Fear and anxiety in cats are quite common problems. A range of factors can contribute, and over time it can develop into a generalized disorder. The root cause of fear and anxiety is often the cat’s past experiences and there are many prescription drugs that aim to treat it. However, many pet owners prefer to use natural remedies when possible. This has some cat owners wondering if CBD can do anything for their cats with anxiety.
Actually, there are some different herbs that can produce calming effects in felines, but many pet owners are beginning to realize the potent power of cannabidiol (CBD). CBD makes use of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) in the body of all mammals, including cats. This system and its receptors are present in every major system of the body. CBD from plants mimics the body’s natural cannabinoids. Surprisingly, there are even cannabinoid receptors on cells in the amygdala which is where emotions such as fear or anxiety initiate in the brain.
What Is Feline Fear and Anxiety?
Fear is a normal emotional response to clear and present danger and it’s what prepares the body to take evasive action if need be. This is known as the “fight or flight (or freeze)” response and it is an essential part of what helps keep humans and animals safe from harm. But, when the fear response is regularly triggered by an imagined danger, it becomes what is known as an anxiety disorder. Anxiety can be defined as uneasiness in anticipation of a threat and is one of the body’s natural responses to fear or stress.
When we, or cats, feel anxious, our bodies prepare for fight or flight. It increases the heart rate, produces adrenaline, and gets the muscles ready for action. When cats are in danger, these reactions help to get them out of trouble fast. When there is no danger, this reaction can still present itself and it may affect the ability to live a normal life. Severe anxiety disorders can be very debilitating, both for cats and humans.
Feline Fear and Anxiety-Related Problems
Cats can experience many of the same types of anxieties that humans do. You can classify them into several broad types:
A phobia is an excessive fear of an outside stimulus such as thunder, fireworks, vacuum cleaners, or other loud noises. A cat will display an immediately excessive response to a phobic situation. Once a cat establishes a phobia any event that simulates the fear, even the memory of it could be enough stimulation to create an anxious response.
Panic is a sudden and intense display of fear. Similar to phobias, a cat may actively attempt to escape a situation. Panic may also make a cat become vicious in its attempt to escape. Events surrounding panic or phobia attacks are very memorable and upsetting to the cat. They tend to be easier to trigger and more difficult to treat over time.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
Generalized anxiety is a fear of multiple things. This can manifest itself in cats as general nervousness which appears to have no specific trigger. A cat with GAD can display anxious symptoms no matter the situation. To the owner, a cat with GAD may always seem unenthusiastic, unhappy, or downright miserable. However, this is how the cat displays or deals with its constant anxious feelings.
Separation Anxiety in Cats
Separation anxiety is another type of anxiety in cats. Cat separation anxiety is a condition where a cat displays the symptoms of anxiety when they are separated from their owners. Separation anxiety is more common in dogs, but it can also affect cats.
When a cat’s attachment to its owner becomes dysfunctional, separation anxiety can become severe. This can lead to behavioral problems. The cat may also become very clingy. A cat with separation anxiety may also show signs of distress when the owner is leaving or preparing to leave. Luckily, there are some preventative measures to help decrease the onset of a cat’s separation anxiety.
Triggers for Fear and anxiety
- Other cats – general or specific
- Humans – general, specific type (e.g., visitors, children) or specific individuals
- Loud noises
- New objects, locations, or sounds
- Larger animals like dogs
- Separation from family
What Are The Behavioral Symptoms Of Cat Anxiety?
Most cat owners can recognize obvious signs of fear – dilated pupils, low tail, crouched body, and maybe escaping from the area. Unfortunately, a cat cannot tell us he is feeling anxious and cat owners may miss signs if there are no obvious triggers. However, a cat with anxiety will display some noticeable behavioral signs. Here are some of the most common symptoms of feline anxiety:
- Increased appearance of sleepiness or lethargy
- Increased or decreased activity levels
- Hiding away or increased clinginess to humans
- Aggressive behavior
- Soiling in the home
- Vomiting or diarrhea
- Excessive meowing
- Loss of appetite and weight
- Furniture or carpet scratching
- Restlessness and increased vigilance
- Excessive grooming
Calming Practices for Cats
There are some simple steps that you take at home to help ease your cat’s nerves. Cat products containing CBD mimic one of the body’s natural calming pathways. Additionally, here are a few of the things that you can do to make your cat less fearful or anxious.
