Pets and chocolate are rarely a good combination, and cats are no exception. In addition to risks of obesity and tooth decay, chocolate can damage your cat’s internal organs.
The good news is that most cats don’t want to eat chocolate. Feline taste buds do not find sweetness appealing. If offered chocolate as a treat, however, a cat can develop cat a taste for it. That’s why it’s advisable never to feed any to your pet and seek better alternatives. We have also looked at ten human foods that can make cats ill.
What Types of Chocolate Dangerous Are Bad for Cats?
There is no such thing as a ‘good’ human chocolate for cats. You will need to be particularly vigilant about keeping dark chocolate away from your cat, though. The darker and more concentrated the recipe, the more cocoa it contains. Cocoa is the real danger to cat health.
The closest thing to ‘safe chocolate’ for cats is white chocolate. This product does not contain cacao. As a result, it is not technically chocolate, according to purists. This makes white chocolate less harmful to cats, but they’ll likely remain indifferent to it. White chocolate is really sweet, making it unappealing to a cat.
Why is Chocolate Dangerous to Cats?
As we have mentioned, chocolate is made from cocoa. This is found in both dark and milk chocolate. Cocoa contains an alkaline named theobromine, which is dangerous to felines.
As PetWave explains, just some of the impact that theobromine has on cats includes:
- A sharp increase in heart rate, placing pressure on the organ.
- A decrease in blood pressure.
- Loss of fluid through vomiting and diarrhea
- Twitching, caused by excessive stimulation to the nervous system.
- Loss of control of muscles.
This alkaline impacts cats so severely because they cannot metabolize it. Technically, an excess of theobromine is just as dangerous to humans. However, our bodies are much larger and process it comparatively quickly. Cats lack this ability. Theobromine remains in their system for over 24 hours – more than long enough to poison cats.
Theobromine is also linked to caffeine. This stimulant can be harmful to cats. It’s not as dangerous as pure cacao, but it’s still nothing to take lightly.
The impact of caffeine on a cat’s body can include:
- Hyperactivity and restlessness.
- Elevated heart rate.
- Radical changes in blood pressure – include spikes and drops.
- Tremors and seizures.
- Eventual collapse.
Your cat does not need to eat chocolate to suffer the impact of caffeine. Just licking a square out of curiosity will be enough to spark a reaction.
Naturally, you’ll also need to be vigilant about watching out for other caffeine-based products. Teabags, coffee granules or caffeine supplements can all be dangerous.
Chocolate for Cats in Order of Health Risk
There is no such thing as safe chocolate for felines. It should all be avoided wherever possible, and kept away from curious cats. However, some forms of chocolate are worse than others.
Let’s rank chocolate in terms of danger to your pet, from most lethal to least:
- Cocoa powder. This is essentially pure cocoa. The bitterness and strong smell may also be more attractive to felines. Common products that include cocoa powder include chocolate cake, chocolate bread, chocolate biscuits, and chocolate pudding.
- Unsweetened baking chocolate. This is just a solidified version of the above, and just as dangerous. It’s usually very high in cocoa to avoid excess sweetness. Chocolate chip cookies and chocolate chip muffins are also no-nos, as they contain solid baking chocolate,
- Dark Chocolate. Anything with a cocoa content above 60% is deemed dark chocolate.
- Bittersweet Chocolate. This is a combination of milk and dark chocolate,
- Milk Chocolate. There is less cocoa found in this product, but still enough to be dangerous.
- Chocolate Milk and Chocolate Ice Cream. These items contain enough theobromine to be dangerous. Also, many cats are lactose intolerant. This will create two different health concerns for your pet.
Also, never assume that sugar-free chocolate is a viable alternative. Some may consider this safer, as it’s less likely to provoke obesity and tooth decay.
The popular sugar substitute xylitol is not lethal to cats, thankfully. Despite this, the recipe will still contain every other dangerous ingredient we have discussed.
Do Cats Like Chocolate?
We have established that chocolate is not healthy for cats, and must be avoided. The good news is that cats are largely indifferent to it. Cats cannot taste sweetness, so they won’t actively hunt down your chocolate supply.
