Cat with chocolate

In this blog:

  • Why Can’t Cats Eat Chocolate?

  • What Happens When Cats Eat Chocolate?

  • What to Do If Your Cat Eats Chocolate?

  • How to Prevent Your Cat from Eating Chocolate

While cats may be less likely than dogs to break into your candy stash, it’s still possible for a cat to take a sneaky nibble of your chocolate when you’re not looking. But chocolate is just as toxic for cats as it is for dogs, even if it’s more common to hear about dogs getting sick from consuming some. Today, our Apex veterinarian will discuss cats and chocolate toxicity and what to do if you think your cat has eaten something harmful.

Why Can’t Cats Eat Chocolate?

Chocolate contains small amounts of caffeine and larger amounts of a related compound, theobromine. Both of these compounds, called methylxanthines, make chocolate dangerous for dogs, cats, and other animals. Theobromine is difficult for cats to metabolize, and can cause a build-up of byproduct waste that can be very harmful to them. If a large enough amount is consumed, it can be fatal for your beloved pet.

Can Cats Eat a Small Amount of Chocolate?

The answer is no. Any amount of chocolate is too much for your cat. The more caffeine and theobromine in it, the more toxic it will be. Darker chocolates and baking chocolates are the most dangerous, even in the smallest amounts. It’s also important to remember that what looks like a tiny nibble to us is actually a fairly large portion for a cat. A couple of small cat treats, for example, are the human caloric equivalent of half a cheeseburger! Therefore, even one or two bites of chocolate can present significant harm to your cat.

Can Cats Eat White Chocolate?

White chocolate is made from cocoa butter mixed with sugar, often with a little vanilla added for flavoring. Since cocoa butter—the fat from the cocoa bean–contains very little methylxanthine, it is not as harmful to animals as regular chocolate is. However, any unexpected change to your cat’s diet can result in symptoms like diarrhea or vomiting, so it’s always best to err on the side of caution.

Can Cats Eat Chocolate Ice Cream?

Although chocolate ice cream is unlikely to cause significant harm to your cat, it still contains a small amount of cocoa, which may make your cat sick. Ice cream’s primary ingredients, milk and sugar, are not good for cats, either. Cats are lactose intolerant, and cannot taste sugar, so ice cream is neither tasty nor healthy for them.

What Happens When Cats Eat Chocolate?

The symptoms of chocolate poisoning in cats usually occur within 6 to 12 hours of consumption. In severe cases, your cat may be experiencing symptoms for up to 4 days. These symptoms can worsen very quickly, so if you suspect your cat has eaten chocolate, it is best to go to the vet as quickly as possible. In some cases, ingesting chocolate can be fatal for cats.

Symptoms of Chocolate Poisoning in Cats

If you suspect that your cat has eaten chocolate, look for signs of toxic exposure, including:

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Dehydration
  • Increased urination
  • Heightened temperature
  • Accelerated heart rate
  • Accelerated breath rate
  • Restlessness
  • Seizures
  • Muscle tremors
  • Coma
  • Decreased appetite
cat sick from chocolate

 Chocolate Toxicity Levels in Cats

Chocolate toxicity levels in cats can vary depending on the type of chocolate eaten and the weight of the cat. In addition to using the guide below, you can use this cat chocolate toxicity calculator to assess the potential harm. Remember though, it is always best to visit your local animal clinic or veterinarian to determine whether your cat is sick.

Type of Chocolate Minimum Amount That Can Be Toxic to an 8 lb. Cat
Milk 1.14oz
Dark .5oz
Semisweet .5oz
Baking .2oz

What to Do If Your Cat Eats Chocolate

If you know for a fact that your cat ate chocolate, go to the vet immediately. Symptoms might not manifest for a few hours, during which time the cat’s health can deteriorate rapidly. If possible, bring the wrapper or container that held the chocolate to help your vet ascertain how much chocolate was ingested. Lastly, remember to remain calm! Cats tend to be very in-tune with their pet parents’ emotions. If you are calm, it will help them stay calm, too.

Never try to induce vomiting at home using products such as hydrogen peroxide, as this can cause severe stomach ulcers.

How to Prevent Your Cat from Eating Chocolate

Preventing your cat from eating chocolate is very easy. Simply keep your chocolate in a safe, secure place that is out of reach for your pet. Cats tend to be curious and unpredictable, so make sure your chocolate is in a place that only opposable thumbs, not paws, can access. If you are baking with chocolate, do not leave the kitchen unattended, or stash the chocolate in the fridge while you take a break. Finally, resist the temptation to offer your cat a bite of a chocolatey dessert. A bite of well-cooked meat will make them much happier and healthier.

what cat's cannot eat

Need a veterinarian for cats in Apex NC?

If you think your cat has eaten chocolate or is exhibiting symptoms of any intestinal distress, contact us at Harmony Animal Hospital in Apex, North Carolina at  (919) 303-3456. We are here to answer any questions you may have about your cat’s diet or respond to any reactions your furry loved one may be having.

We are open Mondays to Fridays from 7:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., and on Saturdays, from 8:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. If your pet experiences an emergency after our business hours, please visit one of these emergency vet clinics in the Apex, Cary, and Raleigh area.