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Can cats eat chocolate?

The essentials

  • Chocolate can be fatal for cats — This is because it contains theobromine and caffeine, both of which are toxic for your feline friend.
  • Watch for signs of chocolate poisoning — If your cat has ingested chocolate, chocolate poisoning signs will usually occur within 6-12 hours. 
  • Never induce vomiting at home — Inducing vomiting at home if your cat has ingested chocolate is very dangerous and should only be performed by a vet.

Cats cannot safely eat chocolate in any form. Even a small amount of chocolate can be fatal for cats. Here’s everything you need to know about cats, chocolate consumption, and symptoms of chocolate poisoning in your feline.

Why is chocolate bad for cats?

Like dogs, cats are sensitive to a compound found in chocolate called theobromine, as mentioned above. This plus caffeine (which is a common stimulant) can be highly toxic or fatal once it’s absorbed.  

Studies have found that there are some potential health benefits for humans when they consume theobromine, but the same isn’t true for cats. Additionally, other ingredients found in chocolate (like sugar and flavors) aren’t good for your cat either. As pet parents, 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.

🚨If your cat may have eaten chocolate, contact your vet or the Pet Poison Helpline at 888-426-4435.

What are the signs of chocolate poisoning in cats?

If your cat is experiencing chocolate poisoning, symptoms will usually occur within 6-12 hours after your cat ingests chocolate, and can last for up to 3 days in severe cases. 

If you know (or suspect) that your cat got into some chocolate, you’ll want to call your emergency vet first and do your best to monitor their heart rate until you get to the office. 

Your vet may ask you to monitor your cat for signs of chocolate toxicity which include symptoms like:

  • Tremors
  • Hyperactivity
  • Elevated temperature
  • Muscle tremors or 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 veterinary technicians will give you instructions on what to do.

If your cat has eaten chocolate, call your vet or a pet poison control ASAP. They will be able to direct you whether or not your cat needs to be seen or if they can be monitored. Sometimes we can give medication to make your cat vomit up the chocolate, but giving them hydrogen peroxide typically won’t work and can cause severe stomach problems, so don’t attempt to make them vomit at home!

Dr. Jennifer Schott

If you know what your cat ate, how much, and approximately when they might have eaten it, tell your vet. This will help them determine the next right steps in your pet’s care. A kitten eating some baker’s chocolate, for example, might need more intensive care than an older cat who got curious about some chocolate cake ​​and took a swat at the frosting.

Isolate your cat

If you suspect or know your cat has eaten chocolate, keep your cat inside and closely monitor them for symptoms. As soon as your cat is safely away from the sweets, call the veterinarian and get in for an appointment. 

While you wait for your appointment, consider keeping your cat inside or isolating them from other cats. This will help you to effectively monitor symptoms that will show over 6-12 hours.

Know your cat’s weight

Knowing your cat’s weight will be helpful when you speak to your vet, or when you contact a pet poison helpline. If you don’t know your cat’s weight, you can figure it out using your bathroom scale. Here’s how: 

Start by weighing yourself — Stand on the scale alone, and jot down whatever number you see down.

Pick up your cat, and get back on — Note your combined weight.

Subtract your weight — Subtract how much you weigh from the weight of you and your cat together. The number you get is how much your cat weighs.

Go to the vet

If your vet asks you to bring your cat in for treatment, go as quickly as you can. Once you get there, your veterinarian will start with a physical examination, checking your cat’s heart and blood pressure. 

The vet may also run some diagnostic testing, including taking a urine sample, bloodwork, or an electrocardiogram (ECG) to see if there are any abnormalities.

Find out the quality and amount of chocolate ingested

The quantity and quality of the chocolate ingested can affect your pet’s outcome, in some cases. The toxic amount of theobromine for cats is about 20 milligrams (mg) per kilogram (kg). The amount of theobromine in chocolate can vary from candy to candy, and can also vary based on the type of chocolate your cat eats. 

Below is a list of common types of chocolate, and how a 10 lb cat would need to consume for it to be considered a toxic dose.*

  • Milk chocolate. 1.5oz
  • Dark chocolate. 0.7oz
  • Semi-sweet chocolate. 0.6oz
  • Baking chocolate. 0.3oz
  • White chocolate. not concerning

*Amount based on the Merck Veterinary Manual’s Chocolate Toxicity Calculator

How is chocolate toxicity treated?

