We all know (or at least I hope you do) that chocolate is a big no-no for dogs. But what about cats?
Dogs can — and will — eat almost anything, so it is more of a possibility that they will consume a large amount of chocolate. Cats are known to be picky eaters, so even if they do go for the chocolate, it’s uncommon and usually a small portion.
I read about a cat owner who said her cats love Hershey’s Kisses and that she finds wrappers around the house from eaten treats. How healthy is this for the cats?
Can Cats Eat Chocolate?
The straight answer is no.
Chocolate contains theobromine and caffeine. In larger amounts, theobromine is especially dangerous because cats can’t break it down and eliminate it like humans.
This stimulant affects the central nervous and cardiac systems.
How Much Chocolate Is Too Much for a Cat?
A small amount of chocolate is not fatal to cats. Your kitty will not have to have his stomach pumped for eating a few Hershey’s Kisses. However, eating too much (especially darker chocolate) can become a medical emergency.
The darker the chocolate, the more toxic it is. Baking chocolate is considered the worst and has the highest level of theobromine.
In the order of theobromine toxicity, here’s a list from worst to least:
- Baking chocolate (worst)
- Dark chocolate
- Milk chocolate
- White chocolate (least)
So, how much chocolate is too much for a cat? It depends. Factors include the weight of the cat plus the kind and amount of chocolate consumed. As little as 20mg of theobromine per pound of pet weight can cause side effects and health problems.
That means you should call the veterinarian if your 10-pound pet consumes:
- 1.5 tablespoons of dry cocoa powder
- One square of unsweetened baking chocolate
- 20g (0.7 oz.) of 70-85% dark chocolate
- 25g (0.9 oz.) of 60-69% dark chocolate
- 33g (1.2 oz.) of 45-59% dark chocolate
- A thin slice of chocolate cake with chocolate frosting
- 78g (2.7 oz.) of milk chocolate candies
- 5 tablespoons of chocolate syrup
- 23 Hershey’s Kisses (about a third of an 11-ounce bag)
- 2 packages of regular M&Ms
- 2 whole 3 Musketeers bars
- Reese’s Pieces contain only trace amounts of theobromine
These are intended only as rough guidelines (always use your best judgment and call your vet when in doubt), but you can see how the toxicity ranges depending on the darkness of the chocolate.
However, I really hope pet owners would consider any amount over zero to be too much. Even if your cat eats a little chocolate here and there, it’s still not healthy.
Let’s take a look at the possible effects chocolate can create in cats.
Symptoms of Chocolate Toxicity
This is a long list of possibilities. Some may be minor and others fatal. Symptoms of chocolate toxicity can include:
- Excessive thirst
- Excessive urination
- Abnormal heart rhythm
- Tremors/muscle twitching
- Excessive panting
- Increased blood pressure
With this daunting list of symptoms, the best amount of chocolate for cats should be none.
If you feel your cat has consumed a toxic amount of chocolate, go to the vet or your nearest animal emergency room right away for treatment.
If the chocolate consumption is very recent (usually within one to two hours) the vet may choose to induce vomiting or administer charcoal. Medications might be provided to control the side effects, and more serious cases may require your pet to be intubated, placed on a ventilator or monitored for cardiac activity.
Stick With Regular Pet Treats
Products are on the market that mimic sweet treats or chocolate tastes if you truly want to provide a treat or believe your cat likes chocolate. This isn’t something I would consider or encourage. Stick with regular cat treats.
Every member of your household needs to be informed and understand the risks of chocolate when it comes to pets. Chocolate isn’t good for a cat’s dental health either; with this fact and the risk of severe side effects or even death, the acceptable level of chocolate for cats should remain at a firm zero.
Photos: SuziJane (top), alexgoodey/Flickr