An orange-and-white cat stares into a box of chocloates.

Can Cats Eat Chocolate?

Cat owners commonly wonder about the toxicity of various human foods. The question about the safety of different foods increased after learning that certain foods were toxic which yielded a lot of press coverage. The most important toxic foods are onions, garlic, chocolate, alcohol, and excessive amounts of fish.

Exposure to the dangers of various human foods has encouraged pet owners ask about the safety of foods such as can cats eat chocolate. Learn more about what cats can and can’t eat in this article: The Ultimate Guide to What Cats Can’t Eat.

Can Cats Eat Chocolate?

Chocolate, in addition to having a high fat content, contains caffeine and theobromine. These two compounds are nervous system stimulants and can be toxic when ingested in sufficient amounts. The levels of caffeine and theobromine vary between different types of chocolate. For example, white chocolate has the lowest concentration of stimulants and baking chocolate or cacao beans have the highest concentration.

When researching the safety and danger of chocolate for cats, there are a couple different considerations. Cats are much more discriminating in their eating patterns than dogs making chocolate toxicity uncommon. However, every cat is different and some may ingest toxic amounts. Chocolate toxicity is most common in curious kittens over adult cats. Ingestion of enough chocolate with the toxic agent can cause severe illness in cats such as tremors, seizures, abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia) or even death.

Toxic Amounts of Chocolate to Cats

The toxic level for chocolate in dogs is similar to those for cats. The toxic dose of
theobromine and caffeine for cats is approximately 100 to 200 milligrams per kilogram (45 to 90 milligrams per pound) of body weight. A 10-pound cat can be toxic with ingestion of 450 milligrams.

The toxicity of the different types of chocolate is as follows:

The answer to the question, “Can cats eat chocolate” – the answer is no. While a lick or two of milk chocolate is unlikely to cause a problem in a normal healthy cat, ingestion of small amounts of dark or baking chocolate can cause severe signs of toxicity.

Symptoms of Chocolate Toxicity in Cats

Symptoms of chocolate toxicity in cats will vary with amount and ingested and may include:

Depending on the type of chocolate ingested and the amount eaten, various problems can occur. The high fat content in chocolate may result in vomiting and possibly diarrhea. Once toxic levels are eaten, the stimulant effect becomes apparent. You may notice restlessness, hyperactivity, muscle twitching, tremors, increased urination and possibly increased respiratory rates. Heart rate and blood pressure levels may also be increased. Seizure activity may occur in severe cases.

These symptoms will vary based on the amount and type of chocolate that is ingested and can influence the severity of the condition. Varieties of chocolate that can be especially poisonous to cats are dark chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate and baking chocolate.

What to Do if You Believe Your Cat Ate Chocolate

If you suspect your cat ingested chocolate, call your veterinarian or local veterinary emergency clinic immediately. If your cat is symptomatic, see your vet as soon as possible. While on your way to the vet, keep your cat calm.

Most often the diagnosis of chocolate toxicity is based on your witnessing or suspecting ingestion and on physical exam findings. Cats that have ingested toxic levels of chocolate are generally hyperactive and have increased blood pressure and increased heart rates. Dehydration may also occur if there has been significant vomiting and diarrhea. Some cats will tremor and/or seizure.

Treatment depends on the severity of the clinical signs and may include continuous intravenous fluid therapy, medications to help control vomiting and sedatives to counteract the stimulant effects of chocolate. Occasionally medication to reduce heart rate and high blood pressure is indicated.

Most cats treated for chocolate toxicity recover and return to normal within 24-48 hours of treatment.

Do Cats Need Chocolate?

There is nothing in chocolate that cats require. What cats do need is a high quality AAFCO approved cat food. Learn more about Nutrition in Cats.

The Safest Way to Give Chocolate to Cats

If you are tempted to give your cat chocolate, don’t. A small lick of milk chocolate is unlikely to harm your cat but your cat doesn’t need it.

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