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Can chocolate poison cats?

Certain foods, such as chocolate, are perfectly safe for us but it does not mean they are suitable for cats.

Chocolate contains chemicals which for cats and other domestic pets can, in rare cases, be deadly, so make sure that Easter eggs are stashed out of his reach. Also remember that includes cooking chocolate and chocolate chips!

What is so bad about chocolate?

Chocolate, or more precisely, cacao, contains a compound called theobromine which has four different effects on cats:

  • It is a stimulant which increases heart rate
  • It is a diuretic resulting in increased loss of body fluids
  • It causes stomach upsets
  • It acts on the nervous system.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms will very depending on the amount of chocolate the cat has consumed. The most common symptoms are: vomiting, diarrhoea, excessive urination, nausea, seizures and an irregular heartbeat. A larger dose of chocolate may well induce a coma or death.

Symptoms usually start within a few hours of ingestion but can take up to a day to show themselves. If you think that your cat has eaten chocolate, don't wait for the symptoms to appear and contact your vet straight away. The extent of poisoning depends on how much chocolate your cat has consumed so your our vet will ask how how much your cat weighs and how much chocolate he has ingested.

Are all chocolates equally poisonous?

Different chocolates contain different levels of theobromine. This is found in cacao, so the higher the percentage of cacao in the chocolate, the more poisonous the chocolate is.

Milk chocolate contains 60mg of theobromine per 28g whereas dark baking chocolate contains 450mg per 28g. However, just 45-50mg of theobromine per pound of body weight is sufficient to poison a cat; 45-50mg is just 2.8g of dark chocolate.

Why is chocolate poisonous to cats but not humans?

Humans can metabolize theobromine effectively, but cats (and dogs) cannot. If cats are fed chocolate the theobromine remains in their bloodstream for up to 20 hours. The lack of clearance will result in the accumulation of theobromine, which will quickly reach toxic levels.

How is it treated?

Depending on the severity of the poisoning, your vet will control clinical signs of the poisoning. If the ingestion of chocolate has been within two hours, your vet may induce vomiting in the cat, including administering activated charcoal to prevent any further poisoning. Further measures include artificial ventilation, medications to control tremors and seizures, and cardiac monitoring.

If you're keen to treat your cat around Easter or Christmas, look out for Easter eggs and treats made specifically for cats - available to buy from pet shops and online retailers.