While most of us have heard that chocolate is bad for dogs, we don't usually hear much about it when it comes to our feline friends. So is chocolate bad for cats? Today, our Madison vets discuss chocolate toxicity in cats, the serious symptoms that can occur when if cat eats chocolate, and what you can do to prevent it. 

Chocolate is a much sought-after treat for many people. While we may enjoy this delicious treat, it can have serious repercussions when eaten by our furry friends. There are several foods that humans enjoy that can be poisonous to cats! Today, our Madison veterinary team tells us more about some foods that you should avoid feeding your cat, and what to do if they experience chocolate toxicity. 

Can cats eat chocolate?

In short: no! Chocolate contains caffeine and an ingredient called theobromine, both of which are dangerous to cats; in large enough amounts, it can be fatal. These compounds are stimulants, and when absorbed in a cat's body, it becomes highly toxic. Dark and baker's quality chocolate tends to be more toxic to cats because of higher levels of cocoa (and thereby more of the toxic compounds). 

Cats & Chocolate Flavored Foods

Any form of chocolate can be harmful to your feline friend, including cocoa powder, milk chocolate, and even white chocolate (which has a low amount of cocoa). Foods like ice cream or icing can be 'chocolate flavored,' leading some cat caretakers to wonder if this is suitable for their pet. So can cats eat chocolate ice cream? While the idea that it is only flavored may lead you to believe they can, they will feel quite sick for a few hours. The toxicity of cocoa, mixed with sugar and lactose from the dairy, is not suitable for feline digestive systems. 

What are the symptoms of chocolate toxicity in cats?

If you witness your cat eat chocolate or there is any indication that they may have done so, watch for the following symptoms while you contact your vet:

  • Gastrointestinal distress (nausea, vomiting, diarrhea)
  • Signs of restlessness
  • Increased heart rate
  • Excessive thirst and urination
  • Lack of appetite
  • Fast breathing or panting (this is not usual in cats, who don't pant to cool themselves as dogs do)
  • Seizure
  • Tremors or shaking
  • Coma
No matter what symptoms your cat shows you should contact your primary vet or head to the emergency vet right away if they've eaten chocolate.

What other foods are toxic to cats?

Even if you make sure to keep the KitKats away from the kitty, there are some other foods that you might be surprised to learn are also a no-go for your cat. Some of these foods include:

  • Alcohol
  • Grapes, raisins
  • Cow's milk (many cats are lactose intolerant!)
  • Uncooked eggs, raw meat/bones, raw dough
  • Garlic, onions, leeks
  • Uncooked potatoes, tomatoes

How will the vet diagnose chocolate or food toxicity in cats?

If your cat eats chocolate, try to keep as calm as possible. Cats are very sensitive to your emotions, and keeping a level head will help them remain calm and potentially prevent symptoms of chocolate poisoning from worsening. 

When you get to the veterinary office, your cat's vet will complete a physical assessment of your cat and will ask for any information about what they've consumed (type and estimated amount of chocolate). Depending on the case, your vet might induce vomiting to help prevent your cat's body from absorbing toxins. Your cat will also be provided with fluids and any additional procedures or medications that your vet recommends. 

How can you prevent your cat from experiencing toxicity?

The easiest way to help protect your cat and prevent chocolate toxicity is to keep it put away in a safe place. Keep in mind that this includes things that are easy to miss, like a chocolate-glazed donut left on the counter, or bowls of unattended candy at Halloween. Cats are curious, playful, and unpredictable.

Healthy Treats For Your Cat

While human foods are generally not recommended for cats, there are a few that you may be able to share safely in moderation:

  • Berries (if there are stems and leaves, remove them first)
  • Ripe banana slices
  • Carrots, green beans
  • Diced, unsalted cooked turkey or chicken (without the skin)
  • A small amount of low-sodium tuna
  • Catnip tea or low-sodium chicken broth frozen into ice cubes 

Even though your cat can't enjoy a chocolate bar with you, there are several tasty treats that you can offer from your kitchen, and a wide range of pet treats made just for your four-legged friend! 

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If you see that your cat has eaten chocolate or other toxic foods, get in touch with our vets in Madison for emergency care.