Americans love their pets. According to animal industry experts, we have likely dropped around $75 billion – perhaps even more – on our furry friends. To put this staggering figure into context, you could combine the budgets of U.S. Departments of Commerce, Interior, and Labor and Transportation, and throw in NASA for the fun of it, and it still wouldn’t reach this lofty benchmark.
Americans also love their cannabis, now that social stigma against the maligned plant has subsided considerably. Furthermore, the advent of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 – known colloquially as the 2018 Farm Bill – legalized industrial hemp and hemp derivatives such as cannabidiol (CBD). Legal hemp and CBD have “achieved” their favorable status thanks to the lack of the psychoactive compound tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC.
Predictably, the response among both longtime botanical end-users and newcomers to the practice has been financially robust. In 2018, CBD sales in the U.S. totaled approximately $513 million (keep in mind that the Farm Bill was approved in late 2018). But with official federal legalization of the organic compound, sales in 2019 may have reached between $1.1 billion to $1.3 billion.
In other words, expert forecasts suggest that sales have more than doubled following the popular Farm Bill legislation. Naturally, consumer sentiment is strong – sometimes overwhelming – for CBD products of various platforms, including the many pet products in which retailers like Nug Republic specializes.
And that brings the discussion to CBD products for cats. According to various surveys, the household penetration rate of pet ownership varies between 49% at the lowest to 68% at the highest. And within this segment, surveys indicate that between 24% to 38% of Americans have one or more cats.
True, the survey data variance makes it difficult to pinpoint precisely what the ownership rate is. However, even taking the lowest figures of the surveys, they still represent a very sizable portion of the U.S. population. Therefore, with the rising popularity of CBD and the already robust pet ownership stats, we can conclude that the pet CBD market is a huge and relatively untapped market.
But how exactly do CBD products for cats work? Here, it’s instructive to consider how they work on humans.
Cannabidiol and Its Benefits to Organic Life
At first glance, it doesn’t appear intuitive to discuss the impact of CBD on humans when discussing our feline friends. While we may love them unconditionally, they look nothing like us. That said, CBD is a surprisingly powerful catalyst for many organic lifeforms, irrespective of the differences among species.
In our bodies, we have endocannabinoid receptors that make up the core elements of the endocannabinoid system. This system is connected to both the central nervous system (CNS) and the peripheral nervous system (PNS) and may regulate – according to ongoing research – physiological and cognitive processes, such as appetite, pain sensations, emotions, memory, and fertility, among others.
Further, endocannabinoid receptors are divided into two categories: CB1 and CB2 receptors. The former is found primarily in the CNS, while the latter is usually located in the PNS. Endocannabinoid receptors are activated by three catalysts: endocannabinoids which our bodies naturally produce, plant-based cannabinoids, and synthetic cannabinoids.
For context, marijuana is incredibly potent because its core cannabinoid (organic compound) is THC, which binds to CB1 and CB2 receptors. Therefore, marijuana directly impacts the functions and processes described above, such as appetite and mood. Too much marijuana, or the synthetic variation, can impart significant, though non-fatal, symptoms.
In sharp contrast, CBD doesn’t bind directly to CB1 and CB2 receptors. Instead, it stimulates those receptors, providing many of the health benefits associated with various cannabinoids but without levering a psychoactive impact. In other words, taking CBD, even in large quantities, will not get you high.
Moreover, the indirect interaction between CBD and endocannabinoid receptors prevents THC from binding to those “influenced” receptors. Theoretically, cannabidiol offers a platform for users to lean off from a “bad trip.”
Of course, the overwhelming popularity of CBD is its therapeutic applications. Without the fear of psychoactive influence, many enthusiasts and especially botanical newcomers can enjoy naturally sourced platforms without prior generations’ social stigma. This fact alone has opened up myriad choices for individuals.
Just as importantly for many American families, it provides viable options for your cats.
The Feline Endocannabinoid System
As we alluded to above, the endocannabinoid system is a biologically recurring one throughout many animal species. Naturally, this includes our feline friends.
Like humans, the endocannabinoid system in cats features the same two receptor types: CB1 and CB2. Also, they’re located where you would expect to find them in the human body. CB1 receptors are primarily located in the cat’s central nervous system while CB2 receptors are mostly found in the peripheral nervous system.
What makes cannabidiol-infused products for cats compelling is that the receptors can be influenced to promote desirable reactions. Although research is still ongoing about CBD’s impact on both humans and animals, the specific concept that cannabinoids affect feline CB1 receptors has been long established.
According to scientific research published in June 1999, extensive analysis suggests that endogenous (internal) cannabinoids “communicate” with CB1 receptors, resulting in biological changes or processes. Recently, the focus has shifted toward the effect of natural, external cannabinoids on the endocannabinoid system in pets. While this is still a fresh research landscape, logically, it stands to reason that if endogenous cannabinoids interact with CB1 and/or CB2 receptors, external ones can do the same.
