Can cats eat chocolate?

While they’re not quite as likely to gate crash the Easter egg stash and gobble the lot like a dog might, cats can sometimes get a taste for chocolate. Most owners know that chocolate is bad for dogs, but do you know if cats can eat chocolate?
Cat resting indoors
Cat resting indoors
Cat resting indoors

Can cats eat chocolate?

Even though they’re less likely to try and steal it away from under your nose, chocolate is still bad for cats, just as it is for dogs. While a chocolate bar may not appeal to them, any kind of milk-based chocolate drink can certainly be a risk around any feline!

Chocolate and cocoa contain an ingredient called theobromine, which is naturally metabolised in the human body, but not in cats or dogs. This leads to a toxic build-up of the substance, which can lead to some very serious symptoms, particularly liver failure.

Your cat doesn’t have to eat a great deal of chocolate to suffer problems as a result, so try to keep it out of reach, and out of sight, of all your pets. It’s impossible to calculate exactly how much chocolate it takes to make a cat ill, as every animal’s metabolism is different, but there are some factors that you can take into account. This includes your pet’s size and weight, and the kind of chocolate they have eaten. Dark, bitter, chocolate has a far higher theobromine content than milk or white chocolate.

Symptoms of chocolate poisoning in cats

If you suspect your cat has eaten chocolate, watch out for the any of the following symptoms:

  • Restlessness
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Increased rate of breathing
  • Increased heart rate
  • Heightened temperature
  • Seizures
  • Muscle rigidity

If you notice any of these symptoms in your cat, contact a vet as soon as possible.

What to do if your cat eats chocolate

The best thing that you can do if you notice that your cat has eaten chocolate is to keep a close eye on them. If your cat is usually allowed outdoors, keep them inside for at least 24 hours to ensure that they don’t develop any symptoms: be sure to keep doors and windows closed, and watch out for your cat as you come and go from the house.

Grey cat eating

If you catch your cat in the act of eating chocolate, take them to a vet as soon as possible. If caught early enough, a vet can induce vomiting to try to rid the toxic element from your pet’s system before it builds up. It may be that your cat naturally vomits after eating chocolate, but don’t try to induce vomiting by yourself at home without the express advice of a qualified vet.

Try to determine exactly how much, and what kind, of chocolate your cat has consumed: saving the wrappers or packets can useful for this. When visiting your vet, bring any packaging you can find with you, as it will help them to determine the level of risk to your cat. Knowing your cat’s size and weight will also be helpful when speaking with a vet over the phone: this another useful way of assessing the risk to your cat.

When visiting a vet, they will probably perform a number of tests, including a full physical exam and probably taking a urine sample. They may also conduct an ECG (heart test) to determine whether there are any abnormalities in your pet’s heart rate. Once symptoms are being exhibited, there is no ‘cure’ other than treating the symptoms. It is likely that IV fluids will be administered, and if the liver has been affected, your cat will be treated for liver disease.

Alternatives to chocolate for cats

Even in the unlikely event that a cat develops a taste for chocolate, you should never give in to the urge to treat them with this human food. Instead, find specially formulated and feline-safe treats to give them: chocolate for cats is never a good idea!

There are many cat treats available that not only appeal to your pet’s tastes and sense of smell, but also offer a range of health benefits. Find cat treats that are not only appetising, but also contain additional nutrients to support your cat’s diet and help with dental care. And remember—treating your cat isn’t just about food. Giving them time, attention, and love can be just as good as a chocolatey treat in their eyes!