While it's much more common to hear stories about how a dog got into some chocolate and became quite ill, this delicious treat can actually be quite toxic to our feline companions as well. Here, our Perry veterinarians explain why chocolate is bad for cats, ingredients to avoid - whether in chocolate or not - and what symptoms to look out for to tell if your cat has eaten chocolate and become ill.
Can cats eat chocolate?
While chocolate is a well-loved sweet treat and can be found in all sorts of foods and drinks that people enjoy, it's commonly understood that it can be quite bad for our four-legged companions.
Dogs have a reputation for sneaking an appetizing sweet treat like chocolate and so we hear stories of dealing with its effects on dogs, but cats can also have their health seriously impacted if they eat any chocolate.
Why is chocolate toxic to cats?
Chocolate is, generally speaking, made from milk, sugar, cocao beans and cocoa powder. At a base level, the fats and sugars in chocolate aren't great for your cat's health and can contribute to oral health issues, an upset gastrointestinal tract and weight gain if these ingredients make up too much of your cat's diet.
But the last two ingredients contain a specific substance that can be quite harmful not only to cats but to any animal. Cocoa beans and any product made from them, including chocolate, chocolate ice cream, coffee and more, contain caffeine and theobromine. Both of these substances can't be safely processed by your cat's body and will have a negative impact on your cat's health regardless of how much they consume.
What effect does chocolate have on your cat's body?
Caffeine and theobromine both have similar effects on your cat as their body begins to try and process these chemicals. The following are some of the most common symptoms of the consumption of chocolate - or any substance containing these two molecules - in cats:
- Increased thirst
- Increased heart rate
How much chocolate is too much for a cat?
The short answer is that any amount of chocolate is too much for your cat's body to process. It contains toxic substances to cats and as a result, any amount of chocolate will be harmful to your cat's health.
However, it's important to note that there are differences in severity in how much chocolate your cat eats. If it is only a nibble of milk chocolate, there is no reason to panic - you cat will likely not experience a serious threat to their health (although they will likely feel unwell). However, if your cat takes a nibble of a high cocoa percentage dark chocolate, they are likely to show much more serious symptoms.
At its core, the more cocoa your cat eats if they do get into some chocolate, the more dangerous and toxic it is. A cat would have to eat a lot more milk chocolate to get the same serious and negative health effects as they would experience if they ate a square of dark chocolate.
It's important to reiterate, though, that any amount of chocolate is bad for your cat. Even if your feline companion isn't showing signs of the symptoms listed above after eating a small amount of chocolate, processing the toxic substances it contains is still hard on their body and internal organs and will likely make them uncomfortable.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.