July 22, 2020

Can Cats Eat Chocolate?

Risks You Need to Know

Published by Sheila Wilson

Vet Approved

Some cats will eat just about anything. We've seen cats that tuck into donut holes dropped onto the floor, cats that chew lettuce leaves and cats that love potato chips. But what about chocolate? Could your feline buddy enjoy a few licks of chocolate ice cream cone or a chocolate chip?

The answer is no. Cats should never eat chocolate. They won't bother with it most of the time, but you should keep it out of their reach at all times. But why is this, and what harm could chocolate do to a cat? In this article, we'll answer all that and more.

Can Cats Eat Chocolate?

No, cats should never eat chocolate because it contains theobromine, which is a toxin. Eating chocolate may be lethal to cats, and although cats tend to avoid chocolate, it's best kept out of their reach. Symptoms of chocolate poisoning include tremors and seizures. Ensure you know which types of chocolates to avoid.

Chocolate can be very dangerous for the rare cat who does eat it.
- Dr. Leonie McKinlay, DVM

Most cats will not eat chocolate on their own, so fear not if you accidentally leave a bar or a bowl of chocolate chips out on the counter. However, every cat is different- so make sure you NEVER leave any people food out. It will minimize the risk of your cat getting sick. [1.]

Health Benefits: Is Chocolate Good for Cats?

There are many different kinds of chocolate. Each one has differing nutritional facts and benefits, but not for cats. You should know that ALL chocolate and chocolate products are bad for cats. Cats need different treats, so let's go over some alternatives.

Commercially Made Treats

There are treats that can aid in your cat's good health. For example, treats exist that can help clean the teeth of your feline. Others help the cat get vital nutrients for urinary tract health, such as cranberry.

The best thing about these treats is that many of them are made by trusted name brands in pet food, such as Purina or Hills. You can be sure that your cat is eating something that is safe and enjoyable.

These treats are very affordable, and cats love them. There are plenty of different flavors to choose from in tastes cats enjoy like tuna, salmon, and chicken.

Related reading: What Are Good Treats for Cats?

milk, dark and white chocolate

Homemade Treats

You can absolutely make homemade treats for your cats. Courtesy of the Cookie Rookie blog, here are 3 Ingredient Salmon treats for your cat. All they require is quality canned salmon, flour, and eggs. Then you bake the ingredients for just 20 minutes and boom, you now have delicious and healthy treats for your cat.

This is not the only recipe out there, either. A quick Google search will show you tons of easy to make homemade cat treats.

Catnip

Catnip is all-natural, and nearly every cat on the planet loves it. It is a great way to get inactive cats off the couch and playing if you can find a catnip infused toy. There are even such products as catnip bubbles that will have your cat quite literally jumping for joy and enjoying playtime.

Small Pieces of Meat

Cats are carnivores, and they love chicken, beef, and fish. Provided the meat you are eating is of good quality (no processed meats like bologna or meat snacks), it is OK to offer your cat a small bite. A small bite of a plain steak or nibble of a plain chicken breast is OK once in a while.

You don't want to give too much because this can make your cat overweight or develop bad habits like walking on the counter or eating from the family plates.

Health Risks: Is Chocolate Bad for Cats?

So, dark chocolate is pretty good for us humans. That being said, why should you avoid feeding it to your cat? There are actually several reasons you should avoid giving your cat a piece of chocolate.

If you think your cat has ingested any chocolate, take your pet to your vet immediately.
- Dr. Leonie McKinlay, DVM

About Theobromine

Theobromine is found in ALL types of chocolate; white, milk, and dark, plus the other kinds you may stumble upon. Even unsweetened baking chocolate contains this toxic agent.

Theobromine is an alkaloid found in the cocoa plant. As a result, chocolate and cocoa are foods that are rich in theobromine.

It is a lot like caffeine, and it is known as a stimulant.

Theobromine makes animals/people urinate more and expands blood vessels, meaning it can lower blood pressure. The high level of potassium in cocoa and chocolate may also be used to lower high blood pressure.

For these reasons, theobromine is somewhat good for adult humans, and 250mg per day is ideal. For cats, it is a thing to avoid at all costs as it negatively affects their health.

The Symptoms Are Terrible

If your cat accidentally eats a piece of chocolate, the consequences can be dire. Death is the worst consequence of them all. If your cat is not treated immediately, death may happen. Even if you don't think they ate a lot of chocolate, you should immediately contact the vet.

Here are the symptoms of chocolate toxicity in cats:

  • Diarrhea
  • Hyperactivity
  • Vomiting
  • Restlessness
  • Tremors
  • Thirst
  • Seizures
  • Rapid breathing
  • Death

Cats are much more sensitive to chocolate's components than humans. This is why even if the cat eats just a tiny amount, they may display such symptoms.

