Many people are already well aware that dogs can’t eat chocolate and that doing so can lead to a medical emergency, but whether or not cats can eat chocolate is not common knowledge. Just like for dogs, chocolate is toxic for cats.
Today we’re diving into what effects chocolate can have on felines, signs your cat is experiencing chocolate toxicity, and what to do in case your cat accidentally consumes chocolate.
Why Cats Shouldn’t Eat Chocolate
Chocolate contains two ingredients that are particularly toxic to cats: caffeine and theobromine, which is a bitter compound found inside cacao seeds. Theobromine can be easily digested by humans, but not cats (or dogs, for that matter), so it sticks around in their system and can eventually lead to organ failure.
The darker/higher percentage of chocolate, the more toxic it is to cats. For that reason, milk chocolate isn’t as lethal when compared to bitter chocolate or dry cocoa powder.
To prevent chocolate poisoning, we recommend keeping chocolate wrapped and out of reach, and to immediately clean up any spills when baking with chocolate. Also, be particularly vigilant around certain holidays where chocolate is consumed more frequently, such as Christmas and Easter. Vets say they experience higher instances of chocolate poisonings around these times of the year.
Signs of Chocolate Poisoning in Cats
Fortunately, cats aren’t tempted by chocolate the same way humans are, or in the same way cats crave fish or chicken. However, they may inadvertently eat a morsel left on the ground or be coaxed into eating some by a person who doesn’t realize it’s dangerous. Signs that your cat is experiencing chocolate toxicity include the following:
- Rapid heartbeat / irregular heart rhythm
- Rapid breathing
- Increased urination
- Increased thirst
- Restlessness or hyperactivity
- Muscle tremors and twitching
- Muscle rigidity
- In an advanced state of toxicity, your cat my experience cardiac failure or fall into a comatose state
Steps to Take if Your Cat Eats Chocolate
If your adult cat has eaten a small amount of milk chocolate, the best thing you can do is keep a very close eye on them over the next 24 to 48 hours. You can also call your veterinarian or the Pet Poison Helpline (855-764-7661) to get helpful guidance based on your cat’s weight, what they ate, and how they’re behaving. If your cat begins exhibiting any of the chocolate toxicity symptoms outlined above, take them to your veterinarian or an emergency clinic right away.
Kittens that consume any form of chocolate, and any adult cat that eats bitter chocolate or dry cocoa powder, should be taken to the vet immediately. (And again, any cat showing symptoms of poisoning should be taken to the vet regardless of what kind of chocolate, or how much, they ate.) It will be helpful if you can bring in the chocolate packaging so that your vet knows exactly what was consumed.
Depending on your cat’s symptoms, the vet will run a series of tests to check for poisoning. These may include blood labs, a urinalysis, and an ECG to check your cat’s heart for abnormalities. Treatment varies for cats diagnosed with chocolate poisoning, but will likely include a combination of the below:
- induced vomiting to force chocolate out of their stomach
- IV fluids to hydrate and flush out their system
- activated charcoal tablets to absorb toxins
- anti-seizure medication
- liver disease treatment
Following the treatments, your vet may recommend keeping your pet at the clinic throughout the day or even overnight so their vitals can be checked consistently. Once home, you’ll want to continue watching your pet for any abnormal behavior or toxicity symptoms and feed them a bland diet. Lots of snuggles are certainly in order, as well.
Want to learn more about keeping your sweet feline as healthy as possible? Check out these articles that discuss everything from cat scratching and spraying to caring for a cat after they’ve had surgery.