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Can cats eat chocolate?

Many of us know chocolate is not good for dogs, but we often don't hear about its effects on cats. Therefore, let's discuss today whether chocolate is bad for cats or not. Our vets in Seattle will explain the toxicity of chocolate in cats, the severe symptoms that could arise if a cat ingests chocolate, and ways to prevent it from happening.

Can cats eat chocolate?

Chocolate is not safe for cats to consume. It contains two harmful substances - caffeine and theobromine. Both of these compounds are toxic to cats and can even be fatal in large enough quantities. These substances are stimulants and can become highly toxic when absorbed into a cat's body. Dark and baker's quality chocolate tends to be more dangerous to cats as they have higher levels of cocoa, which means more toxic compounds.

Why is chocolate bad for cats? 

Any form of chocolate can be harmful to your feline friend, including cocoa powder, milk chocolate, and even white chocolate (which has a low amount of cocoa). Foods like ice cream or icing can be 'chocolate flavored,' leading some cat caretakers to wonder if this is suitable for their pet. So, can cats eat chocolate ice cream? While the idea that it is only flavored may lead you to believe they can, they will feel quite sick for a few hours. The toxicity of cocoa, mixed with sugar and lactose from the dairy, is not suitable for feline digestive systems. 

Why are those ingredients in chocolate so dangerous for animals? 

It is important to note that chocolate is toxic for cats due to the presence of caffeine and theobromine, both of which belong to the methylxanthine family. Cats do not metabolize these chemicals well compared to humans. The extent of toxicity may vary based on the type of chocolate since the amount of methylxanthine present in each type can differ.

What are the signs of chocolate toxicity in cats?

If you witness your cat eat chocolate or there is any indication that they may have done so, watch for the following symptoms while you contact your vet:

  • Gastrointestinal distress (nausea, vomiting, diarrhea)
  • Signs of restlessness
  • Increased heart rate
  • Excessive thirst and urination
  • Lack of appetite
  • Fast breathing or panting (this is not usual in cats, who don't pant to cool themselves as dogs do)
  • Seizure
  • Tremors or shaking
  • Coma

No matter your cat's symptoms, you should contact your primary vet or head to the emergency vet immediately if they've eaten chocolate.

How much chocolate is too much?

It is important to note that chocolate is toxic to cats. The amount of chocolate that could harm your cat varies depending on the type of chocolate consumed. Baker's chocolate is the most dangerous for cats as it contains the highest amount of cocoa powder, a toxic component.

It's worth noting that milk chocolate is the least harmful to cats. However, cats would still need to consume more of it to experience toxicity. Below is a table that can help you understand how much each type of chocolate can harm your cat. 

Type of Chocolate & amount that could cause toxicity in a cat:
  • Baker’s chocolate - 5.7 grams
  • Dark Chocolate - Around 14.2 grams (The more cocoa in the chocolate, the more toxic to cats it is.)
  • Semisweet chocolate - 14.2 grams
  • Milk Chocolate - 32.3 grams

What other foods are toxic to cats?

Even if you make sure to keep the KitKats away from the kitty, some other foods you might be surprised to learn are also a no-go for your cat. Some of these foods include:

  • Alcohol
  • Grapes, raisins
  • Cow's milk (many cats are lactose intolerant!)
  • Uncooked eggs, raw meat/bones, raw dough
  • Garlic, onions, leeks
  • Uncooked potatoes, tomatoes

How will the vet diagnose chocolate or food toxicity in cats?

If your cat eats chocolate, try to keep it as calm as possible. Cats are very sensitive to your emotions, and keeping a level head will help them remain calm and potentially prevent symptoms of chocolate poisoning from worsening. 

When you get to the veterinary office, the vet will complete a physical assessment of your cat and ask for any information about what it has consumed (type and estimated amount of chocolate). Depending on the case, the vet might induce vomiting to help prevent your cat's body from absorbing toxins. Your cat will also receive fluids and any additional procedures or medications that the vet recommends.

How can you prevent your cat from experiencing toxicity?

To help keep your cat safe from chocolate toxicity, it's best to store it in a secure place. Remember that this also applies to items that may be overlooked, such as a chocolate-frosted donut left on the kitchen counter or unattended candy bowls during Halloween. Since cats are known to be curious, playful, and unpredictable, it's important to take extra precautions to avoid any potential hazards.

Healthy Treats For Your Cat

While human foods are generally not recommended for cats, there are a few that you may be able to share safely in moderation:

  • Berries (if there are stems and leaves, remove them first)
  • Ripe banana slices
  • Carrots, green beans
  • Diced, unsalted cooked turkey or chicken (without the skin)
  • A small amount of low-sodium tuna
  • Catnip tea or low-sodium chicken broth frozen into ice cubes 

Even though your cat can't enjoy a chocolate bar with you, you can offer several tasty treats from your kitchen and a wide range of pet treats made just for your four-legged friend! 

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If you see that your cat has eaten chocolate or other toxic foods, contact our vets in Seattle for emergency care.

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