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Is Chocolate Dangerous For Cats?

Is Chocolate Dangerous For Cats?

Most of us know that chocolate is toxic to dogs, but did you know that cats can't have chocolate either? There are lots of tasty foods that we love that our feline friends simply can't eat (even if they beg)! Today, our Brookhaven vets discuss chocolate toxicity in cats and what to do if your kitty gets into your chocolate stash. 

For those of us who like chocolate, it can be a delicious treat. Although most pet parents are well aware that dogs shouldn't have chocolate, it's not as well known that our feline friends can't have a little nibble, either. In fact, there are a number of foods that humans enjoy that can be poisonous to cats! Today, our Brookhaven 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 My Cat 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 barker's quality chocolate tends to be more toxic to cats because of higher levels of cocoa (and thereby more of the toxic compounds). 

What About 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. Although your cat may not experience fatal effects from some chocolate ice cream, 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. 

Symptoms Of Chocolate Toxicity In Cats

If your cat has recently gotten into some chocolate (e.g. you see them licking a chocolate bar wrapper), 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, shaking
  • Coma
Regardless of whether your cat shows signs of toxicity listed above if they consume chocolate contact your primary vet or head to the emergency vet right away, as symptoms can onset suddenly. 

Other Foods Toxic To Cats

Even if you make sure to keep the KitKats away from 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

Diagnosing & Treating 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. 

Preventing Chocolate Poisoning In Cats 

It may be no surprise to learn that keeping chocolate treats locked away is the easiest way to prevent your cat from eating something harmful. 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

Although it's never good to give your cat too much 'human' food (which often has to much salt and fat for our pet's to safely process), there are a few appropriate snacks that you can share with them now and then:

  • Berries (if there are stems and leaves, remove them first)
  • Ripe banana slices
  • Carrots, green beans
  • Diced, unsalted cooked turkey or chicken (sans skin)
  • A little bit of tuna (low sodium)
  • 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 a number of 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 your cat has consumed chocolate or is showing signs of chocolate toxicity, get in touch with us for urgent care. Our vets are experienced in caring for cats experiencing poisoning or other medical conditions, helping them feel better faster!

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