Officially, neither the scientific community nor federal authorities like the Food and Drug Administration have endorsed any statements as to the efficacy of pet CBD products in addressing symptoms, conditions or diseases. Therefore, no reputable product or manufacturer will make such direct claims. That said, these same institutions have neither endorsed CBD efficacy claims for human consumers.
However, compelling evidence exists regarding the benefits of cannabidiol and other legal cannabis products. First and foremost, hemp and CBD are naturally sourced products. Unlike the multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical industry, every person that takes legitimate CBD products (as in non-synthetic cannabis) knows what’s in their product.
With pharmaceuticals, it’s a guessing game. Moreover, the industry has essentially blighted itself in adopting profits over patient’s mentality. A conspiracy theory? Hardly. According to a May 2019 New York Times editorial review of the pharmaceutical expose “Bottle of Lies,” the drug-manufacturing industry gradually descended from humanitarian pursuits to chasing (and aggressively bolstering) the bottom line.
But the personal bottom line is this: you don’t really know what’s in a pharmaceutical formulation. And you also don’t know, as the Times article explains, whether the drug you’re taking has met quality control standards. As you rightfully assume, quality costs money. And that impedes profitability for both corporate bigwigs and their many shareholders.
Second, cannabis use for medical purposes has a long history. According to a government-published research paper by E. Joseph Brand and Zhongzhen Zhao, the cannabis Sativa plant:
“…has been cultivated in China for millennia for use as a fiber, food, and medicine. References to cannabis are found throughout classical Chinese literature, including in many famous works of philosophy, poetry, agriculture, and medicine. Fiber-rich biotypes of cannabis (hemp) were extensively used in ancient China for clothing and the production of paper, rope, and fishing nets (Dai, 1989), and the achenes (“seeds”) of cannabis have been continuously used in Chinese medicine for at least 1800 years.”
Given the extensive evidence for cannabis’ safe use in human applications, many people have taken CBD, irrespective of the fact that it has not yet met regulatory endorsement. The weight of nearly two millennia of usage overcomes any doubts.
And in the same vein, users have provided this organic pathway to their four-legged family members.
Economic Advantages of CBD for Cats
For many Americans, a pet represents a vital cog in the family structure. A domesticated animal is often the first opportunity that children have to learn non-verbal cues and interactions. It also allows them to recognize and process the life cycle, from birth (introduction), bonding, maturity and eventually death.
Invariably, many families want to extend these valuable life lessons for as long as possible. As well, people simply get attached to their pets.
In other cases, animals provide companionship, particularly for elderly people or those in challenging circumstances. For this role, both dogs and cats provide intangible, intrinsic value that cannot be priced according to traditional financial methodologies.
Yet taking care of our furry friends presents very real costs. For those on fixed incomes or facing budget constraints, the cost of veterinary care can become prohibitive. On a low-end average, cat owners can expect to pay between $90 to $200 annually for care. But financial resource Kiplinger states that you should really keep $500 to $1,000 on hand.
And that’s just for standard procedures that may come up for pet parents. Serious or chronic diseases, as well as acute injuries requiring special treatments or surgery, can easily escalate costs and therefore, constrain tight budgets. Sadly, the upkeep of older animals requires even more extensive care. As a result, some owners are forced to put down their pets.
Thus, the cannabidiol revolution poses an affordable alternative to extensive and recurring care.
Due to the sometimes prohibitive and rising cost of providing such services, many pet owners have taken to the relatively new phenomenon of pet insurance. Like health insurance for humans, the concept is straightforward: pay a little – relatively speaking, of course! – each month and protect yourself against potentially catastrophic medical bills.
However, the premiums for pet insurance are likewise rising, resultant from the increased popularity of pet ownership.
For instance, the North American Pet Health Insurance Association (NAPHIA) reported that premiums for dogs and cats in 2013 amounted to $431.45 and $268.82, respectively. By 2018, these metrics ballooned to $566.34 and $354.48. That’s a 31.3% increase for dogs and a 31.9% increase for cats.
Clearly, the human-to-animal relationship is one of the most important in this country and vital to our personal development. Yet economics matters. For many pet families on a budget, CBD products optimized for animal intake presents a potentially effective and natural means to care for your furry family members.
With the advent of legalization for hemp and its derivatives, along with greater, socially acceptable access to such products, the environment for cannabis has never been more conducive. As a result, many newcomers have arrived enthusiastically on the scene. And that includes species of the four-legged variety.
In addition, CBD products are economically better alternatives to mainstream pet care options. As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure. A wholesome diet, combined with the myriad therapeutic benefits of pet-optimized cannabidiol, could do wonders in sustaining overall health.
But the biggest reason for CBD for pets – and cats specifically – is their naturally sourced origins. Like humans, cats have an extensive endocannabinoid system. Moreover, initial scientific research suggests that CB1 and CB2 receptors respond similarly to cats and their human parents.
Ultimately, this provides a measure of confidence that we just don’t get from exotic, pharmaceutical concoctions. As such, you can expect the CBD for cats market to grow exponentially from here on out.