is chocolate toxic to cats?
Cat Food and Hydration

Will Chocolate Make My Cat Sick?

Enjoying your favorite candy bar can be one of life’s simplest decadent pleasures. As a result, you may be tempted to feed chocolate to your cat so that it can be equally happy, but you should avoid doing so at all costs.

Never give chocolate or any food that contains chocolate as an ingredient to a cat. The darker the chocolate, the more cacao it contains. Theobromine and caffeine, which are found in cacao, are dangerous to cats.

Cats are rarely interested in the taste of chocolate. Unfortunately, the distinct scent of chocolate can attract cats, and your pet will wonder why you value this snack so highly.

Do Cats Like Chocolate?

Chocolate is often regarded as the enemy of domestic pets. Dog owners, in particular, are immediately warned about the dangers of chocolate. Cat owners need to be equally cautious.

Unlike other animals, cats are largely indifferent to the idea of eating chocolate. As per PLoS One, this is because felines lack the taste buds to enjoy sweet sensations. A cat will enjoy none of the endorphins or pleasure rush associated with chocolate.

Unfortunately, this does not mean that you cannot leave chocolate lying around the house. Cats may not be interested in a candy bar, but plenty of chocolate-based products will still appeal. Examples of dangerous snacks to keep away from cats include:

  • Chocolate cake
  • Chocolate brownies
  • Chocolate pudding
  • Chocolate yogurt
  • Chocolate milk
  • Chocolate ice cream

Why would your cat care about these foods? Cats are born imitators. If your cat observes you eating chocolate, sharing the sensation with your human friends or family, it will likely grow curious.

In addition, as is so often the case when discussing feline food preferences, the scent also plays a significant role. While cats cannot taste chocolate, they can certainly smell it. This aroma may lead to a cat investigating a forbidden snack.

Why Do Cats Like the Smell of Chocolate?

Next time you are faced with a chocolate-centric dessert or a candy bar, close your eyes and take a deep breath. The unmistakable scent of cacao will fill your nostrils, no doubt firing your pleasure receptors.

Now, imagine this experience through the nose of a cat. Your cat’s sense of smell is some 14 times better than that of a human. The cat will detect fat, dairy, and other ingredients in milk chocolate, which are more appealing than sugar.

Consider the novelty of chocolate, too. As per Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology, feline food choices often revolve around the excitement of a unique sensation. Cats will never have eaten anything that smells like chocolate. As a result, the scent is irresistible.

Is Chocolate Toxic to Cats?

Having established that you need to keep chocolate away from your cat, you may have questions. Key among these will be, “why can’t you give cats chocolate?”

It’s understandable that you wish to treat your cat. Sharing your favorite candy bar with a cat is not an act of kindness, though. The fact is, no type of chocolate is safe for cats due to the presence of caffeine and theobromine.

Caffeine and Cats

One of the largest components of chocolate is caffeine. As explained by the British Journal of Pharmacology, caffeine has a similar impact on cats to humans. It acts as a stimulant and increases adrenaline. Unfortunately, cats are much smaller than us. As a result, caffeine can be lethal.

The more adrenaline surges through a cat’s body, the harder its heart will pump. In order cats especially, this spontaneous hypertension is dangerous.

Theobromine and Cats

Theobromine is what makes chocolate lethal to domestic animals. The Journal of Small Animal Practice discusses how theobromine can cause a complete shutdown of a cat’s nervous system.

Theobromine is actually toxic to humans, too. It’s just that our significantly larger bodies and stronger organs can cope. Theobromine is flushed from the human body before it can pose a problem. This is not the case with cats.

How Much Chocolate is Lethal to Cats?

Any amount of chocolate can be lethal if your cat is older, has pre-existing medical conditions, or is generally unlucky. Equally, some heavier cats can get away with consuming tiny levels of chocolate.

The darker the chocolate, the more dangerous it is. Darker chocolate contains more cacao, which in turn holds more theobromine. White chocolate is the least hazardous but still unsafe. Dark chocolate is often lethal. Milk chocolate is somewhere in between the two.

Chocolate TypeAmount ConsumedToxicity Risk
White Chocolate:AnyModerate
Milk Chocolate:<20gModerate
 20 – 80gSevere
 >80gEmergency
Dark Chocolate:<20gSevere
 >20gEmergency

As you’ll see, any kind of chocolate is dangerous to cats. Even a moderate risk can be enough to prove fatal to senior cats.

Can Cats Eat Small Amounts of Chocolate?

As discussed, no amount of chocolate is safe for cats. If you’re lucky, your cat will not grow sick if it only eats a minimal amount. Many cats are not lucky enough to escape unscathed from eating chocolate.

There may be times that cats eat tiny traces of chocolate by accident. Maybe you’ve been baking, for example, and the cat licks cocoa powder from the floor. In such instances, you’ll need to make a judgment call about how to proceed.

If you want a chocolate-style treat that’s safe for cats, get carob snacks from a pet store.

How to Tell if a Cat Ate Chocolate

Based on what we have discussed, you will not choose to feed your cat chocolate. Alas, this does not mean that your cat has not consumed the product. The scent of unguarded chocolate could have inspired dangerous curiosity.

