As Halloween approaches, we need to talk about chocolate toxicity. Most people know that chocolate is toxic and dangerous for dogs to consume, but is chocolate bad for cats? The short answer is YES. (By the way, many of these same notes of caution apply for dogs too.)
Compared to dogs, it’s far less common for cats to get into chocolates that may have been left around the house, especially around Halloween…but when it does happen, the toxicity is just as severe for felines as it is for canines. Just 1/2 an ounce of dark chocolate can be fatal for an 8lb cat.
Did you know cats can’t taste sweet things?
It’s true. Cats lack the receptor for sweetness. That’s why they can be so moody, I guess! That’s possibly why chocolate poisoning is less common in cats than it is in dogs – they just don’t get the deliciousness of Cadbury’s! Studies have shown that dogs have the same four taste classifications that us humans do; meaning they can identify between sweet, sour, salty and bitter.
So, while it may not be as common for Fluffy to dig in to the kids’ Halloween treats as it is for Fido, if you’re wondering “Is chocolate bad for cats?” Read on.
Is Chocolate Bad for Cats?
Yes, chocolate is not only bad for cats, it’s toxic. Poisonous. Chocolate is just as bad for cats as it is for dogs. Chocolate contains small amounts of caffeine and larger amounts of a related compound, theobromine. These compounds, known as methylxanthines, make chocolate a delicious treat for people, but dangerous for dogs and cats.
Signs of chocolate poisoning usually happen within 6-12 hours after your cat eats chocolate. They can last for up to three days in severe cases. If you believe your pet has eaten chocolate, don’t wait for symptoms to manifest to be sure. As with all potential poisonings, the sooner you can get your cat or dog to a vet to be treated, the better. If they are seen immediately after consuming chocolate, much of it can be removed from their system before the toxins are absorbed.
Symptoms of chocolate poisoning can progress very quickly. Heart rate and rhythm changes can lead to low blood pressure, while muscle tremors and spasms can lead to dangerously high body temps. Any of the following clinical signs are concerning in a cat or dog: vomiting, diarrhea, decreased appetite, increased thirst, increased urination, increased heart rate, restlessness, panting or rapid breathing, muscle tremors, and seizures. Reach out to your vet immediately.
What do I do if my cat eats chocolate?
If your cat eats any type of chocolate, or anything with chocolate in it, you should take it seriously. Contact your veterinarian immediately or call the Pet Poison Helpline* at 855-764-7661. Unless your vet tells you otherwise, do NOT give your cat anything to try to make them vomit. This can cause severe issues and potentially make the problem worse.
Does it matter what kind of chocolate?
In general, the more cocoa there is in a piece of chocolate the higher the concentration of caffeine and theobromine. That means darker chocolates, and baking chocolate, are the most dangerous, even in small amounts. Even white chocolate can potentially cause issues in cats due to their small size. Chocolate candies and treats can also contain xylitol, a sweetener that may also be harmful to cats (& dogs). Obviously, the sugar and fat found in chocolate aren’t good for cats either – or us humans for that matter – but they are not toxic.
The best way to prevent the problem of chocolate toxicity is to use common sense; don’t leave chocolate and candy around the house this (& any) time of year in places where your dog and agile cat can reach!
Please watch out for your furry friends this Halloween. If you need a reminder of some of the other Halloween hazards to be aware of, check out this post – Halloween Safety for Pets
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*Fee applies for the Pet Poison Helpline – $75 at time of writing