Cats should not eat chocolate. Ever.
Chocolate contains an alkaloid from the cacao plant known as theobromine which cats (and dogs) are incapable of metabolising.
An excess of theobromine will create a toxic build up which can cause liver failure, this can be fatal.
What To Do If Your Cat Eats Chocolate
If you catch your cat eating chocolate or you suspect that they may have eaten some (maybe you’ve found a half-chewed chocolate bar) then take the following steps:
- Keep a close eye on them for the next 24 hours – Don’t allow them outside for 24 hours, keep all doors, windows and cat flaps firmly closed and watch out for any of the symptoms listed below.
- If your cat has a history of chocolate-related illness and you catch them eating chocolate then it is a good idea to take them to the vet. Your vet may be able to induce vomiting to prevent them from getting ill – Whatever you do don’t try and force your cat to vomit yourself as this can be dangerous if it is not done by a qualified expert.
- Work how much and what exactly they ate and inform your vet – the more theobromine your cat ate the more severe their reaction is likely to be. If they just had a small bite of chocolate cake the effects are likely to be negligible however if they ate a full bar of Cadburys then they could have a serious reaction.
- Tell the vet your cats size and weight – a big cat can get away with eating more theobromine than a smaller cat so it is important that your vet is made aware of your cat’s size if you are speaking to them over the phone.
If your vet thinks that the situation is serious enough then you may have to take your cat to have intravenous fluid treatment to flush the toxins out their liver.
Why Is Theobromine So Dangerous To Cats?
Theobromine is a stimulant which is closely related to caffeine.
Theobromine is a plant-based alkaloid, other plant-based alkaloids which you may have heard of include morphine, cocaine, nicotine and caffeine.
In comparison Theobromine seems fairly tame as it is only really known as a mild stimulant.
Theobromine works as a stimulant by elevating heart rate while dilating blood vessels and sometimes opening up airways. It also interacts with the central nervous system. In humans this rarely causes a problem (unless you go really wild with the chocolate), in fact scientists are looking into using it in cough medication.
However when a cat eats too much theobromine this can cause vomiting, fitting and even in some cases internal bleeding due to the heart being overstimulated, this can also lead to a heart attack.
Symptoms Of Chocolate Overdose in Cats
If you have seen your cat eat chocolate or think they may have eaten chocolate recently then you should confine them to a place where you can keep a close eye on them and watch out for any of the following symptoms:
- An unusual level of restlessness
- Diarrhoea and/or vomiting
- Faster breathing
- Increased body temperature
- Muscle stiffness
- Seizures or fitting
If you notice any of these symptoms your cat requires immediate veterinary care.
How Much Chocolate Can Kill a Cat?
It’s a morbid question but one that often gets asked.
It’s impossible to say exactly how much chocolate will kill a cat because every cat is different.
A big mature cat will be able to stomach much more chocolate than a young kitten.
2omg of theobromine, in theory, is enough to kill a cat. In some dark chocolates there is enough theobromine contained in just one square to cause the death of a small cat.
If your cat has eaten one square of chocolate don’t immediately panic, this doesn’t mean your cat is moments away from death. Instead watch out for any of the symptoms mentioned above, unless your cat is very small they will probably be okay.
How To Prevent Your Cat From Eating Chocolate
Most cats have very little interest in eating chocolate as they do not have the necessary taste receptors in their tongue to detect sugar.
The fact that you are reading this article probably means that your cat is the one exception to this rule. The reason for that is likely to be that your cat is attracted to the high-fat content of chocolate, cats can develop a taste for sweet fatty foods if their owner makes a habit of feeding them this kind of food.
Here are a few things you can do to stop your cat eating chocolate:
- Store your chocolate in a cat-proof box – Keep it locked away in a tin in a cupboard that your cat definitely can’t get into. Leaving it in a biscuit tin on your kitchen worktop means your cat may knock it onto the floor and then eat it, so be careful where you store your chocolate.
- Make sure your cat is getting enough calories – your cat may be trying to eat chocolate because they are not being fed enough, improving their diet by adding some good quality wet cat food may help diminish their desire to search for things they shouldn’t be eating.
- Stop feeding them any type of sweet food – over time they will lose their love for it, and their desire to eat chocolate will diminish.
Alternative Treats For Cats
If your cat hankers for sweet treats, do not give in. Instead, offer them something that they will enjoy or something which will be good for them, it doesn’t have to be edible.
Catnip, or spending 5 minutes of your time playing with them can be just as good, if not better, than an edible treat.
If you must give them something edible it is always safest to stay away from human foods and give them something specifically designed for cats.