Your cat did not even need to eat chocolate to grow unwell, either. Maybe your cat licked cat chocolate, found the taste indifferent, but still experienced the negative impact of theobromine. Equally, a cat that cat licked cocoa powder from the floor could be in trouble. Warning signs of chocolate poisoning in cats include:

  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Wide and staring eyes
  • Restlessness and agitation, including uncharacteristic aggression
  • Urinating to excess, especially outside the litter box
  • Sharp drops in body temperature
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Rapid, dangerously slow, or irregular heartbeat
  • Seizures
how much chocolate is lethal to cats?

How Long Before Symptoms of Chocolate Poisoning in Cats Appear?

Not all cats will display immediate symptoms of toxicity after consuming chocolate. As with mortality, it depends on a range of factors. These include how much chocolate was eaten, the weight of your cat, and its health condition.

Some cats may not display symptoms for hours. It could even be 24 hours before your cat starts to react. That’s assuming that it will do so at all. Remember that cats are masters of hiding ill health.

What to Do if a Cat Eats Chocolate

Check for any immediate medical emergencies, such as the inability to breathe. Ensure that your cat has plenty of water, but do not feed it anything else. Keep the cat as calm and inactive as possible.

Once the cat is settled, call your vet and explain you need urgent advice. Do not pack your cat straight into its carrier and drive to the surgery. You may need to take action at home, or your vet may not need to see the cat.

Answer any questions the vet asks you as honestly as you can. If you do not know how much chocolate your cat ate or when you should say so. Once you have explained your cat’s circumstances, your vet will advise what to do. You may be asked to induce vomiting in your cat, bring it to surgery, both, or neither.

Induced Vomiting

Induced vomiting is the act of encouraging a cat to throw up. If your cat ate chocolate very recently, it would not yet be digested. As a result, induced vomiting will flush the chocolate from the body before it can do any harm.

Only attempt induced vomiting under the advice of a professional. Use a medical technique, too – never force a cat to vomit by agitating its throat. This will result in damage to the cat’s throat and likely a painful bite for you. The best way to induce vomiting in cats is to:

  • Create a solution of hydrogen peroxide (3%) and water (97%)
  • Convince your cat to take a teaspoon of this solution
  • Stand back and wait for your cat to vomit. If it does so within ten minutes, do not repeat the dose. If not, try again up to three times

A vet may still want to see a cat after you have induced vomiting. If this is the case, try to take a sample of the vomit. It’s not a nice idea, but the vet will find it helpful to study and determine what has been expelled from the body.

Veterinary Treatments

As discussed, your vet may ask you to bring your cat to surgery. This does not necessarily mean anything too drastic. Your vet may just want to observe the cat and investigate any signs of toxicity for themselves.

Your cat may also need some secondary treatments to manage the side effects of theobromine poisoning, such as seizures or dehydration. These will be explained to you, along with instructions and medication required once your cat returns home.

Typically, a cat that eats chocolate and requires assessment will be kept overnight for observation. If necessary, a vet will also take one of four courses of action to remove any lingering trace of chocolate from the cat’s body.

Laxatives

In the case of dealing with chocolate consumption in cats, this means flushing it with laxatives. This approach will only work in mild cases of chocolate toxicity, but it’s a helpful approach to additional safety.

Laxatives will speed up the digestive process of your cat. Ergo, in theory, your pet will pass any troublesome chocolate much faster than it ordinarily would. This will, in turn, remove any traces of toxicity from the body.

A vet will have medical-grade laxatives on hand, but you can start the process at home. Tinned pumpkin is a natural laxative for cats. Feed your pet a couple of teaspoons, but only if you have permission to offer solids to your pet.

Be mindful of the side effects of laxatives, too. You will essentially be condemning your cat to diarrhea. Episodes of this nature can lead to dehydration and embarrassment for your cat. Assure your pet that it is not in trouble and regularly offer drinking water.

IV Fluids

If your cat ate chocolate, it will almost certainly be hooked up to intravenous fluids. If necessary, these fluids will dilute the toxins caused by the intrusive theobromine. Dilution will make it easier for the toxins to be eliminated through urination.

IV fluids also serve many other helpful purposes. They will replace any water lost by your cat through vomiting or diarrhea – thus keeping dehydration at bay. More liquid will also rehydrate internal organs, encouraging them to flourish once more.

how long before symptoms of chocolate poisoning in cats?

Activated Charcoal

Activated charcoal takes a similar approach to induced vomiting. This is a medical remedy created from numerous different edible sources, including the shells of walnuts and coconut mixed with coal.

If a cat consumes activated charcoal within an hour of eating chocolate, the offending theobromine is absorbed by the carbon. In doing so, the theobromine becomes detoxified. Exceedingly dangerous intake, though, such as a large amount of dark chocolate, may require further intervention.

Activated charcoal should feature in a feline first aid kit. The problem is, it’s almost impossible to convince a cat to take this foul-smelling and awful-tasting remedy. You will likely need assistance administering it.

Surgical Removal

If the situation is dire, your cat may need to undergo surgery. A scan will determine the necessity of an operation. If this investigation reveals a tangible item that is not flushable by conventional means, surgery to remove it is essential.

This approach will be undertaken with caution, especially in senior cats. Just the act of placing an older feline under anesthesia is a sizable risk. The toxicity of chocolate may also have caused damage to internal organs.

Avoid leaving chocolate untended. Cats may be largely indifferent to this foodstuff, but it only takes one act of curiosity to cause significant sickness and life-threatening issues.