Despite this, you should still keep your chocolate in a secure location. Cats may not enjoy the taste of chocolate, but they’ll still be curious about it. The smell alone will be enough to attract their attention. A high shelf may not be enough, as cats enjoy climbing and will relish a challenge. Keep your confectionery in a cupboard that your cat is unable to open.
Also, you’ll have to remember that every cat is different. The majority of children loathe broccoli, but some will eat it with abandon. If your cat has a taste for chocolate, you’ll have to be particularly cautious. Never give them any as a treat either, no matter how much they whine and meow. At best, they’ll spit it out, and you have wasted your indulgence. At worst, they’ll get sick and go looking for more as soon as they recover.
Another thing to remember is that cats often replicate the behavior. These could be the actions of another cat, or it could be your conduct. When we also consider that cats can read human expressions well, chocolate may pique their interest. If they see their human eating it and displaying joy, your cat will be intrigued. They may want to know what all the fuss is about, and look to tuck in themselves!
How Much Chocolate Can a Cat Eat Safely?
Your cat can eat more white chocolate than dark or milk. This is because white chocolate contains no cocoa. Despite this, there will still be traces of theobromine and caffeine within.
Your cat will need to eat a lot of white chocolate to get sick. Potentially more than they would be interested in, due to its sickly sweetness. All the same, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
If your cat does get into your supply of dark or milk chocolate, you may have a problem. No amount of chocolate is safe, but your cat may get away with small quantities. It all depends on their weight.
The average domestic housecat weighs around ten pounds. According to Petful, your cat requires veterinary attention if they consume the following quantities:
- A tablespoon and a half of dry cocoa powder.
- A single square of unsweetened baking chocolate. A batch of chocolate chip cookies or muffins will contain more than these quantities. Your cat may be OK if they eat just one, but it’s better safe than sorry.
- 20g of Dark Chocolate of 70-85% cocoa.
- 25g of Dark Chocolate of 60-69% cocoa.
- 33g of Dark Chocolate of 45-59% cocoa.
- 78g of Milk Chocolate. This could either be a single bar, or multiple pieces from a box of chocolates.
- A single slice of frosted chocolate cake.
- Five or more tablespoons of chocolate syrup, such as that found on ice cream.
- A third of a bag of Hershey’s Kisses (around 23 individual pieces.)
- 2 bags of M&Ms. Of course, this could open up a new realm of problems in the form of peanuts.
- 2 entire Three Musketeers candy bars, or an equivalent with similar to identical ingredients.
What are the Signs of Chocolate Poisoning in Cats?
Cats can be sneaky and crafty. If you are not careful, they may eat chocolate without you realizing.
If your cat displays the symptoms of chocolate poisoning, get them checked out. Common warning signs include the following:
- Vomiting and diarrhea.
- Increased body temperature, potentially resembling a fever. Anything substantially higher than 100O will require professional attention.
- Jitteriness and agitation.
- Stiffness in the muscles.
- Elevated heart rate.
- Low blood pressure, also known as hypothyroid. This condition is very rare in cats, so it should be quickly investigated.
- Seizures, which could eventually lead to fainting spells. A longer loss of consciousness is also possible, and extremely dangerous.
While some of these symptoms are also applicable to other conditions, all of them are serious. Don’t hesitate to get your cat seen to if they show any warning signs.
What Should You Do if You Cat Eats Chocolate?
Don’t wait and see if any symptoms manifest. By the time your cat gets visibly sick, they may already be experiencing some serious impact.
If you are unable to immediately rush your cat to the vet, at least call them. Advice will be provided over the telephone. One suggestion may be to induce vomiting in your cat.
This will irritate their throat, leading them to purge the contents without causing permanent damage. You’ll also need to pick up hydrogen peroxide in advance. This is available from any reputable pet store, and many supermarkets.
Vomiting will only help if your cat recently ate the chocolate, and it remains undigested. If your cat has already vomited, there is little point in them doing so again. You should also only induce vomiting if recommended by your vet.
How to Induce Vomiting in Your Cat
Allow us to stress again; induced vomiting should only be treated as an apocalypse scenario. Don’t attempt this without first consulting a healthcare professional.
