Toxic plants

Is Indian Hemp or Marijuana Toxic To Cats?

by Clair Chesterman
Is Indian Hemp or Marijuana Toxic To Cats? 

Indian hemp, also known as marijuana, contains tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, and is widely used for both medicinal and recreational purposes. Due to the increased availability of THC-containing products, cats are more likely to be exposed to marijuana, which can cause toxicity. Exposure can occur through ingestion of marijuana cigarettes or dried marijuana leaves. There have also been reports of intoxication caused by secondhand smoke. THC enters the body and binds to neuroreceptors in the brain, including norepinephrine, serotonin, and acetylcholine, when inhaled or ingested. This binding alters the normal function of neurotransmitters.

What Is Indian Hemp or Marijuana?

Marijuana with a cat sitting in the background

The Cannabaceae family’s Indian Hemp or marijuana, also scientifically known as cannabis sativa, is a large, coarse annual plant. It typically grows quickly to a height of 6 to 12 feet. The leaves of Indian hemp or marijuana are divided palmately into three to seven toothed leaflets and its flowers are small and green, arranged in axillary clusters. It is grown as both a houseplant and a landscape plant in some parts of the world. Although growing is illegal in some areas.

Clinical Signs of Indian Hemp or Marijuana Poisoning in Cats

Marijuana and cats

Symptoms of marijuana toxicity in cats can appear within minutes up to 12 hours after exposure, with symptoms lasting anywhere from an hour to several days. Bring your feline to the nearest veterinary office as soon as you find your cat showing the following symptoms:

  • Depression
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of motor coordination
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Low heart rate
  • Low blood pressure
  • Respiratory depression
  • Dilated pupils 
  • Vocalization such as crying or whining
  • Agitation
  • Drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Increased stimulation to noises or fast movements

First Aid and Treatment of Indian Hemp or Marijuana Poisoning in Cats

Cat sits near marijuana

Indian hemp or marijuana poisoning has no antidote, so treating marijuana exposure usually entails attempting to eliminate the drug from the system, treating secondary symptoms, and providing support until the drug is eliminated from the system. The treatment process may include the administration of activated charcoal, medications such as maropitant, which may be given to control vomiting or seizures in severe cases, and intravenous fluids, which can also help eliminate the drug from the body.

Recovery from Indian Hemp or Marijuana Poisoning in Cats

Recovery from Indian hemp or marijuana toxication may take longer than 24 hours. This will still vary depending on the extremities of the cat’s condition. The larger quantity ingested or the longer the time of exposure to the said toxic plant, the longer the recovery period is.

Prevention of Indian Hemp or Marijuana Poisoning in Cats

Keep all sorts of cannabis out of your cat’s reach, whether medical or recreational. Consider keeping dangerous products in high, locked cabinets or drawers while not in use. Keep your cats in a separate, well-ventilated room to prevent secondhand smoke. If there is known Indian hemp or marijuana growing in your area, it is safer to keep your cats indoors to prevent exposure and the possibility of poisoning.

If you love plants but have cats at home, check out these lists:

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