cats and cannabis

Kitty Cannabis: A Real Conundrum Or A Purrfect Companion?

We all know to keep our kids away from cannabis — but what about our feline friends? Cats are hunters. They are cuddlers. Some of us consider them our fuzzy children.

Cats are many things to many people and ours have always been considered esteemed members of the family. This happened to be a really good thing when one of our pride (we had three at the time) decided to feast upon my first set of cannabis clones I had created myself. If I had not loved this particular cat (perhaps better put, if I did not love my daughter as much as I do and respect her love of all her cats), I would have, perhaps, strangled the little bitch (the cat, not the kid) when I caught her merrily munching on a healthy clone I had just set up in a classic red Solo cup.

Upon closer inspection, I noticed she had not only eaten the leaves and most of the stalk on the first six-inch plant, but she had also gone to town on the other eight plants I had neglectfully left outside my grow cabinet in my kitchen for only a few minutes while I cleaned it. Yes, my first set of nine beautiful, healthy clones of Blue Cheese and Trainwreck — which I had managed to create solely by myself and had such high hopes for — were each decimated beyond saving.

Rather than stringing the cat up to dry or give up on cloning in despair, I took a few deep breaths, a few good pulls on my trusty “water pipe” (as we were required to call them in Utah), pulled up my big-girl pants and carried on, fully accepting the real mistake was my own, having left the plants unattended where the cat could access them (a lesson you only need to learn once).

After chastising myself a great deal and vowing I would never again leave the door open to my grow cabinet, I then had to ask myself, “Why would a cat eat leaves off a live cannabis plant — and is it dangerous?”

Most cannabis enthusiasts are at least somewhat familiar with how the endocannabinoid system (ECS) works in humans, but might be surprised that the same type of system also exists in our furry friends. In other words, that cannabis that you consume recreationally or medicinally to better your life can be consumed by your pet as well, and I’m not just talking about CBD.

According to Canna Companion, makers of whole-plant cannabis supplements and extracts for pets:

The ECS is ubiquitous in vertebrates and has currently been identified in 60% of invertebrates. … Over the last decade, the research paradigm emphasis has shifted to multiple compounds in low to low-moderate dose forms. This shift away from single to multiple ratioed compound formulations and the pharmacodynamic alteration, has and continues to yield the most significant results over a diverse range of pathophysiologic conditions.

In other words, our bodies require all compounds from the cannabis plant, not just one single compound. That is, CBD alone might not be the best whole treatment for humans or animals. Rather, we all need whole-plant medicine to survive and to thrive.

According to a recent article published in Animal Wellness magazine, the following conditions and/or symptoms are responsive to cannabis treatment in felines:

  • Control chronic pain and inflammation associated with arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, pancreatitis, and FIC/FLUTD (feline lower urinary tract disease).
  • Act as a neuroprotective agent, reducing seizure frequency and intensity.
  • Decrease nausea and stimulate appetite.
  • Reduce cancer-associated symptoms.
  • Help decrease the severity of dementia.
  • Reduce bronchial spasms in asthmatics.
  • Lower anxiety, which can help correct or modify behavior issues.
  • Support the immune system for conditions like food allergies and immune-mediated diseases.

The article goes on to state that veterinarian Dr. Sarah Brandon (co-founder of Canna Companion) noticed an “unexpected side benefit” of feeding cannabis to felines:

“We administered it to several older kitties with joint discomfort and histories of FIC (feline interstitial cystitis). All responded well regarding their joint aches, but the surprise came after two months of supplementation when their FIC symptoms also resolved.”

While trying to better understand how to handle the situation with my greedy-for-green kitty, I had to remind myself that this particular puss was light as a feather, mostly just bones, always has been and always would be. She is a lovely, long-haired black beauty who is incredibly high-strung, an older little lady we named Pretty Princess Layla, whom my daughter had rescued and loved dearly.

The problem with the lovely Layla is her attitude and the additional bonus of her almost consistent vomiting of furballs due to excessive grooming of her beautiful, furry coat. She is nasty to everyone except my daughter, never wants to cuddle or even look me in the eye, and just seemed altogether anxious.

However, soon after she had her initial illicit snack of clone leaves, she seemed to perk up and had a good appetite (something altogether new and unexpected). As a response to this apparent change in cattitude, my daughter convinced me to save the sugar leaves and other trim and offer them to Layla as treats, which I did by simply freezing them upon detection.

Each morning, when I was cultivating, I began giving Princess Layla a few leaves with her breakfast. While all the other pets chowed down on dry kibble, Layla delicately consumed her special leaves and never appeared to have one bad side effect. Not only was there a marked increase in her appetite, she quit leaving cat puke trails around the house and seemed to get along better with the other pets.

It was a real shame when I quit growing (living in an illegal state at the time, my options were extremely limited when it came to sourcing equipment, seeds or clones), as I knew I could no longer provide fresh cannabis leaves for our fluffy child, and felt I was doing her a real dishonor. However, we were eventually able to move to a legal state where I am now legally licensed to grow 15 plants, so Layla will have a better, less painful future, along with the rest of our family. Cannabis heals, not only us guardians, but our pets, too.

So, let this tale serve as a cautionary piece of advice — keep your cats away from your cannabis, or better yet, learn how to share it with them! If you can’t grow your own or would prefer to order commercial, there are pre-made products available for pets online and in dispensaries, including capsules and hemp oils. A little due diligence can go a long way in healing and treating ourselves and our pets with the gift of cannabis.

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