Can Cats Eat Chocolate?

When our pets get into anything their little bodies aren’t used to, it can be scary. It seems like dogs have the worst reputation for ripping into food they shouldn’t, but cats can, too. And one food that can be especially problematic for felines is something that humans typically love: chocolate.

Some things that are fine for humans to eat can make our fur babies very sick. If your cat just gobbled up some chocolate, it may have led you to frantically search the internet for answers to questions like, “Are cats allergic to chocolate?” or “My cat ate chocolate, what should I do?” Which has led you here.

Does chocolate hurt cats? The short answer is yes. Chocolate is poisonous to cats because their bodies are smaller than ours and they process the chemicals in cacao differently than us. However, the severity of toxicity depends on the amount and type of chocolate they gulped down and how big your cat is.

What Happens When Cats Eat Chocolate?

Photo: Flickr/Steve Rainwater
Cat eating Moon Cake (which contains no actual chocolate)

Chocolate can cause chocolate toxicity in cats and lead to a range of symptoms. Every cat’s metabolism is different (just like every human’s is), but all cats are typically sensitive to even small amounts.

Clinical signs of chocolate toxicity usually develop within 6 to 12 hours. Mild symptoms of chocolate toxicity in cats include vomiting, diarrhea, and restlessness or hyperactivity. However, if the cat isn’t treated or they’ve eaten more than just a tiny bit of chocolate, symptoms can become more severe, including increased thirst, tremors or seizures, muscle stiffness, rapid breathing, a coma, and even death.

My Cat Ate Chocolate, Now What?

Photo: Adobe Stock/adogslifephoto

Most of us have some form of chocolate in our homes, whether it’s in the form of chocolate chips, candy bars, oatmeal chocolate cookies, chocolate bread, chocolate cake, chocolate-covered chocolate… you get the point. (Great, now I want chocolate.) It’s normal to be worried, but you don’t need to panic. But you do need to take action quickly.

How Much Chocolate Can A Cat Eat?

Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Schokolade!

None! Do not feed your cat chocolate. However, if they get into it on their own (being the I-do-what-I-want kind of animals they are), the danger they’re in depends on the type of chocolate, the amount, and the size of the cat. A toxic dose of theobromine in cats is considered to be 200 mg/kg. So for an 8-pound cat, the minimum amount of chocolate that can be toxic is as follows:

  • White Chocolate: Not typically a concern (whew!)
  • Milk Chocolate: 1.14 oz
  • Dark Chocolate: 0.5 oz
  • Semisweet Chocolate: 0.5 oz
  • Baking Chocolate: 0.2 oz

Different types of chocolate have different levels of caffeine and theobromine. Sweeter chocolate that’s cut with lots of milk and sugar (like milk chocolate and white chocolate) aren’t as toxic as their more bitter counterparts semisweet, dark, and baking. White chocolate doesn’t even contain cocoa solids — it’s typically made of cocoa butter, sugar, milk products, vanilla, and lecithin — so if your cat nibbled some of that, you can probably breathe easy. When it comes to milk chocolate, cats would need to eat the equivalent of about eight Hershey’s kisses (1.14 ounces).

Baking chocolate is a different story. It usually comes in bars or chunks and only a tiny amount is needed to cause damage — about 1/5 of a baking square. Semisweet and dark chocolate aren’t as toxic, but it still doesn’t take much, only half an ounce (or about 27 chips, depending on the manufacturer and size).

Why Is Chocolate Bad For Cats?

Photo: Flickr/Kevin N. Murphy

Why can’t cats have chocolate? It contains caffeine and a chemical called theobromine, both of which occur naturally in the cacao plant. Humans metabolize theobromine just fine, but cats absorb it very slowly, and so a small amount can do a a lot of damage. Both caffeine and theobromine stimulate the central nervous system as well as the heart, and cats can quickly become overstimulated from them.

What To Do If Your Cat Eats Chocolate

Photo: Adobe Stock/ leszekglasner

If your cat has eaten any chocolate at all, you need to call your vet. Your cat ate chocolate and is fine? You don’t know that for sure. Still call your vet.

Cat Chocolate Toxicity Treatment

Photo: Pixabay / Quangpraha

Depending on how long it’s been since your cat devoured that chocolate pudding you left on the counter, your vet may recommend you bring the cat in so they they can induce vomiting. They also may suggest you try to do it at home, but only go this route so if they explicitly tell you to; there’s a short window of time when vomiting is actually effective. One of the symptoms of chocolate poisoning in cats is vomiting, though, so your cat may very well do this quickly enough on their own, anyway.

If your vet recommends you bring the cat in, they’ll likely monitor him for dehydration and may run other tests to look at their urine, blood, liver, or heart. They will often recommend a bland diet for a couple days as well.

Most pets who are treated for chocolate toxicity do recover within a day or two. However, if the cat is not assessed and treated quickly and they consumed a high amount of theobromine, it is possible that they could die.

FAQ

Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Debora Cartegena

Is chocolate poisonous to cats?
Yes, due to the amount of caffeine and theobromine in it. The darker the chocolate, the higher the levels of these chemicals and the more dangerous it is.

Can cats drink chocolate milk?
Chocolate is not safe for cats and and most cats are actually lactose-intolerant. Chocolate ice cream is bad for cats for the same reason. So the answer here is no.

Is white chocolate bad for cats?
White chocolate is barely chocolate. It’s made from cocoa butter and not cocoa nibs (which is the part that contains toxic amounts of caffeine and theobromine). However, white chocolate still has high amounts of sugar, fat, and milk products, so don’t give it to your kitty as a treat.

Can cats eat chocolate cake? Can cats eat chocolate pudding?
No. And also, no. Don’t feed your cats anything made with chocolate!

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C. Dixon likes to read, sing, eat, drink, write, and other verbs. She enjoys cavorting around the country to visit loved ones and experience new places, but especially likes to be at home with her husband, son, and dog.
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