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A sweet treat for humans, chocolate's bad for cats

The essentials

  • Chocolate is bad for cats This is because it contains theobromine and caffeine.
  • Call your vet or animal poison control If you think (or know) your cat has eaten chocolate
  • If your cat eats enough chocolate, it can be fatal Chocolate toxicity varies based on type and amount.
  • Follow your vet’s instructions After your cat has been treated for chocolate toxicity to ensure a complete recovery

Why is chocolate bad for cats? 

Like dogs, cats are sensitive to a compound found in chocolate called theobromine. Studies have found that there are some potential health benefits for humans when they consume theobromine, but the same isn’t true for cats. If a cat consumes too much chocolate they can get sick. Another reason you want to keep your cat away from chocolate is that, like coffee, it contains caffeine which isn’t good for them.

Chocolate treats for humans like chocolate ice cream, Oreos, and other highly processed candy may contain less theobromine and caffeine than pure dark chocolate, or baker’s chocolate that many home cooks keep in their pantries (especially around the holidays).

Even though these treats have less theobromine, they can still make your cat sick. You’ll want to avoid letting them develop a taste for these tempting treats. Additionally, other ingredients like a lot of sugar aren’t good for your cat either. It’s wise to keep all of these foods out of reach of a curious cat — better to be safe than sorry!

👉 Fortunately, most cats don’t have a sweet tooth because cats don’t actually have taste receptors for sweetness.

How much chocolate is bad for cats?

The amount of chocolate that can make a cat sick can vary widely depending on a number of factors. This includes the cat’s age and overall health as well as what kind of chocolate they’ve eaten. Use the chart below as a general guide:

Cat chocolate toxicity chart

The amount of theobromine that a cat needs to consume to be considered toxic is about 200mg/kg. The amount of theobromine in chocolate can vary from candy company to candy company and based on the type of chocolate. We’ve put together this chart to show you how much chocolate an 10 lb cat would need to consume in order for it to be considered a toxic dose*.

Type of chocolate Minimum amount that can be toxic to a 10 lb cat
Milk chocolate 1.5 oz
Dark chocolate 0.7 oz
Semi-sweet chocolate 0.6 oz
Baking chocolate 0.3 oz
White chocolate Not concerning

What are the signs of chocolate poisoning in cats?

If you know (or suspect) that your cat got into some chocolate, you’ll want to call your vet first. Your vet may ask you to monitor your cat for the signs of chocolate poisoning which include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Rapid breathing
  • Restlessness
  • Increased thirst
  • Tremors
  • Hyperactivity
  • Elevated temperature
  • Muscle rigidity
  • Seizures
  • Coma

What should you do if your cat has eaten chocolate?

The first thing you want to do is call your vet, or if it’s after hours, an emergency facility or  ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435. The doctor or vet techs will be able to give you instructions on what to do.

If you know what your cat ate, how much, and approximately when they might have eaten it, this is all good information to tell your vet. This will help them determine the seriousness of the situation. A kitten eating some baker’s chocolate might be more serious than an older cat who got curious about some chocolate cake and just took a swat at the frosting.

How is chocolate toxicity treated?

If your vet asks you to bring your cat in for treatment they’ll start with a physical exam and check your cat’s heart and blood pressure. The vet may also run some diagnostic testing including taking a urine sample, and blood work as well as an Electrocardiogram (ECG) to see if there are any abnormalities.

Treatments might include inducing vomiting to remove any chocolate from your cat’s stomach, providing fluid to prevent dehydration, and treatment of any other symptoms your cat is presenting with.

👉 Unlike with dogs who ingest chocolate, you shouldn’t induce vomiting in cats at home.

Whether your cat needs to stay overnight for monitoring or will be sent home with you after treatment will depend on the severity of your cat’s illness. Remember that when you bring your cat home, you’ll need to follow the vet’s instructions to ensure your cat’s recovery.

How can you help your cat recover at home?

Once your cat is comfy at home, it’s your job to help them fully recover. Your vet will provide some instructions for their care but you’ll probably need to:

Feed your cat a bland diet — After eating chocolate and potentially being forced to vomit up the chocolate (and the entire contents of their stomach), your cat may have a bit of an irritated digestive tract. Your vet may prescribe a prescription food for a few days that’s easier on their stomach. You can also prepare bland food at home following your vet’s instructions.

Keep chocolate and poisons out of your cat’s reach — While this experience was probably stressful enough that neither you nor your cat want it to happen again, it’s your responsibility to keep your cat safe by moving chocolate (and anything else poisonous) to a spot where they can’t reach.

Follow your vet’s guidelines — If your vet provided you with medication or any additional instructions, make sure you follow them carefully to ensure your cat makes a full recovery. Being in a busy vet’s office or emergency room can be overwhelming, so if you didn’t fully understand the instructions or have questions when you’re home, make sure you have an easy way to contact the office.

👉  Some veterinarians will even let you email non-urgent questions.

Should you be concerned about your cat eating chocolate? 

Probably not, although chocolate is one of the ASPCA’s top 4 pet toxins — dogs make up 95% of chocolate calls they receive. That said, it’s better to be safe than sorry so you should store your chocolate (and any other toxic food items) in a drawer, or cabinet that your cat can’t open when you aren’t eating.