I love indulging in chocolate almost as much as I love giving my cat delicious treats. But I’ve always wondered if it’s safe to feed chocolate to a cat. So recently, I did a ton of research to find out if it’s okay, and I was shocked by what I found.
If you like sharing food with your cats, there’s a good chance you’ve also been wondering, can my cat eat chocolate? Chocolate is extremely dangerous for cats, and it can cause very serious health complications, including diarrhea, seizures, cardiac failure, and even death. While eating a tiny bit of chocolate isn’t likely to kill a cat, it is highly recommended to keep chocolate away from cats.
Now that I know what can happen, there’s no way I’ll be sharing any of my chocolate treats with my cat.
There are a few ingredients in chocolate that make it a harmful food for cats.
This means that the type of chocolate (milk chocolate or dark chocolate) can also be a determining factor in how dangerous the chocolate is.
The common side effects can be pretty severe, and they aren’t pretty at all.
This is definitely on my list of dangerous foods for cats.
What Happens If A Cat Eats Chocolate?
Because chocolate is harmful to cats, the side effects can be pretty gruesome.
Key ingredients in chocolate, including:
This can affect cats in a very different way than they affect people.
While it’s a common mistake, it’s extremely dangerous to assume that what’s edible for humans is also edible for cats.
The average person would have to eat tons and tons of chocolate before seeing the dangerous effects of theobromine and caffeine on the body.
Cats, however, are much smaller and have key physiological differences that put them at risk.
In other words, cats are just built differently.
This means that it only takes a small amount of chocolate to have devastating effects on a cat’s system.
Even a little bit of chocolate can induce the side effects triggered when there is too much theobromine or caffeine in the system.
And the side effects of eating chocolate can be pretty horrible for cats…
Not to mention, frightening.
Side Effects Of A Cat Eating Chocolate:
- Increased heart rate and more…
Chocolate can cause extreme diarrhea in cats.
While obviously unpleasant, this is also dangerous for the little feline.
Diarrhea gets rid of liquids inside the body really fast.
Water is essential to a cat’s system, so expelling fluids at such an increased rate puts extra stress on the body.
A cat with excessive diarrhea is at a real risk of dehydration.
Another side effect of chocolate is an increased, abnormal heart rate.
Because caffeine is a common component of chocolate, it is likely to affect the cat’s cardiovascular system.
Caffeine can cause an elevated heart rate, meaning the cat’s heart will beat much faster than is healthy.
Also, the caffeine in chocolate can also result in an abnormal heart rhythm.
Often, these sudden changes in heartbeat are too much for a cat’s body to handle.
When a cat eats chocolate, it’s also at risk of additional effects on the body that is even more serious, including:
Because the body simply isn’t built to handle the theobromine and caffeine found within chocolate, the response is swift.
Tremors and seizures are a common reaction that cats experience after ingesting food with chocolate in it.
But it gets even worse…
Chocolate is much more than just poisonous for cats.
It’s lethal, too.
This means that cats can die from eating chocolate.
When the side effects:
- increased heart rate
- abnormal heart rhythm
Start to kick in, it’s only a matter of time for the cat’s internal system to shut down and result in death.
When I found this out, I felt horrible about even considering sharing a bite of chocolate cake with my cat.
But now that I know what can happen when a cat eats chocolate, there’s absolutely no way I’ll be tempted to share my chocolate cookies, chocolate milk, Hershey’s kisses… or anything at all with chocolate in it with my cats.
It’s just not worth the risk!
What Makes Chocolate Bad For Cats?
There are some components found in chocolate that are just plain dangerous for cats to ingest.
Chocolate is commonly made out of cocoa solids combined with other ingredients.
Cocoa solids contain:
Both of these can be bad for cats!
First of all, theobromine is a bitter alkaloid found in the plant that chocolate comes from cacao.
Also known as xantheose, this chemical compound is a diuretic with two main effects:
- First, it is a muscle relaxant that affects smooth muscle tissue.
- Secondly, it is a cardiac stimulant, which means that it stimulates the heart to beat faster.
While humans can roll with the punches of theobromine quite easily, cats cannot.
It only takes a small amount of theobromine for a cat’s digestive system to become completely overwhelmed.
The results, as mentioned before, can be severe, leading to seizures and even death.
That’s why theobromine is generally considered toxic to cats.
Like theobromine, caffeine is also a natural component of cocoa, and thus chocolate.
Caffeine is a kind of substance classified as a methylxanthine.
The effects of caffeine are similar to that of theobromine because it is also a stimulant.
However, caffeine targets the central nervous system.
I drink caffeine all the time!
Coffee, soda, tea… the list goes on.
But I guess I never considered how a little bit of caffeine can trigger such a scary sequence of events for an animal as small as my cat.
It turns out that this stimulant contributes to the risk of a dangerous cardiac event for felines, including an abnormal heartbeat that can propel to dangerous speeds.
Since chocolate has both of these ingredients, it’s definitely not a good idea to share any amount of chocolate with your cat.
Is A Little Bit of Chocolate Okay?
