Chocolate is by far one of my favourite treats, especially if the chocolate has peanuts or hazelnut in it.
With the holiday season right behind us, I’ve realized how much chocolate our whole family goes through. With the celebrations of Valentine’s Day, Easter, Halloween, Hannukah, Birthdays and Christmas, my partner and I alone have received and consumed tens of thousands of grams of chocolate this year alone.
Although I can’t say that I’ve never had the impulse to feed any of our cats chocolate, I can’t say I’m certain that none of the cats have eaten chocolate in their lives. Crumbs and spills aren’t always the easiest to monitor; however, it is essential to know whether or not there should be cause for panic if our cats consume certain foods.
It’s also important to note that cats can only eat some foods if they are left unrendered or rendered in a particular manner, such as peanut butter or even ice cream. So, what about chocolate? Is there ever a safe way for cats to consume chocolate? Why are some cats interested in chocolate and others not?
IS CHOCOLATE BAD FOR CATS?
The shortest and quickest way to answer this question is to say that, yes, chocolate is considered unsafe for cats; however, every cat will be affected by chocolate different.
All-in-all there isn’t a type of chocolate that is classified safe for cats, mainly because the main ingredient of chocolate, cacao, contains both theobromine and caffeine, which can be detrimental to a cat.
Theobromine and caffeine are both stimulants that become toxic when absorbed by your cat’s body. Often the consumption of theobromine and caffeine will lead to an increased heart rate; however, if enough chocolate is consumed, they may also lead to vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, increased thirst, restlessness or lethargy from extreme pain.
Symptoms will depend on how much of these ingredients were consumed. Symptoms may be delayed if the cat has access to water during the time of consuming chocolate. In all cases where toxicity is assumed, it is crucial that you contact your vet to see if they recommend bringing your cat in for an examination.
A vet may require you to monitor your cat if symptoms don’t seem too severe or if they do not believe that there is a risk for your cat without an examination. If symptoms prolong or last for more than an hour, then the condition is often classified as acute and will require a vet to induce vomiting and facilitate IV fluids or more. Never induce vomiting by yourself.
BUT WHITE CHOCOLATE DOESN’T HAVE MUCH CACAO…
It doesn’t matter; the reality is all chocolate has traces and amounts of caffeine and theobromine. While traces of caffeine and theobromine may be lower in some forms of chocolate, toxicity is possible dependant on your cat’s general health, genetics and tolerance to the ingredients.
Baking chocolate, for instance, is the most toxic form of chocolate to feed a cat due to the extremely high traces of theobromine.
HOW MUCH CHOCOLATE IS CONSIDERED TOO MUCH?
While any amount of chocolate is considered too much to feed a cat, cats will have different tolerances to the ingredients in the chocolate.
According to Petful, the following are the maximum amounts a cat should have of chocolate if they weigh 10-Pounds:
1.5 tablespoons of dry cocoa powder
One square of unsweetened baking chocolate
20g (0.7 oz.) of 70-85% dark chocolate
25g (0.9 oz.) of 60-69% dark chocolate
33g (1.2 oz.) of 45-59% dark chocolate
A thin slice of chocolate cake with chocolate frosting
78g (2.7 oz.) of milk chocolate candies
5 tablespoons of chocolate syrup
23 Hershey’s Kisses (about a third of an 11-ounce bag)
2 packages of regular M&Ms
2 whole 3 Musketeers bars
Reese’s Pieces contain only trace amounts of theobromine
Though these are the limitations that were calculated by writer Kristine Lacoste, these measurements may not be entirely accurate for your cat. These amounts can, however, be used as guidelines on when you must call a vet.
The ASPCA has reported that cats have been seen with signs of toxicity from doses as low as 20 milligrams of theobromine, though at the end of the day, it is inconclusive exactly how much chocolate it takes to poison a cat.
HOW DO I KNOW MY CAT HAS BEEN POISONED?
