended—and it’s unlikely that marijuana will cause long-lasting damage.
It’s important to remember that marijuana or cannabis is comprised of many cannabinoids, including the active components THC and CBD. These cannabinoids interact with your cat’s body through their endocannabinoid system—with different cannabinoids causing varying effects. While the cannabinoid CBD is completely safe for cats and has some medical benefits, consuming THC can give them a frightening and uncomfortable high. If they consume too much THC, your cat could become lethargic, disoriented, and wobbly on their feet. At very high doses, they may become comatose.
>> Related reading: For more information on your cat’s endocannabinoid system and how CBD can actually benefit your cat, check out our complete guide to CBD for cats. Cats aren’t the only creatures with an endocannabinoid system, though—the endocannabinoid system is shared among mammals. If you’re interested in learning more about the benefits of CBD for your other pets, there are a few studies into the effect of CBD for dogs and how it may help.
First of all, remember that not all strains of marijuana are exactly the same.
Think about marijuana like apples. Pink Ladies and Granny Smiths have very different components, taste different, and have different applications. One variety is good for snacking, while the other is a cooking apple.
Marijuana comes in many different strains. Some strains give you a high and some help to reduce pain without having any psychoactive effect.
When we’re talking about the safety of marijuana for cats, the chief difference between different strains is the concentration of THC versus CBD. Both THC and CBD are cannabidiols and interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system, but while THC has a psychoactive effect, CBD doesn’t.
The popularity of marijuana as a recreational drug has given THC the spotlight and fueled the cultivation of high-THC cannabis, but strains rich in CBD also exist and have great medicinal properties. Plus they’re completely safe for cats.
Hemp, for example, is a strain of cannabis/marijuana that contains less than 0.3% THC. It has no psychoactive effects and is safe for both cats and people. Hemp is legal in all 50 U.S. states.
Is marijuana safe for cats to eat?
Again, it all depends on the type of marijuana your cat is eating. Hemp is safe for your cat to eat. THC-rich marijuana might not be so safe.
Edibles are usually the biggest problem. They contain potent doses of THC and can make your cat very sick. Fresh marijuana leaves likely haven’t developed THC yet and are relatively safe for your cat to eat.
Unlike dogs, cats usually aren’t very interested in gobbling down weed caramels, cookies, and brownies, but you’ll have to watch out for them around your cannabutter and marijuana-infused coconut oil.
It’s not clear exactly how much THC your cat will have to eat before they feel sick. Every individual is different.
The minimum lethal dose of THC for cats also isn’t clear.
We’re currently hearing that 3 g/kg of bodyweight is the minimum lethal dose for dogs, but a study conducted in 1973 and published in the Journal of Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology concluded that “In dogs and monkeys, single oral doses of Δ9-THC and Δ8-THC between 3000 and 9000 mg/kg were nonlethal.”
Remember that the last two calculations were talking about THC concentrates, not marijuana plants.
THC concentration varies by plant, but let’s say your choice of marijuana is 18% THC. This means that every gram of bud contains 180mg of THC (.18g).
Assuming that feline marijuana toxicity is similar to that found in dogs, if your cat weighs 10 lbs or 4.3 kg, they would eat 71.38 grams of marijuana to reach the 3g/kg lethal dose of THC.
That’s approximately 21 tablespoons of powdered marijuana.
Again, we don’t have much information on marijuana toxicity in cats, specifically, but we also haven’t heard that much about cats getting sick from eating marijuana. Most reports of marijuana toxicity involve dogs who consumed edibles.
Is marijuana smoke bad for cats?
If you’re a marijuana smoker, don’t worry. Smoking marijuana around your furbabies probably won’t harm them. They’d have to inhale a large amount of smoke for it to be toxic.
However, it’s always a good idea to protect your kitty’s respiratory system from smoke. Give your cat fresh, clean air by opening windows and ensuring that the room is always well-ventilated, especially when you’re smoking.
This doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to blow marijuana smoke in your cat’s face. Cats are tiny creatures and they can easily be overwhelmed by direct exposure to marijuana smoke. You could end up making your cat feel confused and sick.
Signs of Marijuana Toxicity in Cats
- Stumbling around
- Shaking or trembling
- Glassy, dilated eyes
- Low body temperature
What should you do if your cat ingests marijuana?
Keep your cat in a safe space and monitor them. The effects will start to kick in after 30-90 minutes and there’s not much you can do to prevent it.
Marijuana is an anti-emetic, meaning that if your cat is poisoned by it, they’re unlikely to vomit it up. A potentially toxic drug and the inability to expel it is a bad combination. If you believe that your cat is having a serious reaction to marijuana, you may need to induce vomiting. For information on how to induce vomiting in cats, click here.
If your cat starts exhibiting symptoms, seriously consider bringing them to the vet. If the vet determines that the toxicity is severe, they may choose to pump your cat’s stomach to remove the toxins.
If you choose to keep your cat at home, provide a calming space and continue to closely monitor them. Remember that your cat may be disoriented and have poor motor control, so it’s a good idea to keep them in a safe space where they can’t hurt themselves accidentally.
THC will remain in your cat’s system for a while. 65-90% of it will have to leave your cat’s body via their feces, while the remaining percentage is eliminated through the kidneys.
But what about CBD supplements and medications for cats?
CBD supplements and medications appear to be completely safe for cats—in fact, they can be extremely beneficial. CBD is one of the many compounds found in cannabis or marijuana, and it’s the one with the most known therapeutic effects. This cannabinoid works with your cat’s endocannabinoid system—a network of receptors, hormones, and enzymes that regulates numerous processes in your cat’s body. Appropriate doses of CBD oil can soothe anxiety, reduce pain, stop seizures, and treat other conditions.
We’ve written a 3,000-word-long guide to CBD for cats and its medicinal benefits. You should check it out!