It is not recommended to give any amount of chocolate to your cat.
In fact, cats don’t typically gravitate towards this food the way us humans do.
I have to confess, I have a weak spot for anything chocolate:
- candy bars
- ice cream
I could go on!
Yet cats are different.
They aren’t naturally drawn towards chocolate, because the sweetness isn’t a big attraction for them like it is for us.
But even though cats aren’t likely to take a bite of chocolate on their own, there are some occasions when it might happen.
For example, baked goods that have bits of chocolate in them, like chocolate chip cookies, pose a threat because the cat may be interested in the bread portion of the treat and take a bite.
Likewise, ice cream and chocolate milk are likely to tempt cats to take a lick.
So while it isn’t likely that your cat is going to take a big bite of chocolate cake, it may ingest chocolate as part of other tasty treats sitting around.
If your cat has ingested a tiny bit of chocolate, don’t freak out just yet.
There’s a good chance it will be okay, as long as it only swallowed a small portion of chocolate.
A couple of licks of chocolate ice cream or a small bite of a chocolate chip cookie is not likely to result in a lethal amount of chocolate.
However, the side effects of chocolate are no laughing matter.
Don’t offer or coax your cat into eating anything with chocolate in it.
The risks definitely are not worth it!
Remember, no matter how much we enjoy eating chocolate, it’s not the same for cats.
Just don’t do it.
If you have a cat, you’re probably very familiar with one of the facts of life that all cat owners know:
- Cats have a mind of their own!
So in the event that your cat has snuck its way onto the kitchen counter to explore, it’s possible that it has taken a taste of the forbidden fruit… chocolate.
Be sure to contact your veterinarian if you think your cat has swallowed any food made up of a moderate amount of chocolate.
Also, keep your eyes peeled for the common side effects, as these can be indicators that the cat is being affected by the dangerous toxins found in chocolate.
Are Different Kinds of Chocolate More Dangerous?
This got me thinking about all the wonderful things I love that have a bit of chocolate in it.
- What about chocolate milk?
- And chocolate pudding?
- Does milk chocolate have the same risk of toxicity for cats as dark chocolate?
With my research, I learned that it’s never a good idea to give chocolate to a cat, even if different kinds of chocolate have different levels of toxicity.
Determining how dangerous this may depend on the cocoa included.
Because theobromine and caffeine are natural ingredients of the cacao plant, they will be more present when the chocolate is purer.
This means that milk chocolate, which is blended with milk during the production process, has a lower concentration of theobromine and caffeine than dark chocolate.
This makes dark chocolate a more dangerous substance for cats than milk chocolate.
However, even though a certain kind of chocolate is, technically “less dangerous”, it doesn’t mean that it’s safe!
So even though milk chocolate is, in a way, less dangerous than dark chocolate, it is still considered harmful.
Therefore, I won’t be tempting my cat with milk chocolate either!
Cats love milk.
So I wanted to know if chocolate milk was also a harmful food for cats.
I assumed there wouldn’t be as much chocolate present in chocolate milk since it’s mostly milk.
But as I discovered in my research, even though chocolate is included with less density, chocolate milk is not okay for cats, either.
Even the low levels of chocolate found in chocolate milk can cause diarrhea and stomach cramps for your little furry friend, if not worse.
Scratch chocolate pudding off the grocery list, too, because that’s a big no-no for cats.
Chocolate pudding, much like chocolate milk, still contains enough chocolate to cause dangerous side effects in felines.
Can cats taste chocolate?
Cats have a different palette than humans, meaning they can taste some things that people can’t. Vice versa, while we typically enjoy sweet flavors, cats do not have the ability to taste sweetness. Therefore, they cannot ‘taste’ chocolate in the same way that we do.
Can cats eat chocolate ice cream?
Cats should not eat any chocolate, including chocolate ice cream, as even a small amount can cause harmful side effects, such as diarrhea. Because chocolate ice cream has a smaller concentration of cocoa than pure chocolate, it is not likely to cause as severe of a reaction as pure chocolate. However, even a moderate amount of chocolate ice cream can result in discomfort, stomach issues and the risk of seizures in cats.
My cat ate chocolate; what do I do?
If possible, determine how much chocolate your cat has eaten, as 2-3 licks of chocolate is not likely to have lethal consequences. If the cat has eaten a moderate amount of chocolate or the amount of chocolate can’t be determined, consult your veterinarian as soon as possible.
If only a tiny amount of chocolate has been ingested, pay close attention to your cat’s behavior over the next 24 hours. If any side effects (diarrhea, muscle weakness, tremors, etc.) appear, contact your veterinarian immediately.
How much chocolate can a cat eat?
While a small amount of chocolate (a few licks or a small bite) is not likely to result in death, it is possible that the cat will have an upset stomach or diarrhea. Larger amounts of chocolate can have more serious health effects. This is due to the harmful ingredient theobromine, which is much more difficult for cats to metabolize than it is for their people friends. Because of this, it is not recommended for cats to ingest any chocolate at all.