Another natural method to decrease stress is by providing the cat with entertainment and outlets for natural behaviors.
Give Your Cat More Playtime
Playing with toys that entice cats to chase. This can increase exercise as well as mimic the important instinctive behavior of hunting. Food puzzle toys and even trick training are excellent forms of mental stimulation and boredom busters for when you are away from the cat.
Outdoor cats spend a lot of time sniffing and investigating their environment. Indoor cat owners can help mimic this by providing scents from non-toxic plants or food.
You may think it seems counterintuitive to give your cat an herb that will excite it. But, many owners use catnip or catnip spray as a natural remedy for nervous cats. This probably works as a form of mental stimulation.
At HolistaPet we combine the natural calming powers of CBD and catnip into one unique product! For example, spraying a toy with catnip a few minutes before leaving or a visitor’s arrival may help form a good association with that event.
Chamomile and Hops
Some scents may be both interesting and calming. Lots of people drink chamomile tea to help them relax. Chamomile aromatherapy can work on cats as well. However, instead of giving your cat tea, you can scatter a few dried chamomile flowers around the home. Hops, the same ingredient used to make beer, may also provide enrichment for your cat.
Cat Trees & Scratching Post
Cats love vertical space. If you put a cat tree by a window, your cat will be able to entertain itself watching what is going outside.
Sharpening claws is an important natural behavior not only to maintain the health of claws but also as a social signal to other cats. Scratching posts will occupy your cat’s time, and they will also stop your pet from scratching your furniture.
Cats most often use posts placed in high traffic areas. A recent study suggests interesting smells help increase the use of a post. Try spraying the post with our catnip and CBD product.
You can also work on desensitizing your cat to your leaving the home. There will often be a trigger for cats starting to become anxious. It could be you picking up your car keys, putting on your shoes, or fetching your coat. If you look like you are preparing to leave a few times a day, but you don’t leave, your cat will gradually become less sensitive to these triggers.
Provide Distractions For Your Cat (Separation Anxiety)
Make sure that your cat has plenty to do while you are out. You could leave new toys for your cat to play with or leave a puzzle feeder to occupy your cat. Make sure that your cat can get to a window they can see out of. Leaving the TV or radio playing while you are gone can also help.
What Are the Causes Of Cat Anxiety?
The causes of cat anxiety are not fully understood. Anxiety and stress in cats are as complicated as they are in humans. There are a variety of physical, environmental, and psychological factors that may lead to feline anxiety. Here are some of the issues that may cause anxiety in cats:
A cat that has not had much social exposure as a kitten is more prone to anxiety as adults in our homes. That’s why it is important to expose a kitten to social interaction with humans and other animals at an early age. It is a good idea to monitor social interactions while the cat is young to make sure the experience is positive. Negative experiences can create future anxieties for a young cat.
Weaned Too Early
Kittens who are taken from their mother too soon are more likely to display symptoms of cat separation anxiety. Orphaned kittens are also more prone to anxiety. Kittens shouldn’t be removed from their cat family for at least eight weeks after birth, but handling from humans should occur before 7 weeks of age.
Some breeds may be more prone to reactivity, but individual genetics plays a role as well. You can’t change genetics but early socialization, mental stimulation, and exercise can help reduce anxiety in cats that are predisposed to the condition.
Changes In Environment
A change in environment can trigger anxiety in cats. Moving to a new home, the loss or addition of human family members or the adoption of a new pet in the home could make your cat feel stressed out.
Spaying and Neutering
Spaying and neutering may play a role in a cat developing anxiety. Some studies have shown that cats that are spayed or neutered at a young age are less confident than those that were not.
However, veterinarians continue to recommend spaying and neutering most cats despite the small risk of anxiety after the procedure. The strong benefits of this procedure reduce overpopulation and unwanted behaviors such as urine spraying and courtship vocalizations.
Your Own Anxiety
Cats are far more perceptive than most people give them credit for. If you are feeling anxious or upset, your cat may sense your emotions. The more anxious that you appear to be, the more anxious your cat may become. If you are looking for a way to increase your calmness, you may want to try some CBD oil for human use.
Events that result in extreme fear such as abuse, especially if experienced as a kitten, may create lasting generalized anxiety. Many cats can recover given time and patience, and potentially some calming therapies.
