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Can Cats Eat Hemp Seeds? Is It Healthy for Them?

Cats like to explore their surroundings, and their adventures often lead them to foods and items they should avoid. With cannabis products becoming more available in the United States, pet parents may be concerned that hemp-related substances are toxic or harmful to their cats. Hemp seeds and hemp seed oil are safe for your cat to consume, but they should not be fed as treats or meals. Although the seeds only contain a minuscule amount of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the effects of hemp seeds on pets have not been studied enough for veterinarians to recommend them as safe alternatives to other cat treats.

If your pet consumed hemp seeds accidentally, you probably would not need to visit the vet. However, if the animal eats a large quantity and displays troubling symptoms, take your pet to the doctor. Cats are unlikely to eat several seeds, but it’s safer to keep hemp products away from them until more research has been conducted. We’ll discuss the nutritional benefits of hemp seeds, how they differ from marijuana seeds, and the healthiest diet for felines.

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Nutritional Benefits of Hemp Seeds

Hemp is legal to cultivate in several states, and manufacturers have capitalized on new laws by making hemp products for humans and animals. Hemp seeds come from cannabis plants that do not contain high levels of the psychoactive compound THC. If your cat eats hemp seeds or hemp edibles made with the oil or flour, it will probably not feel high or sleepy.

You may have seen hemp seeds in your local grocery store displayed next to the chia seeds, and they’re becoming more popular as an ingredient in human cuisine. Since they’re nutrient-rich, some consider hemp seeds to be superfoods. In a 2-tablespoon portion, hemp seeds contain 5 grams of protein, 2 grams of fiber, 6 grams of fat, and 300 milligrams of potassium. For humans, the same serving meets 25% of daily iron needs and 15% of the daily vitamin A requirement.

The seeds also contain omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and ten essential amino acids. Like fish oil, hemp seed oil contains the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which have several anti-inflammatory benefits for cats and dogs. However, a study from 2020 discovered that hemp seeds could disrupt the absorption of minerals like iron because they’re high in phytic acid.

Although the study examined how hemp affects the human body, the results indicate that hemp seeds may not be as harmless for humans or pets as marketers lead you to believe. You can examine an abridged version of the Department of Agriculture’s nutritional breakdown of hemp seeds based on a 100-gram portion here:

hemp seeds
Image Credit: DeeaF, Shutterstock
Carbohydrates 67 grams
Protein 6 grams
Sugars 5 grams
Fiber 4 grams
Calcium 70 milligrams
Magnesium 70 milligrams
Iron 95 milligrams
Phosphorus 1,650 milligrams
Potassium 1,200 milligrams
Sodium 5 milligrams
Zinc 9 milligrams
Copper 6 milligrams
Thiamin 2 milligrams
Niacin 2 milligrams
Fatty acids, total saturated 6 grams
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated 4 grams
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated 1 gram
Cholesterol 0 milligrams

The nutritional profile of the seeds is impressive, but it’s only intended as a guide for human consumption since most cats will not eat 100 grams of hemp seeds.

Is Marijuana as Safe as Hemp for Cats?

Hemp seeds do not appear to be harmful to cats, dogs, or humans, but as we previously mentioned, further research will help pet owners decide if the seeds should be part of the animals’ diet. However, marijuana is not safe for your pet and should never be offered as an edible or administered by blowing smoke in a cat’s face.

Recreational marijuana is legal in 18 states, and the popularity of edible pot products concerns veterinarians. Canines have more cannabinoid receptors than cats and are more vulnerable to the effects. In fact, some dogs have died after ingesting too much marijuana. Cats are less likely to gorge on chocolate or sugary marijuana treats since they do not have sweet teeth, but they can feel the effects of the drug when it’s inhaled.

The first reported case of a cat suffering from THC intoxication occurred in Poland in 2018. A 6-year-old Persian cat was admitted to a veterinary clinic after the owner noticed the cat acting disoriented and aggressive towards other people. The cat was tested and studied for 14 days, but the doctors could not find anything wrong and released him to his owner.

After the owner left the cat with her partner for several days, the symptoms returned, and the cat was readmitted to the clinic. Further testing indicated that the cat’s blood had a high concentration of THC, and after interviewing the owner’s partner, the doctors learned the cat was exposed to marijuana when the roommate blew smoke in its face as a joke. Cats have much smaller lungs than humans, and they cannot tolerate marijuana. Marijuana seeds look identical to hemp seeds, and it’s vital to keep pot seeds and other psychoactive drugs away from your pets.

british shorthair cat in grass
Image Credit: Piqsels

Healthy Diets for Cats

Hemp seeds show promise as a nutritional supplement, but your cat only needs high-quality meals, clean water, and exercise to enjoy a healthy life. Searching for cat food can be confusing when navigating through misleading marketing language, but you can trust brands that have conducted lifetime studies and frequently test their ingredients for contaminants.

Unlike the short-term tests of cat food, a lifetime study follows a group of cats that consume the same meals for several years. An illness caused by food can take years to develop, but a lengthy study can determine the cause so the producers can remove the ingredient. Before choosing a brand, research the company’s reputation and recall history.

Hemp seeds are rich in protein, but your pet needs protein from animal sources. Animal meats and fish are excellent sources of the amino acid taurine. Cats cannot produce it in their bodies like non-essential amino acids but must eat protein to get taurine. It only takes 5 months for a taurine-deficient feline to develop heart or retinal disease.

Your veterinarian can help you select a brand if your cat is struggling with your selections, but you should look for brands high in protein, low in carbs, and moderately high in fat. In addition to essential vitamins, minerals, fat, and protein, your cat requires meals that are high in moisture to stay hydrated.

Cats have sensitive urinary systems, and low hydration can make urine too concentrated. Concentrated urine can lead to the formation of crystals and stones, which can obstruct the urine flow to the bladder and cause a chronic illness. Serving wet meals can keep your furball hydrated, but you can also encourage your cat to drink more water by using water fountains. Some cats prefer running water, and a fountain is a wise investment if your cat likes dry food over wet.

grey cat eating food
Image Credit: Pixel-Shot, Shutterstock

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Final Thoughts

Hemp seeds are rich in protein, vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids, but their long-term effects on the feline body have not been established. The oil from hemp seeds has similar anti-inflammatory properties as fish oil, but veterinarians recommend using fish oil as a possible nutritional supplement for cats instead of hemp oil. Cats’ digestive systems have more problems with plant proteins but can efficiently process protein from fish and animals. Hemp seeds have been approved for human diets, but let your cat enjoy kibble or canned food instead.

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Featured Image Credit: Poring Studio, Shutterstock

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