Can Cats Eat Chocolate: What You Need to Know
When you think of an animal having a bad reaction to chocolate, it’s usually dogs not cats. However, when a cat consumes chocolates, the affects can be just as bad. Before you leave your cat around chocolate unsupervised thinking they won’t get into it, it’s important to know what could happen if they do in fact eat it.
Cats are less likely to tear open a bag of chocolate than dogs, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen. Keep it out of reach of them, and do NOT try to feed it to them. Even the tiniest bit can be toxic. If your cat has ingested chocolate, contact your vet right away. Make sure you keep chocolate in a secure place that your cat cannot reach.
Chocolate is toxic to cats for a number of reasons, so let’s look into why your feline shouldn’t go anywhere near the stuff.
Why is it Toxic?
The component in chocolate that makes it toxic to cats is called theobromine. Theobromine is a bitter alkaloid found in the cacao plant. Humans metabolize it very quickly, which is why we are able to eat chocolate. Cats metabolize theobromine much slower, which causes a build-up and toxic effects.
Chocolate also contains caffeine which cats also absorb slowly, so they are much more sensitive to it. If your cat has caffeine, you will know because of their hyperactivity. If your cat has ingested chocolate, you should contact your vet as soon as possible to avoid toxicity symptoms that could potentially lead to death.
If your cat eats chocolate, toxicity symptoms that can happen are:
- Decrease Appetite
- Increased Urination
- Increased thirst
- Rigid Muscles
Cats are so sensitive to chocolate that symptoms will come on very quickly even if they ingest a teeny tiny bit. The first symptom you will probably notice is hyperactivity followed by vomiting and diarrhea. If left untreated, increased thirst and tremors can occur If your furry friend is experiencing these symptoms, call your vet to get them checked before things worsen, especially if you know they have had chocolate.
If a cat ingests a large amount of chocolate, the symptoms can come on even faster, and if it isn’t treated a cat can suffer from seizures and even death. It is very important to get the cat treated right away.
How Much Chocolate Will Cause Toxicity in Cats?
Any amount of chocolate can cause toxicity symptoms in cats, but different types of chocolate can have different amounts of caffeine and theobromine. The toxic dose of theobromine for a cat is 200mg. The only kind of chocolate you don’t have to worry about is white chocolate because it doesn’t have theobromine and caffeine.
Milk chocolate has far less theobromine than baking, or dark chocolates. So, in theory milk chocolate will be less dangerous depending on the amount of consumption, but still should not be eaten at all. The minimum amount of dark chocolate a cat can have is .5 oz, whereas the minimum amount of milk chocolate is 1.14oz.
Baking chocolate is exceptionally dangerous, and the minimum a cat would need to eat is .2 oz. Even if a cat takes the tiniest bite off of a baking chocolate bar, there will be a toxic effect, so if you have baking chocolate at home do not leave it anywhere your cat could potentially reach it.
Here is a list of the minimum amount of chocolate a cat would need to ingest:
- White Chocolate: Not a concern - (but don't let your cat eat it)
- Milk Chocolate: 1.14oz
- Dark Chocolate: .5oz
- Semisweet Chocolate: .5oz
- Baking Chocolate: .2oz
With these numbers in mind, it’s still important to remember cats should not have any chocolate, since these tiny amounts are all it takes to cause toxicity in cats.
What Should I Do if My Cat Eats Chocolate?
If your cat has ingested chocolate, you must act fast. Do not wait to see if they develop symptoms. Symptoms can occur 6 to 12 hours after they ingest the chocolate. Call your vet right away for an emergency appointment. If you saw them eat the chocolate, save the wrappers so the vet can see what kind it was. The first thing they will probably do is induce vomiting. This can be done with hydrogen peroxide, so when you call they may ask you to do it at home before you bring them in.
Catching the ingestion early enough will make it possible to resolve the issue with induced vomiting. The vet will blood and urine tests in order to check toxicity levels. The toxicity can affect a cat’s liver, causing liver failure or severe damage. If symptoms have worsened, they will most likely have to be hospitalized to fix the issues.
Another thing to note is that it is important for you to stay calm during the process. Your cat can sense your emotions, and we know this is a stressful situation, but your stress can make it worse for your cat.
Prevention and Alternatives
Cats should never ingest chocolate. Period. After a visit to the vet, you will be given instructions for a bland diet while they recover. Since cats can be curious and get into things that they shouldn’t, keep all chocolate in a secure area that they cannot get into. If you are baking, don’t leave supplies unattended, especially if your cat has gotten a taste of chocolate before. Anything that contains chocolate can make your cat sick, so keep anything even with the tiniest amount away from them.
If you want to give your cat a treat, stick to actual cat treats. There are plenty of healthy options out there to spoil your feline with that don’t involve chocolate. If they have experienced the devastating effects of a run in with chocolate, they deserve a little treat of the good stuff.