Other Underlying Health Problems
A cat’s anxiety may be a result of another health issue. Pain, discomfort, or common feline hormonal issues like hyperthyroidism and diabetes can cause behavior changes and it is always advisable to take your cat to the vet at the first sign of behavior changes.
Natural Remedies For Nervous Cats
If your cat suffers from anxiety, there are several things that your vet may recommend. If severe, your vet may prescribe anti-anxiety medication. There could be some non-prescription therapies you could try first for mild to moderate anxiety, although it is always advisable to consult with your veterinarian first. Here are some steps you can take at home to minimize your pet’s fearful experiences.
Besides CBD oil, there are other natural remedies that you can try using to increase the comfort of your cat and its environment. Here are some of the common natural options people use to combat feline fears and phobias.
Ancient Greeks and Romans would use the Valerian Root to help treat insomnia, nervousness, headaches, and stress. However, researchers are not fully clear as to how it works with stress and anxiety. They believe that it triggers a steady increase of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. GABA creates a calming effect over the body. This is a similar reaction to how alprazolam (Xanax) or diazepam (Valium) works to decrease anxiety in humans.
Bach Rescue Remedy
Bach is a flower essence combination that can calm a cat down fast. It uses the flower essences of cherry plum, clematis, impatiens, rock rose, and Star of Bethlehem. The human version of one Bach flower anti-stress remedy contains brandy. Never give your pet alcohol! Manufacturers specifically make alcohol-free versions for pets.
What Is Cannabidiol (CBD) For Cats?
CBD is short for Cannabidiol. It is one of over 113 natural cannabinoids exclusive to the hemp plant. CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system in humans and most other animals, including cats with anxiety.
The endocannabinoid system, or ECS for short, is constantly working to aid with homeostasis. Homeostasis is a natural process that helps maintain an optimum healthy balance of internal conditions despite external factors.
The effect that CBD has on the endocannabinoid system requires more research and studies to uncover all the potential benefits for humans and animals. For now, many happy pet owners use it for its natural calming effects and more.
Can CBD Help Calm Anxiety In Cats?
While recreational use of cannabis can cause anxiety, unwanted effects come from another cannabinoid called THC. THC also causes a high feeling associated with cannabis. CBD has been shown to promote calmness. CBD has no mind-altering effects and does not get you or your cat “high”.
It is important to note that, besides the human prescription Epidiolex, the FDA has not yet approved CBD for any medical or supplemental use. As such, it is not intended to prevent, treat, or cure any ailments, diseases or illnesses. All information presented here is not meant as a substitute for or alternative to information from health care practitioners. The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act require this notice.
There have been many studies concerning the calming effects of CBD. Some researchers believe that using CBD can initiate a temporary increase of serotonin in a cat’s brain. Serotonin is the essential hormone that balances our mood, sense of well-being, and happiness. A boost in serotonin can help improve your cat’s mood.
The potential uses of CBD for cat anxiety are currently being studied. Research is ongoing into the many effects of CBD. For now, the effectiveness of CBD for cats is based on the vast amount of anecdotal evidence given by cat owners. If you have a fearful cat, using CBD might help comfort it with minimal risk of side effects in otherwise healthy cats.
CBD Dosing Recommendations
Many pet owners are trying CBD tincture oils or CBD cat treats to help with treating their cat’s fears and phobias. Presently, there are no official standard dosing guidelines in place. However, there are general recommended CBD dosage guidelines. If you wish to use any CBD product for your cat and wonder what is the general dosage size to administer, try using our easy-to-use CBD dosing chat.
For feline fears and phobias, we recommend you administer CBD about 30-60 minutes before the event trigger is present. For example, if your cat gets nervous before you leave you can try giving it some CBD oil about 45 minutes before you go. This creates a window of ample time for the CBD to take effect before you leave. Doing this should help relax the cat when you are leaving and while you are gone.
Finally, when beginning to use CBD with your pet you should start out with the lower dosage size which is 0.25 mg of CBD per pound of body weight. For example, if your cat weighs 20 pounds the low dose would be 5mg of CBD (20 lbs x 0.25 = 5mgs of CBD). If you do not start to see results improve within a week then gradually increase to a strong dose which is 0.5mg of CBD per pound of body weight.
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