If your vet tells you to induce vomiting, follow these steps:
- Mix up a solution of hydrogen peroxide and water. The ratio of this should be 3% hydrogen peroxide to 97% water.
- Wrap your cat up in a towel to restrain them and keep them calm. Cats will not take this remedy voluntarily, so you may need a second pair of hands. Ensure that your cat cannot bolt, either – administer the solution in the room with a closed door.
- Feed your cat one teaspoon of the hydrogen peroxide and water solution. This dosage is designed for a cat that weighs 10 pounds. If your cat is heavier, adjust the dosage accordingly. Use a syringe if they will not accept the teaspoon. You can repeat this process every ten minutes if necessary.
- Once your cat has swallowed the solution, hold onto them. All being well, your cat will start retching and eventually vomit.
- Gather up the vomit, and seal in a storable bag. This may not be pleasant, but it will be invaluable to your vet. They can run tests that will provide plenty of information.
Even if your cat vomits, you should still maintain their vet appointment. There could still be health concerns that require investigation, and your vet will run numerous tests.
If your cat does not vomit, escalate the importance of their assessment. Professional intervention is always essential where cats and chocolate is concerned.
Treatments for Chocolate Poisoning in Cats
There is no antidote or reversing medication for chocolate poisoning in cats. Once consumed in sufficient quantities, the damage will be done. Vets will concentrate on removing chocolate from the body before it can do any further harm.
We have already discussed induced vomiting when your cat eats chocolate. If this is ineffective, your vet will look into alternative treatments. These include:
- Consuming activated charcoal. This will slow down the absorption of toxins into the bloodstream. Your cat will not willingly eat this, so a vet will provide it through oral medication.
- Intravenous fluids. If your cat has been vomiting or has a stomach upset, they will lose fluids. These will need to be replaced or your pet will end up even sicker.
- Beta-blockers. If eating chocolate elevated your cat’s heart rate, this will need to be calmed. Beta-blockers will return their heart rate to normal.
- Artificial breathing apparatus. Cats that eat chocolate often struggle for breath. A breathing type or similar equipment will help with this.
- Urinary Catheterization. This is common practice for vets. A urinary catheter will prevent the toxins in your cat’s body being reabsorbed.
- Medication to control seizures. Seizures are among the most dangerous symptoms of chocolate poisoning. If left long enough, these can lead to comas and even death. They can be controlled by medicines, however.
If your cat cannot be helped with any of these methods, surgery may be required. This will involve manually removing the chocolate from the body.
Remember, the problem with chocolate is that your cat’s body cannot absorb the ingredients. If the chocolate is removed fast enough, it will stop wreaking havoc on their internal organs.
Chocolate Alternatives for Cats
Some cats do develop a sweet tooth. Just because your cat cannot eat human chocolate, they don’t need to live without treats. There is a chocolate alternative that your pet can enjoy.
Carob is a powdered substance, which acts as a pet-friendly chocolate substitute. You can also use carob in home baking to make chocolate-flavored goods without using cocoa. You will also find buttons and other treats made from carob in any pet store.
Carob should still be fed in moderation. Cats can easily have too much of a good thing. If you offer too many treats, felines can become obese. Aim to balance the calories found in meals to accommodate treats. Watch the sugar, too. Many cats suffer from dental problems, and you may not realize until it’s too late.
Beyond chocolate, you could also offer your cat strawberries. Cats have a strange relationship with fruit, and many will be indifferent to the taste.
If your cat would prefer something savory, any pet or grocery store will have options. Greenies, for example, will offer your cat a treat while simultaneously cleaning their teeth. You could try making your own at home, too. Go easy with the cheese, though. Cats are often lactose intolerant, and too much cheese will lead to a stomach upset. A tiny pinch of catnip also goes a long way.
There is nothing to gain and a whole lot to lose by allowing your cat to eat chocolate. Never offer your cat chocolate as a treat, no matter how interested they appear to be. Also, keep it out of their paws as a matter of safety. Just because your cat will not gravitate to chocolate, it doesn’t mean they’ll constantly ignore it.