NOTE: IF your cat may have eaten chocolate, contact your vet or the Pet Poison Helpline at 855-764-7661.
It’s well known that chocolate is toxic to our canine companions, but can cats eat chocolate?
Eating chocolate seems less common in cats (perhaps because they can't taste sweet things), but when it does happen, the toxicity is just as severe.
Here’s everything you need to know about chocolate toxicity in cats and what you can do if you suspect that your cat has eaten chocolate.
Is Chocolate Bad for Cats?
Yes, chocolate is not only bad, but toxic to cats. It’s just as bad for cats as it is for dogs, if not worse. So, what makes it so dangerous?
Chocolate contains small amounts of caffeine and larger amounts of a related compound, theobromine. These compounds, known as methylxanthines, make chocolate a satisfying treat for people, but dangerous for dogs and cats.
Both of these compounds can cause signs of chocolate toxicity in cats. In general, the more cocoa there is in a piece of chocolate, the higher the concentration of caffeine and theobromine.
Darker chocolates and baking chocolates are the most dangerous, even in small amounts. That said, even white chocolate can potentially cause issues in cats due to their small size.
Chocolate candies and treats can also contain xylitol, a sweetener that may also be harmful to cats. Obviously, the sugar and fat found in chocolate aren’t good for cats either, but they are not toxic.
If your cat eats any type of chocolate, you should take it seriously.
Can cats eat chocolate ice cream? Can cats drink chocolate milk? Can cats eat chocolate pudding?
Foods that contain chocolate, such as ice cream, milk, and pudding, are likely to be less toxic to cats than the “stronger” forms of chocolate such as dark chocolate and the more bitter chocolates.
In all likelihood, the larger problem with these foods is the fact that many cats do not tolerate the lactose in the milk very well, and significant vomiting and diarrhea can result from eating even a small amount.
Additionally, the fat and sugar in these foods (as well as any potential xylitol) are not good for cats. All that being said, if your kitty isn’t lactose-intolerant, occasionally licking out the remnants of the ice cream bowl isn’t likely to result in any significant chocolate toxicity!
Signs of Chocolate Poisoning in Cats
Signs of chocolate poisoning usually occur within 6-12 hours after your cat eats chocolate, and can last for up to 3 days in severe cases.
Any of the following clinical signs are concerning in a cat:
Increased heart rate
Panting or rapid breathing
Can Cats Die From Chocolate?
Yes, under certain conditions, it is possible for a cat to die from eating chocolate.
Depending on the size of the cat and the type of chocolate ingested, severe disease or death can result.
For example, an 8-pound cat that eats only ½ ounce of 86% cocoa is at risk of severe seizures, and more than ½ ounce could result in death.
The risk is even higher with baking chocolate—just ½ ounce is potentially fatal to cats. And with cocoa beans, less than ½ ounce can be deadly to cats.
Symptoms of chocolate poisoning can progress very quickly. Heart rate and rhythm changes can lead to low blood pressure, while muscle tremors and spasms can lead to dangerously high body temperatures.
If left untreated, these changes can be fatal.
As with all potential toxins, the sooner your cat is treated, the better. If your kitty is seen immediately after they eat chocolate, much of it can be removed from their system before the toxins are absorbed.
The longer you wait and the more symptoms that develop, the worse the prognosis. In all cases, cats need immediate veterinary care.
What If My Cat Ate Chocolate?
If you suspect that your cat has eaten chocolate, immediately call your veterinarian or the Pet Poison Helpline at 855-764-7661.
Unless otherwise directed by your veterinarian, please leave it to the professionals and do NOT give your cat anything to try to make them vomit. This can cause severe issues and make the problem worse.
It’s helpful to have the following information ready, if possible:
When the ingestion occurred
The name of the specific product that was ingested (wrappers are always helpful if you can bring them)
The amount of chocolate you think your cat ate
List of clinical signs you’ve noticed
Though a vet visit will likely be recommended, having this information will help the veterinary team assess your cat's risk and develop a plan while you’re on your way.
Is It Bad If My Cat Licked Chocolate?
Since chocolate toxicosis is dependent on both the type of chocolate eaten and the amount, licking a small amount (particularly of milk chocolate) is unlikely to cause harm.
However, as mentioned above, even small amounts of dark unsweetened chocolate can present a problem. If you think your cat ate any chocolate at all, it is safer to contact poison control or your veterinarian.
Although a tiny amount of milk chocolate is not likely to be a problem, it is better to be safe than sorry.
How Vets Treat Chocolate Toxicity in Cats
Treatment of chocolate poisoning in cats usually includes the following:
The first step is to get as much of the chocolate out of your cat's stomach as possible. Cats are notoriously difficult to make vomit, even with the medications available at your vet's office.
You should NOT try to make your cat vomit at home.
If inducing vomiting is not successful and the potential for toxicity is severe, some cats will be given activated charcoal to bind the toxins. Alternatively, they could be sedated and have their stomachs pumped. The less toxin absorbed, the less likely it is that there will be severe side effects.
Hospitalization, Medication, and Fluid Therapy
For cats showing clinical signs of toxicity, hospitalization is likely.
Your vet will choose a combination of medications targeting the specific symptoms (anti-seizure medications for tremors and/or heart medications for arrhythmias). They will also use fluid therapy to support the heart and blood pressure, as well as help your cat's body excrete the toxin faster.
Featured Image: iStock.com/frankiefotografie