Your veterinarian has a few treatments to choose from when they help your furry friend:

  • Inducing vomiting — A vet may do this to remove any chocolate from your cat’s stomach. Cats are notoriously difficult to make vomit, even with medication, so you should never try to induce vomiting at home.
  • Activated charcoal — If the chocolate poisoning is severe and vomiting is not successful, your vet may use activated charcoal to help absorb the toxins in your cat’s stomach.
  • Fluid therapy and hospitalization — For cats experiencing severe chocolate poisoning, a hospital stay might be necessary. Here, specialists can care for your cat, offering them IV therapy and ongoing monitoring until they’re stabilized. 
  • Diet changes — Your vet may give you instructions to feed your cat a bland diet for a few days when you get home. Bland diets for cats usually look like a single source of protein (no surf and turf) and a simple carbohydrate.

Is chocolate always fatal to cats?

Chocolate can certainly mean death for your kitty, but the outcome will depend on the cat’s size, and the type of chocolate ingested. (For example: A dark chocolate bar baking chocolate and cocoa beans are the most deadly types of chocolate for cats). 

Ultimately, how rapidly symptoms come on and how quickly a cat can be seen by a veterinarian for emergency treatment can determine the prognosis for your furry friend.

Alternatives to chocolate for cats

While cats are considered obligate carnivores, there are some plant-based “human” foods they can safely digest. Just make sure that if you do feed them human foods, it’s not toxic for cats.

Safe treats for cats

It’s never a good idea to overindulge your cats with treats, especially of the human food kind. However, there are a few kitty-safe human treats that both of you can enjoy at mealtimes:

Other toxic foods that are bad for cats

Like chocolate, some very specific foods are toxic to cats and you should avoid them at all costs. These include:

Although chocolate is one of the ASPCA’s top 4 pet toxins — dogs make up 95% of chocolate calls they receive, so cat chocolate poisoning isn’t as common as you might think. 

That said, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Consider storing your chocolate (and any other toxic food items) in a drawer or cabinet that your cat can’t open.

If you’re unsure if your favorite feline can eat a specific food, it’s always best to consult your veterinarian. Not only do vets have a deep knowledge of what cats can and cannot eat, but they’ll be able to give you advice tailored specifically to your pet. 

Frequently asked questions

How long after a cat eats chocolate will symptoms show?

If your cat is experiencing chocolate poisoning, symptoms will usually occur within 6-12 hours after your cat ingests chocolate. However, they can last for up to 3 days in severe cases.

How much chocolate is toxic to cats?

The amount of chocolate that’s toxic to cats will depend on the type of chocolate as well as the age of your cat. Darker chocolates and larger quantities are typically the most toxic for cats. 

Here are a few estimated toxicity values, courtesy of Merck’s Veterinary Manual:

  • Milk chocolate. 1.5oz
  • Dark chocolate. 0.7oz
  • Semi-sweet chocolate. 0.6oz
  • Baking chocolate. 0.3oz
  • White chocolate. not concerning

Is chocolate as toxic to cats as dogs?

Yes. Just like with cats, dogs cannot have theobromine and caffeine, which are pet-toxic compounds that naturally occur in chocolate. 

Why does my cat love chocolate?

Most cats aren’t attracted to chocolate because they don’t have sweetness receptors like humans. However, cats are often attracted to dairy, which is commonly used in milk chocolate and baked goods — so this may tempt them to eat chocolate products.  

Can cats eat chocolate ice cream?

While theobromine levels may not be as potent in ice cream as with baking chocolate, you should never feed your cat chocolate ice cream.  They may not experience fatal effects, but it’s very likely they’ll feel quite sick for a few hours.

Can cats eat chocolate cake?

No. All forms of chocolate are toxic to cats. This includes dry cocoa powder and baking chocolate, which are typically present in chocolate cake.

What to do if cat eats chocolate?

The first thing you want to do is call your vet — or, if it’s after hours, an emergency facility or the 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 for your pet based on the needs of their specific case. From there, you should monitor your cat closely for symptoms of chocolate poisoning. These can appear over the course of 6-12 hours, but could take as long as three days to show.