Can Cats Eat Chocolate?

You may already know that dogs should never eat chocolate, but what about their feline counterparts? Can cats eat chocolate?

The quick answer is no, pets should never be given this sweet treat. Chocolate is very dangerous for cats, and even more so than in dogs.  Most cats won’t search for chocolate like canines, but if it is offered to them, they might be curious enough to try it. Sometimes small children or adults who are unaware of chocolate’s harmful effects will attempt to feed chocolate to cats as a treat.  This can poison your cat, or cause chocolate toxicity. If your cat has consumed chocolate, he should be seen by a veterinarian right away.  

What to Do If Your Cat Eats Chocolate

First, it’s important for you to remain calm.  Cats are very in tune with their owner’s emotions and will react if they see you stressed. When you are showing signs of distress, your cat can become anxious as well. Once you have composed yourself, call your vet.  Do your best to explain on the phone how much chocolate your cat has eaten and under what circumstances. The faster chocolate toxicity is treated, the better the chances for your cat’s recovery. Symptoms do not always show immediately so even if your pet shows no signs of chocolate poisoning, it is still important to act quickly.

What Are the Symptoms of Chocolate Poisoning in Cats?

Symptoms of chocolate poisoning in cats can vary greatly depending on the individual animal. If your cat exhibits any of the following symptoms, contact your vet immediately.

Can’t I Induce Vomiting at Home?

Unfortunately, no. Inducing vomiting in cats is not a safe practice. Some professionals recommend giving a dog hydrogen peroxide or another substance to induce vomiting when they have eaten anything poisonous. When given to cats, hydrogen peroxide causes hemorrhagic gastroenteritis, which is a medical term used to describe when cats vomit blood.  Hydrogen peroxide can also cause ulcers in our cat’s stomach and esophagus, so do not try and attempt this method at home. Instead, get your cat to the vet as soon as you can.

What Toxins are in Chocolate?

The toxic agent in chocolate is called theobromine, which is a type of xanthine found in cacao. While theobromine is present in all chocolate, including white chocolate, it is strongest in dark chocolate and most potent in raw cacao. Xanthine is a class of alkaloid which has a very low toxicity level for humans but a high toxicity level in cats and dogs.  Plants naturally develop this alkaloid, which produces a bitter taste. This flavor is meant to deter other herbivores from consuming it’s leaves.

What Can These Alkaloids Do to Cats?

  • Raise heart rate
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Increases the loss of fluid (due to its diuretic properties)
  • Stimulates the nervous system
  • Relaxes muscles

Cats are not able to digest and metabolize theobromine the same way humans can. Because of this, theobromine will stay in a cat’s bloodstream for almost 24 hours, causing havoc on their health and internal systems.

How to Treat Chocolate Poisoning in Cats

Your vet will first begin by inducing vomiting.  If the chocolate has already been digested, then the vet will use a liquid form of activated charcoal to clear it out.  In doing so, the cat can pass the chocolate without further exposure to the poison. Because chocolate is a diuretic, it will be important to keep your cat hydrated.  IV fluids will likely be administered, and you can expect that the vet will hold your cat overnight. The first 24 hours are the most important when treating chocolate toxicity in cats, but it can take up to several days for a full recovery.

Even with treatment, there is no guarantee that a cat will survive chocolate poisoning, so it is imperative to keep him away from this dangerous ingredient. By keeping all chocolate far away from your cat, you can prevent any issues from arising later on.

 

Sources:

Lee, Justine. “How to Induce Vomiting in Cats | Dr Justine Lee.” YouTube, 18 Mar. 2016, www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=47&v=mvoqdMxSyKA.

“Can Cats Eat Chocolate? .” Hill’s Pet Nutrition, www.hillspet.com/cat-care/nutrition-feeding/is-chocolate-bad-for-cats.

“Elbow Dysplasia in Dogs | Treatment and Prognosis.” Petwave, www.petwave.com/Cats/Basics/Chocolate.aspx.

“ Chocolate Poisoning in Cats.” PetMD, www.petmd.com/cat/conditions/digestive/c_ct_chocolate_toxicity.

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