As mentioned, cats who have been poisoned by chocolate commonly experience vomiting nausea and diarrhea. If toxicity is more severe, cats will begin experiencing an increased heart rate, excessive urination and thirst, restlessness or hyperactivity.
If you notice your cat panting or having difficulty breathing, this is a strong sign that your cat will need a vet. Rapid breathing can often be accompanied by twitching, muscle tremors, muscle tightness, muscle spasms, fevers or increased body temperature.
In extreme circumstances, cats will experience low blood pressure, seizures or may become comatose.
In all cases, I advise contacting a vet to see whether or not they think the symptoms your cat is experiencing require a visit. Since your vet would presumably already have information about your cat, they will be able to make a better guess as to whether or not your cat is or will be in critical condition.
Always make sure to monitor your cat for at least an hour after the consumption of any chocolate or new substance/food. Commonly symptoms appear within the first hour, though symptoms may take longer to manifest.
It’s a good idea to save chocolate bar wrappers, especially if you are uncertain whether or not your cat is experiencing toxicity. A vet will be able to let you know based on their experience whether or not they believe your cat ate enough chocolate to induce toxicity. It can be especially helpful to differentiate between types of chocolates.
WHAT OTHER INGREDIENTS IN CHOCOLATE POSE A THREAT TO CATS?
Other ingredients that can cause a potential threat to cats include sugar, xylitol and general fats. All three of these ingredients can lead to the development of diabetes and closely linked to the development of kidney failure.
So while ingredients like sugar and xylitol aren’t necessarily going to cause your cat to get sick immediately, they may cause your cat to develop some health problems in the long-term if fed repeatedly.
While xylitol isn’t found in any cat foods that I am aware of, I have found it in some water additives. Always keep a close eye on products, even if they are marked as made for cats because you never know what may be found in them. Dependant on where you live, there may not be as many or strict regulations that standardize what ingredients go into cat products.
CHOCOLATE MILK IS THE BIGGEST CULPRIT
Now some of you may question, “why would a cat even be interested in chocolate?” and the answer is, well, it’s because of the milk! Since cats can’t taste sweet, it is assumed that cats enjoy chocolate because of the dairy content found in the product.
Dairy is also why chocolate milk seems to be the most common chocolatey treat that is stolen by our feline companions, well besides chocolate icecream.
The sad reality is that chocolate milk is a double no-no for cats since cats are lactose intolerant. Even alternative lactose-free milk like almond milk and soy milk are not suitable for cats. So, next time you’re thinking about breaking a piece of that KitKat bar for your little one, think again.
MY CAT EATS PLENTY OF CHOCOLATE AND HAS ALWAYS BEEN FINE
Both you and your cat are fortunate, but there is a chance that you are playing with fire. While there is a probability that your cat has kidneys of steel or is somehow a demigod, I would still get your cat checked out to make sure that everything is okay.
Again, sometimes cats will not experience toxicity because of their body mass and other factors in their genetics, but this doesn’t mean that your cat is not being affected by the amounts of chocolate in another way.
Vets will be able to let you know whether or not you should be concerned about how much chocolate your cat is/has been eating based on results from their physical. If there is any further concern, a vet may request that blood work is done. Blood work will be able to let you know whether all vital organs are functioning correctly or if there is a cause for alarm.
Even though chocolate is a tasty treat for us humans, it’s not considered a safe snack for cats. It doesn’t seem to matter whether the chocolate is white, dark, milk or baking; all forms of chocolate have too much caffeine and theobromine for cats.
In cases where only a small amount of chocolate is consumed by a cat, chances are the cat will be fine. However, if you are ever unsure about the wellbeing of your cat it is important that you call your vet immediately. Your vet will be able to let you know whether or not they think you should be concerned.
Some cats may never experience toxicity from chocolate, however, they may develop a longterm-health problem.
So pet parents, I’m curious, have your cats ever eaten chocolate before? Did they get sick from eating the chocolate or were they fine? Let me know in the comments below!