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My Cat Ate Chocolate! Here’s What to Do (Vet Answer)

vet approved graphicAn unusual fact about cats is that they can’t taste sweet foods – they don’t have the right taste receptors on their tongue. So, why would a cat eat chocolate?  It is more likely the high fat or milk content of some chocolate that cats find irresistible. Your cat could also accidentally eat chocolate hidden in other food preparations, and some cats are just nosey and like to taste everything they come across. In this article, we’re going to look at whether chocolate is bad for cats, and what you should do if you find your cat eating chocolate.

divider-catclaw1Is chocolate toxic to cats?

The bad news is that chocolate can harm your cat if eaten. Theobromine and caffeine are two pet toxins found in chocolate. Chocolate has these compounds in different amounts depending on if it is dark, milk, or white. Fats and sugars are other less worrying ingredients, but they can still cause harm.

What about cooked chocolate? Well, the risks to your cat still apply when chocolate is baked in cakes, added to sweet treats, or drinks. It is wise to remember that chocolate is also commonly mixed with other ingredients that can harm your cat, such as raisins or nuts.

Since most cats are less inclined to scavenge than dogs, it is not as common for cats to eat chocolate, and when they do it tends to be in smaller amounts. However, your cat does not always know what is bad for them and they can be tempted by tasty treats. Chocolate toxicity affects cats just as badly as it does dogs, so do your best to keep chocolate out of reach of your furry friends.

If your cat has eaten chocolate or you think they may have, call your veterinary clinic for advice.

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Credit: kuban_girl, Shutterstock

How much chocolate is safe for cats?

Any amount of chocolate could harm your cat, but some preparations are more dangerous than others. Theobromine and caffeine are found in the cocoa beans used to make chocolate. The higher the cocoa content of the chocolate, the more toxic it is to your cat. So, dark chocolate, baking chocolate, and cocoa powder are more hazardous than milk or white chocolate. However, milk chocolate could be as dangerous as dark chocolate if your cat eats lots of it.

Your cat’s size will also determine whether they develop signs of chocolate toxicity. The smaller your cat, the less chocolate they can tolerate. In cats, we do not know the exact quantity of chocolate that causes chocolate toxicity. But there have been cases where only a tiny amount of chocolate has caused illness. So, you should call your veterinarian regardless of how much chocolate your cat has eaten.

White chocolate contains traces or zero amounts of theobromine and caffeine because no cocoa solids are used to make it. However, its high milk, cocoa butter, and sugar content could harm your cat. Food that is high in fats and sugar can cause vomiting, diarrhea, pancreatitis, and obesity. In the long-term, you could even end up with a diabetic cat.

How long after eating chocolate will a cat get sick?

Your cat could become unwell within two hours of eating chocolate. Some signs of chocolate toxicity can develop 24 hours later. Don’t wait for symptoms to develop if you know for sure your cat has eaten chocolate as treatment becomes more difficult the longer you wait.

The main symptoms of chocolate toxicity are:

  • Excitability or unsettled
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Fast or irregular heartbeat
  • High temperature
  • Drinking more
  • Urinating more

Your cat may develop a stomach upset first. You may then notice your cat is thirsty or is urinating more. Muscle or body tremors and excitability usually follow. They may feel hot to touch, especially the ear tips. The more advanced and serious symptoms are seizures, and heart abnormalities, which may take longer to develop. These symptoms will be the most difficult to treat and maybe irreversible, so it is vital to get your cat veterinary treatment as soon as you can. Unfortunately, chocolate toxicity can cause death.

Some symptoms may not be directly related to chocolate toxicity. For example, pancreatitis and gut problems can be caused by any food, especially those high in fats and sugars like white chocolate. Your veterinarian will be able to identify whether your cat is suffering from chocolate toxicity or another illness.

3 cat face dividerMy cat ate chocolate – what do I do?

If your cat has eaten chocolate, you should:
  1. Move chocolate away from your cat so they do not eat anymore.
  2. If you can see chocolate in your cat’s mouth, try to retrieve it if it is safe to do so. Take care not to get bitten or scratched. You could try bribing your cat with something tastier, like a small amount of tuna in spring water.
  3. Check how much chocolate, the type of chocolate (dark, milk, white, or other), and when your cat ate it. This will be vital history to give your veterinarian so they can provide the best advice. If you have the candy wrapper or packaging, keep it to show them if needed.
  4. Call your veterinary clinic and tell them what has happened. If your clinic is closed, call the emergency line or your veterinarian’s emergency provider.
  5. Transport your cat safely and calmly to the clinic if asked to do so. If your cat is having seizures, wrap them in a blanket and put them in their cat box to protect them as much as possible. Take care not to get bitten or scratched, as your cat may be confused. If you are struggling to move your cat, call your veterinary clinic for advice.

How can I make my cat puke? Should I?

Do not try to make your cat vomit. If your cat has eaten chocolate, you should speak to your veterinarian before attempting anything at home. You could make your cat’s condition worse if you try to make them sick. A cat should not be forced to vomit if they have chocolate toxicity symptoms, or if you have a young, old, or diabetic cat, for example. If you have seen your cat vomiting, you should still call your veterinarian, who will advise you.

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Credit: BirdShutterB, Shutterstock

What happens if a cat eats chocolate? What will the vet do?

The treatment your cat receives will depend on when they ate chocolate, the type of chocolate, how much, and whether they have symptoms of chocolate toxicity. Your veterinarian will need some of this information from you. A veterinary examination will help determine what needs to happen next.

Your cat may not have signs of chocolate toxicity. In this case, your veterinarian may give them an injection to make them vomit. If they bring the chocolate up, you may be able to take your cat home again. Your cat may also receive activated charcoal, which is given by mouth. This reduces the absorption of toxins into your cat’s body.

If your cat has chocolate poisoning, their symptoms need treating. Unfortunately, there is no antidote, so the treatment depends on the symptoms your cat is displaying. This may include intravenous fluids, anti-seizure medication, anti-sickness medication, or medication to control heart problems. Your cat may need to stay in a veterinary clinic for treatment if they are unwell.

Will a cat die if it eats chocolate?

The risk of death to your cat from eating chocolate depends on the type of chocolate eaten, how much, and how quickly they receive treatment after eating it. Dark chocolate is more likely to cause death if eaten by your cat, but milk chocolate can be just as risky if consumed in large amounts. A cat with severe toxicity that develops seizures or heart problems may not survive. Swift veterinary treatment is critical to give the best prognosis. Although not common, a cat could die from eating chocolate.

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Conclusion

Chocolate can cause your cat harm in any amount and any preparation. So, you should avoid deliberately feeding chocolate or anything that contains chocolate to your cat. While a small amount of chocolate low in cocoa may not cause harm, the toxic dose for cats is unknown. If your cat develops chocolate toxicity, it could result in death. If your cat eats any type or amount of chocolate, call your veterinarian for advice.

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Featured image credit: congerdesign, Pixabay