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Is marijuana toxic to cats?


Photo of Cannabis Plant

Cannabis Plant

Photo Credit: © Getty Images/Christopher Furlong
Question: Is marijuana toxic to cats?
Will inhaling second-hand pot smoke cause problems? How about eating marijuana brownies or the leaves of the plant? I've heard that it it just the same as catnip as far as cats go, but I wouldn't want to do anything to harm my cats.
Answer: I'm glad you asked, as there seems to be differing opinions out there. Marijuana comes from a plant called "Cannabis sativa." The chemical in Cannabis that produces the altered states of consciousness human users enjoy is called "delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol" or "THC."

Although marijuana is sometimes prescribed for relief from pain and nausea from chemotherapy in cancer patients, and for certain conditions in AIDS patients, there is nothing beneficial in this plant for our feline friends.

How are cats 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 became 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 disease. Remember, humans have choices, cats often do not.

In some cases cats may nibble on the leaves and/or buds of the growing marijuana plant.

What are the symptoms of cats exposed to marijuana?

The symptoms are most commonly the same sort you might observe in humans:
  • Lethargy
  • Uncoordinated, Falling over
  • Depression, Sometimes Alternating with Agitation or Anxiety
  • Vomiting
  • Bradycardia (Slow Heart Rate)
  • Seizures, Sometimes Coma

How prevalent is marijuana exposure in cats?

Although 95% of the references available refer to dogs, it would seem that being relatively smaller animals, cats would have more severe and/or long-lasting symptoms. I have not seen any statistics as to how many cats may have died from marijuana toxicity.

What should I do if my cat is exposed to marijuana?

If your cat demonstrates any of the symptoms shown above, you should take him to your veterinarian as soon as possible. If you have reason to believe he was exposed to marijuana smoke or has ingested marijuana in any form, it is extremely important that you give this information to the veterinarian. Quick treatment may ameliorate the most severe symptoms, and even save your cat's life. The bottom line is: Keep your cat away from marijuana at all costs.

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