As people started to explore the positive effects of cannabis on the body, they started to learn more and more about the endocannabinoid system. Alongside humans, this system is also existent and functions in pretty much the same way in cats and dogs, not to mention horses, rabbits, frogs, monkeys, elephants – basically, all mammals.
Often, external factors try to disrupt the several functions of the body. The endocannabinoid system’s job is to neutralize the effects of these external factors and ensure the smooth functioning of the system. This system comprises of receptors all across your cat’s body, and impacts many of his functions, including pain levels, immune functioning, sleep cycles, mental health, and general mood.
The endocannabinoid system connects with certain receptors, using cannabinoids that it naturally develops. The production of these cannabinoids can be enhanced using plant cannabinoids like CBD or THC. This link and collaboration between the endocannabinoid system and plant cannabinoids is the reason that CBD is showing so much promise, therapeutically.
Cat owners often wonder how exactly CBD connects with the endocannabinoid system to generate beneficial health effects for their pet. To understand this, we first need to know about the system itself and how it functions.
What is the Endocannabinoid System?
‘Endo´ is short for ‘endogenous’, meaning something that is produced internally in the body. ‘Cannabinoid’ is a generic term for compounds like CBD or THC, which possess the ability to trigger the endocannabinoid system.
This system, as mentioned previously, plays an important role in regulating many functions inside your cat’s body. This is also the system that allows CBD to impact your pet’s health in a positive way. Even though scientists have ample knowledge about how the system itself functions, researchers are more interested in how this system can generate even greater health benefits.
What are Cannabinoid Receptors?
They are situated on top of the cells and are responsible to regulate the conditions outside the cell. Whatever they notice, they send inside the cells, allowing the cells to take action
Your cat’s endocannabinoid system has many different types of receptors, but the key players are CB1 and CB2 receptors.
CB1 Cannabinoid Receptors
These are present throughout your pet’s body but are primarily found in the brain and along the spinal cord region. In the brain, CB1 receptors are found in areas that are responsible for specific functions.
For example, the hypothalamus – responsible for controlling and monitoring your cat’s appetite – is concentrated with the CB1 cannabinoid receptors. Other than that, these receptors are also found in the amygdala section of the brain – which is pertinent to emotions and making memories. Other than that, CB1 receptors also cover the nerve endings that regulate pain sensations.
CB2 Cannabinoid Receptors
This type of cannabinoid receptors is present majorly in the nervous and – more so – in the immune system, indicating that the endocannabinoid system is also responsible for the efficient functioning of the immune responses. This makes this system particularly important for controlling hyperactive immune reactions inside your pet – such as inflammation.
How do Cannabinoids Interact with your cat’s Endocannabinoid System?
The cannabis plant is responsible for naturally producing certain cannabinoids. So far, we know of 113 distinct types of cannabinoids present in the cannabis plant. However, the two cannabinoids that are present in the largest amounts, are CBD and THC. Out of the two, CBD is non-psychoactive, which means that it can provide many health benefits associated with cannabis, without causing any mental disruptions. THC, too, can be used in low quantities for your pet, without causing him to get ‘high’.
Endocannabinoids are generated naturally by your cat’s body. The cannabinoid molecules adhere to the receptors to trigger particular responses. Your pet’s body produces endocannabinoids, as and when needed.
Upon entering the body, plant cannabinoids like CBD and THC trigger the receptors exactly how your pet’s naturally produced endocannabinoids do. This means that any endocannabinoid system responses are totally natural.
The Functions of the Endocannabinoid System in Cats
The endocannabinoid system is mainly responsible for monitoring and controlling the immune system, the endocrine system, and the brain. The full picture of how this system regulates certain important functions is still unclear.
In cats, the endocannabinoid system triggers responses inside the gastrointestinal tract, thereby impacting the regions of the central nervous system that control and trigger appetite and hunger. Alongside this, the system also normalizes hormone response which is related to disruptions in mental states like anxiety or depression.
The body triggers an inflammatory response to damage in tissues or to an infection, but, if this response is left unchecked, it can cause long-term or chronic inflammation in your cat’s system, leading to a number of chronic illnesses, such as rheumatoid arthritis. The endocannabinoid system plays a key role in monitoring this inflammation, preventing it from going out of control and causing harm rather than good.
‘Homeostasis´ is the condition in which every system and function inside your pet’s body is perfectly stable and in harmony with each other. Scientists are developing theories about how the endocannabinoid system ensures that your little friend’s body is in that ideal state. If these theories turn out to be true, it could mean that the endocannabinoid system is even more important in managing and regulating functions throughout the body than is currently understood.