Chocolate is toxic to cats. While most pet owners are more concerned about their dog eating chocolate (dogs account for about 95% of chocolate consumption calls to pet poison hotlines), it's just as important that you prevent chocolate ingestion in your cat. Even a small amount of chocolate can be bad for cats, and can cause symptoms ranging from vomiting to seizures and even death. Knowing what can happen and what to do if a cat eats chocolate can save a life.
Why Is Chocolate Toxic to Cats?
Chocolate contains ingredients called theobromine and caffeine, which are toxic to cats if consumed in large enough quantities. Theobromine is absorbed much more slowly in cats than it is in humans, so even a small amount of chocolate can be toxic to a small cat. Caffeine is chemically similar to theobromine and stimulates a cat much more than a human, as cats are much more sensitive to it.
Chocolate toxicity in cats can cause various symptoms, including death, if a cat is not treated promptly. As each cat may have different sensitivity levels to theobromine and caffeine, if your cat has eaten chocolate, you should contact your veterinarian immediately, even if you don't think very much was ingested.
Because cats are more sensitive to the components of chocolate than we are, obvious signs will be seen if a cat eats even a small amount. Initially, vomiting and diarrhea may result, along with hyperactivity, but if not treated, increased thirst, restlessness, tremors, and other signs of sensitivity may be noted. If there is ingestion of relatively large amounts of chocolate, and if timely treatment is not administered, a cat may have seizures, experience stiffness, rapid breathing, or may even die.
Chocolate Toxicity Levels in Cats
|Type of Chocolate||Minimum Amount That Can Be Toxic to an 8 lb. Cat|
|Milk||1.14 oz (or 32.3 g)|
|Dark||0.5 oz (or 14.2 g)|
|Semisweet||0.5 oz (or 14.2 g)|
|Baking||0.2 oz (or 5.7 g)|
|White||Not a concern|
The toxic dose of theobromine in cats is 200 mg/kg, but different types of chocolate contain different amounts of theobromine. As the chart above shows, baking, semi-sweet, and dark chocolate pose a greater risk to a cat than milk chocolate. White chocolate is not a concern for theobromine and caffeine toxicity, because it doesn't contain cocoa solids like other types of chocolate. White chocolate has extremely low levels of the chemicals needed to produce toxic effects in a cat.
Baking chocolate is not sweet, usually comes in large bars or chunks of 4 oz, and is mainly used to make confections. Only 0.2 oz of a bar of baking chocolate needs to be bitten off, for it to be dangerous to a cat. Slightly more needs to be ingested if it is semisweet or dark chocolate, but it still only takes 0.5 oz for a cat to consume a toxic amount of these types of chocolates. Milk chocolate contains far less theobromine and caffeine than the more dangerous chocolate varieties, so a cat has to eat just over 1.1 oz to ingest a toxic level. This amount equates to about 8 Hershey's Kisses milk chocolates.
Treatment of Chocolate Toxicity in Cats
If your cat is at risk for chocolate poisoning, then your veterinarian may induce vomiting or recommend you do so at home, before bringing it in for an examination. One or two teaspoons of hydrogen peroxide often makes a cat vomit up the contents of its stomach. So, if your cat has recently ingested some chocolate, this can help to get rid of it and any wrappers that may have also been consumed. Getting a cat to take hydrogen peroxide can be difficult though, especially if you don't have a syringe at home. So, it is often recommended to bring your cat into the animal hospital as soon as possible.
Once at your veterinarian's clinic, your cat may need fluid therapy to stay hydrated and blood or urine tests may be performed. An ECG may also be performed to look for abnormal rhythms of the heart. Symptoms will be treated as needed and a bland diet is typically recommended for the next few days. If treatment is not received promptly after the ingestion of chocolate, then death might be possible, if enough theobromine has been ingested.
Chocolate Are Toxic To Pets. Pet Poison Helpline
Chocolate. Veterinary Manual
Cats And Chocolate. Aston Veterinary Hospital
Chocolate Poisoning In Cats: What You Need To Know. Wedgewood Pharmacy