Even A Small Amount Causes Harm

Suppose you have an 8 lb. cat- Here is the amount of chocolate needed to be toxic to the animal. You should still have your cat examined by a vet if ANY amount of chocolate is consumed. 

  • Baking Chocolate: 0.5 oz
  • Dark Chocolate: 0.5 oz
  • Milk Chocolate: 1.14 oz
  • Semisweet Chocolate: 0.5 oz
  • White Chocolate: 0.5 oz

Treating It Is Not Fun

To watch your cat undergo treatment for chocolate toxicity is not fun. Vets will likely start by inducing vomiting.

While hydrogen peroxide can be used at home to induce vomiting in dogs, this is not recommended in cats. It is too irritating to cats and can cause serious problems with the esophagus and stomach. Unfortunately, there is nothing that can be given at home to safely get a cat to vomit, so if your cat ingests chocolate, it needs to be taken to the vet immediately.

Avoid having to make an emergency vet trip. Keep the chocolate out of reach, in the back of the cupboard, where only you can reach it.

Feeding Guidelines

You probably already realize this by now, but feeding chocolate to your cat should never be done. You should keep all chocolate away from your cats and ensure they cannot access it.

Feed Zero Chocolate to Cats

There will be no serving of ANY chocolate to your cats in any way, shape, or form. Your cat should consume ZERO bites of any chocolate product, including but not limited to chocolate bars, hot chocolate, chocolate cake, chocolate pudding, or chocolate candies.

No Chocolate EVER- No Exceptions!

Make sure your family and friends know that cats cannot have chocolate. Many adults know this already, but young children do not. Make sure that youngsters who come into contact with your cats are aware that the animals should never be given any chocolate.

Most kids think they are being kind by sharing a sweet treat, but this is not the case. Have cat treats on hand you can dole out instead.

Nutrition Facts

Our article's focal point has centered on dark chocolate, so here is what we came up with regarding the nutrition facts for dark chocolate.

The United States Department of Agriculture states that a bar of dark chocolate weighing in at 101g contains 604 calories, 46g of carbs, and 43g of fat.

Thus, it is a treat to be consumed in moderation and small portions by humans. Despite its high-calorie content, the treat does contain health benefits for human consumers, such as providing anti-inflammatory effects and antioxidants and lowering the risk of heart disease. Minerals such as zinc, magnesium, and iron are also present in the food thanks to the cacao plant.

Bottom line: Can Cats Have Chocolate?

Chocolate is a food that your cat should never, under any circumstances, eat. Whether it is dark chocolate, milk chocolate, unsweetened baking chocolate, or white chocolate, your cat should stay far away from such a treat.

It has no nutritional benefits for the animal; any benefits are chiefly for humans.

As a result, find healthier ways to treat your cat, such as purchasing a high-quality meat-based treat from your local pet store. You can also make your own cat treats.

No matter how you choose to treat your cat, make sure chocolate is NEVER part of the menu.

Chocolate for Cats - FAQ

How long after eating chocolate will a cat get sick?

The symptoms of chocolate poisoning usually take about 2-4 hours to appear, but it can take as long as 24 hours in some cases. The signs to look for are diarrhea, vomiting, drinking or peeing more than usual, restlessness, or stomach ache. These symptoms may progress to panting, trembling, fever, fast heartbeat, or even seizures in severe cases. In the worst instances, chocolate poisoning may lead to heart failure, coma, or even death in cats.

Related reading: Cat Foods in 2021 - Vet-recommended Choices 

Vet's Comment

While chocolate is a delicious treat for us, dogs and cats should both avoid it completely. Cats are much less likely to eat chocolate than dogs, possibly because they don't have taste buds for sweetness. But chocolate can be very dangerous for the rare cat who does eat it.

Because of their small size, cats don't need to eat much chocolate to develop serious complications. Signs of chocolate toxicity usually show up 6-12 hours after ingestion and can last for up to three days in serious cases.

If you think your cat has ingested any chocolate, take your pet to your vet immediately. Your vet will likely induce vomiting and then try to minimize the effect of the toxin on your pet's body by giving your cat IV fluids and treating symptoms as they arise.

- Dr. Leonie McKinlay, DVM

Dr. Leonie McKinlay, DVM

Vet-Approved by
Dr. Leonie McKinlay

DVM

Dr. Leonie McKinlay has always had a special fondness for animals and knew from a very young age that she wanted to be a veterinarian. She obtained her Bachelor of Science degree in Zoology from the University of Calgary and then her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the Western College of Veterinary Medicine in 2011. Since graduation, Dr. McKinlay has been working at the same small animal practice, caring for dogs and cats.

NOTE: Advice provided within this article by FeedingMyPet.com is not a substitute for veterinary advice. Please discuss your cat's specific dietary needs (based on his breed, weight, age, and health status) with a veterinarian.

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