Grey cat in front of chocolate cake

There are so many cat treats available that are safe and not chocolate.

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Is chocolate bad for cats?

By Dr Karen Ingleby BVetMed MRCVS Veterinarian

Updated on the

If you're thinking of sharing chocolate with your cat as a treat, think again, as it's very toxic to them.

Sometimes us humans like to share our treats with our pets. And who doesn’t like a chocolate treat now and again? But something that definitely shouldn’t be shared with our cats is chocolate.

Chocolate comes from cocoa beans and within these there are a few things that are damaging to many animals. The main two are called theobromine and caffeine, and when eaten they can cause multiple different problems.

What are the symptoms of chocolate toxicity in a cat?

In the early stage of chocolate toxicity symptoms may include drinking lots, vomiting, diarrhoea, bloated tummy and generally appearing restless. Then it may progress and symptoms can include your cat having a fever, appearing wobbly on their legs and/or appearing rigid, tremoring and starting to have seizures. Other signs can include quick breathing and heart rate, and a slightly blue colour to theirs gums.

There are also likely to be other symptoms you cannot see but which a vet would pick up, like a change in their blood pressure or heart rhythm. Unfortunately, the most serious cases can result in heart failure or a coma. The symptoms seen in a cat will depend on how much is eaten and what type of chocolate it was they ate. As a rule, the more cocoa in the chocolate, the more theobromine and caffeine, and therefore the worse the effects seen.

How long after a cat eats chocolate will symptoms show?

To some degree this will depend on the amount of chocolate the cat ate and what type, with darker chocolates being more poisonous. Symptoms of chocolate poisoning in cats usually start to show within 6 to 12 hours of your cat eating it, but occasionally it can take up to a day.

How is chocolate poisoning in cats diagnosed?

Diagnosis is usually based on you as owners telling the vet you suspect that your cat has eaten some chocolate. But if that is unknown, then it will based on the symptoms the cat is showing, along with an examination by the vet and possibly taking some bloods and urine to see if there if the chocolate has caused any damage to body systems.

How do I know if my cat ate chocolate?

Unfortunately, unless you saw your cat eat chocolate, the first thing you will see are signs like drinking lots, vomiting, diarrhoea, bloated tummy and generally appearing restless. These signs are not specific to chocolate eating though and many conditions can cause these, but if this quite quickly deteriorates and you see a wobbly cat, with rigid legs or starting to seizure, it is likely your cat has eaten some chocolate. Call a vet immediately.

How is chocolate poisoning in cats treated?

Treatment will depend on how long ago your cat ate the chocolate and what symptoms they are showing. If you have literally just seen your cat eat chocolate, contact the vet immediately and they are likely to recommend you bring them in to make the animal sick and hopefully prevent any of the toxins getting into the cat’s system.

If your cat is already showing signs of chocolate poisoning, then treatment will be focused around their symptoms. If they are tremoring, seizing or showing heart rhythm changes, they are likely to need to need fluids and treatment into the vein and monitoring their temperature and urine. Signs can continue for 3-4 days in serious cases and, after the episode, it is likely you will be recommended to feed your cat a bland diet for several days. Also, because of the high fat content of many chocolate products, pancreatitis can occur 24 to 72 hours after ingestion.

How much chocolate is toxic to cats?

Different types of chocolate have different amounts of theobromine in them. The higher the percentage of cocoa solids the more theobromine it has, so dark chocolate or cooking chocolate often have high amounts, whereas white chocolate doesn’t contain cocoa so is not a worry. The amount to cause toxicity will also depend on the size of the cat, but as an example for an average sized cat eating 15 grams or half an oz of dark chocolate this will be toxic.

When you contact a vet, they may ask you a few questions about the type of chocolate, how much they ate and the weight of your animal, so that they can put this information into a chocolate toxicity calculator, which will help them determine how much theobromine and caffeine your cat has consumed.

What should I do if my cat eats chocolate?

Contact a vet and provide them with information about what type of chocolate, how long ago and about how much you think they ate. It is likely the vet will tell you to come straight into the practice.

What alternatives to chocolate are there for cats?

There are so many cat treats available that are safe and which your cat would probably prefer. Whatever treats you are giving your cats, make sure it only allows for a maximum of 10 per cent of their daily diet, and make sure they are safe and nontoxic. If in doubt, speak to a vet for advice.

When should I see a vet?

If you have seen your cat eat chocolate, seek veterinary advise immediately. If you are concerned that your cat may have eaten chocolate, again, seek veterinary advice, getting treatment as early as possible will result in a better outcome. If your cat is showing any of the symptoms of chocolate toxicity, then contact a vet.

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