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Is Chocolate Bad For Cats?

Laura Richards
June 8, 2017

You know it's bad for dogs but is chocolate bad for cats, too? Find out and learn what to do if your feline friend ingests this sweet.

Is chocolate bad for cats? The typical cat doesn't have a sweet tooth, but some cats may accidentally ingest chocolate via cookies, cakes, breads, ice cream or candy. Being an informed pet owner or pet sitter is key.

Why Is Chocolate Bad for Cats?
According to Dr. Taylor Truitt, a veterinarian and the co-founder of The Vet Set, the two compounds in chocolate that are toxic to cats are theobromine and caffeine -- both of which fall under a chemical group called methylxanthines. These are the same two compounds that are toxic to dogs. "Methylxanthines stimulate the cardiac and nervous systems causing excitation, hyperactivity, an elevated heart rate and even psychosis," says Dr. Truitt.
 


What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Chocolate Ingestion?
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), the signs and symptoms a cat exhibits after ingesting chocolate depend upon the type, amount and its level of toxicity. These include nausea and vomiting, agitation, abdominal pain or discomfort, increased thirst, muscle tremors, fever and seizures.

A cat can also suffer from cardiac arrhythmia after ingesting a toxic amount of chocolate and an arrhythmia isn't something cat owners would be able to detect on their own. If a highly toxic amount of chocolate was consumed it could be deadly, so it's important to keep a watchful eye on your cat and keep chocolate locked away or out of reach.

What About Different Types of Chocolate?

 

 

 

 


The darker the chocolate, the greater the toxicity. For example, "If you compare one ounce of dark chocolate with one ounce of milk chocolate, the dark chocolate ounce for ounce has a much greater concentration of theobromine and caffeine versus the milk chocolate due to its higher cocoa concentration," says Dr. Truitt.

Here's how type and size determine toxicity:

 

  1. Lower Toxicity
    White chocolate has a low level of methylxanthines, so it's minimally toxic. Milk chocolate has a higher level of methylxanthines than white chocolate but compared with darker chocolate it's considered less toxic to cats.
     
  2. Higher Toxicity
    Dark baker's chocolate has a very high level of methylxanthines. Dry, unsweetened cocoa powder contains the most concentrated levels of methylxanthines and is the most toxic of all types of chocolate to cats.


Dr. Truitt explains that chocolate consumption is a ratio between the amount the cat weighs, the amount the cat consumes and the percentage of cocoa in the chocolate. If a large heavy cat consumes milk chocolate he would have to consume more compared to a smaller cat that consumes milk chocolate to equal the toxicity level.

When Should You Visit the Vet?
Dr. Truitt says, "Cats showing more than mild restlessness should be seen by a veterinarian immediately." If you ever have any concerns about the amount of chocolate your cat has consumed, contact your veterinarian right away to evaluate the potential toxic amount consumed.

"Fortunately, cats consuming chocolate is a much more rare incidence versus dogs where it's quite common," says Dr. Truitt. If your cat is suspected of having consumed chocolate and is showing any of the above listed signs and symptoms, this could be an emergency, and veterinary care should be sought immediately.

Interested in how chocolate affects other pets? Take a gander at My Dog Ate Chocolate But Seems OK: What Do I Do?

Laura Richards is a Boston-based freelance writer and the mother of four boys including a set of identical twins and is also mom to three rescue pets: Scarlett, a 7-year-old beagle, and Edith and Ollie, 15-year-old identical twin black cats. She has written for numerous parenting publications and is the president of On Point Communications.

* This article is for general informational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be providing medical advice and is not a substitute for such advice. The reader should always consult a health care provider concerning any medical condition or treatment plan. Neither Care.com nor the author assumes any responsibility or liability with respect to use of any information contained herein.

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