Can cats eat chocolate?
I don’t know about you, but I am a serious chocoholic. I love chocolate more than anything else that can be bought in a shop. I eat chocolate when I’m sad to cheer myself up, and I eat chocolate when I’m happy to celebrate.
It is only natural to want to share the things and experiences we love with those we love. Sharing is a great bonding activity, but we must understand that while giving chocolate to your cat might be pleasurable to us, it is unlikely to be pleasurable for the cat.
Chocolate is not a healthy choice for your cat.
Can cats eat chocolate?
Chocolate is very toxic to cats. The reason: Theobromine, a toxic substance when taken in excess (80 to 100 grams of chocolate ingested per kilo that the cat weighs).
The consequences of the cat eating these amounts of chocolate can be accelerated heart rate, diarrhea, vomiting, coma, and death.
General speaking cats stick to eating what they know.
Cats are meat eaters, and most cats will not eat anything else. It is possible however for curiosity to get the better of your cat and it decides to eat some chocolate.
A person who doesn’t know the dangers may tempt a cat to have a nibble. Another scenario is that your toddler decides to give kitty a treat and feeds it chocolate.
What does chocolate contain?
Chocolate contains; milk powder, cacao butter, sugar, milk, flavonoids, alkaloids such as theobromine, phenethylamine, and caffeine.
Cocoa butter contains 50% fat, two saturated fatty acids palmitic and stearic acids and one mono-unsaturated acid, oleic acid. You wouldn’t feed these ingredients to individually to your cats, combined you shouldn’t give it to them either.
The Caffeine, phenethylamine, and the theobromine are the ingredients in chocolate that make us feel good. These chemicals cause our brains to release serotonin into our blood streams. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that behaves as a mood lifter.
In cats, however, these chemicals have the opposite effect. They over-stimulate the heart and the nervous system of cats and make them feel afraid and anxious.
How is chocolate made?
Cocoa trees grow in tropical areas the fruit of the cocoa tree is called a pod. In the wild, this fruit is eaten by monkeys and other animals without ill effect.
So how is it that chocolate is dangerous to our pets. Chocolate is not made from the cocoa pod but from the seed of the pod which is discarded by animals in the wild.
Unusually for plants, the fruit does not grow off small twigs but directly off the trunk of the tree. The seeds are taken and left in the sun for about a week to ferment; they are then dried and packed and sent to the chocolate manufacturer.
I once met a man who had worked on a cocoa plantation his whole life but had never eaten chocolate! He didn’t understand what all the fuss was about.
At the chocolate manufacturer, the seeds are roasted, crushed and pressed, the oil that is extracted is the cocoa butter that is used in chocolate manufacture.
What is the problem with chocolate?
The killer chemicals for cats in chocolate is the theobromine. The darker the chocolate, the more theobromine it contains and the more dangerous it is for your cat.
This substance is a central nervous system stimulant, a cardiac stimulant, it causes smooth muscles to relax and decreases blood pressure it is also a diuretic, which cause the animal to lose bodily fluids, so there is the added risk of dehydration.
This substance can cause your cat to become fatally ill. Unfortunately, this is not the only problem with cats eating chocolate.
Cats are not able to metabolize plant oils, and chocolate contains high quantities of these lipids. An overdose can cause an illness called pancreatitis, a metabolic disease that can be lethal.
How much chocolate is too much?
Although no amount of chocolate is good for your cat as little as 20mg of theobromine per pound weight of your cat can have a toxic effect. That equates to about 15g or .5 Oz (3 blocks) of chocolate at one sitting to kill your cat.
Teach all the members of the family that chocolate is poisonous to pets. Prevention is far superior to cure.
Reactions you can expect from a cat who has eaten chocolate
A minimal reaction or low reaction could cause an upset stomach, diarrhea and or agitation.
A mild reaction could also include vomiting, shaking, elevated heart rate and increased urination.
A moderate to the severe reaction can include tremors seizures, irregular or rapid heartbeat and the potential for collapse.
The most severe cases are potentially fatal. The animal will be hot to the touch and experience breathing problems racing heart and even sudden death.
Are all types of chocolate equally dangerous?
No, not all chocolate is equally dangerous. The purer or darker the chocolate, the more toxic it will be for your cat.
Say your cat weighs 3 kg 6.6 lbs it will take about 70 g 2.5 oz (about one small slab) of milk chocolate to cause a severe reaction. It will take about 25 g .8 oz (five blocks) of semi-sweet chocolate to poison the same cat. Only 10 g .3 oz (2 squares) of dark bakers chocolate is enough to put your kitty in danger.
Most dangerous of all, however, is dry cocoa powder, the kind you use to make hot chocolate. A teaspoon full is enough to kill a cat.
The powder is particularly dangerous because it is also a choking hazard. If the powder is inhaled, it blocks the airways and can cause suffocation.
White chocolate is almost non-toxic, but that doesn’t mean that it is good for cats. These figures are made from average cases, obviously individual reactions will change from cat to cat.
One animal may be more sensitive to the compounds than another. What the cat has eaten recently will also make a difference to the reaction that is produced.
The general health of the cat is also important, the fitter and stronger the cat is the more likely it is to withstand the effects of the poisoning. The size of the animal also makes a difference the heavier the cat, the less effect the poison will have on it. A kitten will also be at risk than an adult cat.
Chocolate is more toxic for cats than it is for dogs because dogs are omnivores; which means that their digestive systems are able to cope with many different types of food.
Cats, on the other hand, are carnivores which mean that their digestive system is designed to cope with animal protein only. Even though this is truly more, dogs die from chocolate poisoning than cats.
Cats are very discerning about what they will eat, and they will almost always avoid food that is not good for them. Dogs will eat almost anything that they come across.
If your cat does eat chocolate or chocolate products because they are more sensitive, there is cause for concern. Rather be safe than sorry and if your cat has eaten chocolate take it to the vet.
What to do if your cat eats chocolate?
Cats digest plant matter very poorly so in some cases it can take up to four days for the chocolate to make your cat ill.
If you see that it has eaten chocolate, it is best to take it to the vet.
If possible take a sample of the vomit or diarrhea with you when you see the vet as these fluids can be tested to determine the nature and degree of the poisoning.
If it is within two hours of eating the chocolate, the vet may induce it to vomit, thereby removing the toxins before it makes the cat sick. It will likely be given activated charcoal which a very absorbent substance to help prevent further toxins entering into the cat’s blood system.
The cat will most likely receive intravenous fluids to keep the body hydrated and help to flush the system of the toxins. A catheter may also be inserted to keep the bladder empty to prevent re-absorption of the poison into the blood stream. Artificial ventilation may be required in severe cases.
The vet will medicate the cat to control the situation. Under the care and support of a trained professional chocolate ingestion does not have to be a death sentence.
- It is unusual for a cat to eat chocolate unless it is enticed.
- Many of the substances that are found in chocolate are good for humans but poisonous to cats.
- Not only the stimulants but the fat in chocolate are dangerous for your cat
- The darker the chocolate, the more dangerous it is for your cat
- White chocolate is not usually toxic, but it is still not a good choice for your cat.
- Reactions to eating chocolate range from an upset stomach to convulsions and death
- Chocolate is more toxic for cats than for dogs.
- If your cat has eaten chocolate take it to the vet immediately
- It can take time for the symptoms to show
- Educate all the members of your household of the dangers of feeding chocolate to cats.
It would be great to hear any stories or comments you may have to share; please include your thought below. If you found this article useful or interesting, please share with all the cat lovers you know.