Have A Plan
Before we begin this article please note that you can reach pet poison control for advice and guidance 24/7 at (888) 426-4435. While this article is not intended to offer or substitute pet medical advice it will help guide you to watch out for classic symptoms and take immediate and preventive action when needed.
Surprisingly, many human foods are toxic to felines, including some of our favorite treats. One of these treats being chocolate, which is extremely harmful and even life-threatening should your fur baby accidentally eat some.
So Why Is Chocolate Bad For Cats?
It's not down to the sugar, fat, or milk in chocolate that makes it poisonous. While these ingredients are by no means suitable for your kitty, there is one particular ingredient in chocolate that is significantly harmful to many animals.
This is ‘Theobromine’ - a plant alkaloid that naturally occurs in cacao. Along with Theobromine, caffeine also becomes toxic when ingested by a feline as their delicate digestive system can't adequately process it.
Just How Toxic Is Chocolate?
The short answer is very. All types of chocolate, including cocoa powder, can be harmful to our kitties. Even so, dark chocolate and baking chocolate are the most toxic as they contain higher levels of cacao and thus a stronger concentration of theobromine. Even a tiny amount of this decadent chocolate can trigger poisoning in a cat.
While still toxic, white chocolate can potentially cause less harm as it contains a much lower percentage of Theobromine. However, there is a higher amount of milk product used, which could give your fur baby an upset stomach. Therefore, it’s vital to keep all forms of chocolate stored safely away from your pets.
Symptoms Of Chocolate Poisoning In Cats
So what do you do if you suspect your kitty has gotten into your freshly baked chocolate chip cookies? Or the chocolate bar you forgot to put away the night before? Well, the first signs of poisoning will likely appear within 2-4 hours of consumption. Here are the most common symptoms of cat poisoning to look out for:
- Increased Thirst
- Increased Urination
- Rapid Breathing Or Panting
- Increased Heart Rate
- High Temperature
- Twitching Or Muscle Tremors
What Should You Do If Your Cat Has Eaten Chocolate?
If you have reason to believe your cat has eaten chocolate but have not seen them do so, here’s what to do:
- Firstly, keep calm! Although you’ll likely feel panic arise, try to stay centered. Our feline friends are very attuned to our emotions. They observe our reactions to gauge if a situation is good or bad. If you panic, they will sense fear, which could worsen their symptoms. Therefore, try to keep the environment quiet and calm while you take action.
- Try to work out how much chocolate your kitty ate and keep the wrappers if possible. This will help the vet determine the amount of cacao that is in your cat’s system and will determine treatment.
- Check to make sure your cat is breathing and functioning normally.
- If so, closely observe them for 24 hours, looking out for the signs of chocolate poisoning listed above. This means keeping your feline inside where you can maintain a watchful eye on them and their condition.
- If and when you notice any symptoms at all, you should take them straight to the vet.
If You Catch Your Cat Eating Chocolate:
- Take them to the vet immediately without waiting for symptoms to appear. If caught early enough, a vet can induce vomiting to remove the toxin from your cat’s body before it escalates or causing damage.
- If it’s not possible to take them immediately or if the vet is closed, call and speak to an emergency vet or the pet poison helpline who will advise you. They may suggest you induce vomiting yourself and will guide you through the process. You can access pet poison control 24/7 at 855-764-7661
Once your cat is at the vet’s, they will give your kitty IV fluids to rehydrate them and perform tests such as a physical examination and an ECG to check their heart rate. They might take a urine sample too for further evaluation. When you bring your cat home, feed them a bland diet for a few days as they recover.
What NOT To Do
- Do not attempt to induce vomiting yourself without guidance from a professional or poison control.
- Do not use any home remedies or treatment options found online without professional guidance.
Keep Toxic Food Away From Your Cat
Once a cat learns that the kitchen is where food is stored, it quickly becomes their favorite place to explore. I’m sure on multiple occasions you have caught your kitty in the act as they prance on the countertops looking for food scraps. Moreover, they might try to get into the food cupboards and pantry. Some smart felines have even figured out how to open cabinets and drawers! (or at least mine has)
When it comes to keeping toxic food away from pets, we have to be diligent. It can be easy to forget the dangers of human food and leave an open chocolate bar on the table.
Therefore, honoring your responsibility to your fur baby, you should store chocolate and all other toxic foods in tightly sealed (cat-proof) containers. In this way, even if your feline works out how to get the cupboard door open, they won’t be able to access things that could cause them harm.
If you’re baking with chocolate, do not leave baked goods to cool on the countertop. Even if it’s just for a short time, it’s not worth the risk. Instead, put them up somewhere high out of paws reach. And pay extra attention around the holidays too, when there’s more candy around.
Are There Safe Chocolate Alternatives For Cats?
We love to treat our precious kitties, but the truth is, the only treats your cat should get are those that are made for them. With so many foods proving bad for their health, it’s best to resist sharing any of your favorite foods with your fur baby.
Most cat treats on the market are very appealing and tasty for felines. If you’re feeling creative, you could even make some homemade cat treats for your lucky kitty.
Poisoning in cats can be scary, expensive, and fatal if not treated in time. However, as long as you’re cautious with your food and feed your kitty cat food only, the chances of them ingesting toxic food are slim to none. When it comes to pet care, a bit of knowledge and caution can go a long way in keeping our animals safe.