People often talk about how a dog can't eat chocolate, but what about your feline friend? Here, our La Mesa vets discuss treats for cats and the dangers of chocolate toxicity, along with the symptoms and how you can prevent it from happening.

Is chocolate bad for cats?

Many people love the taste of chocolate and it is considered a delicacy in many parts of the world. While we can safely enjoy eating it (in moderation), the same can't be said for your furry friends. Many foods are unsafe for your cat, including chocolate.

Can cats eat chocolate?

As mentioned above, chocolate is a food that should be kept away from your feline companion. 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 baker's quality chocolate tends to be more toxic to cats because of higher levels of cocoa (and thereby more of the toxic compounds). 

Can cats have chocolate-flavored foods?

One question we hear is 'Can cats eat chocolate ice cream?' Unfortunately, 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. While the idea that it is only flavored may lead you to believe they can, 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. 

What are the signs and symptoms of chocolate toxicity?

If you witness your cat eat chocolate or there is any indication that they may have done so, 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 unusual for cats, who don't pant to cool themselves as dogs do)
  • Seizure
  • Tremors or shaking
  • Coma
Whatever symptoms they are experiencing, you should head to your nearest emergency vet right away if they've eaten chocolate.

Are there other foods that are toxic for cats?

While keeping chocolate and other sugary snacks away from your kitty can help to avoid illness, other foods can also cause medical distress. Some of these foods include:

  • Alcohol
  • Grapes, raisins
  • Cow's milk (their stomachs are not meant to digest this type of milk)
  • Uncooked eggs, raw meat/bones, raw dough
  • Garlic, onions, leeks
  • Uncooked potatoes, tomatoes

How is chocolate toxicity in cats diagnosed?

If you notice that your cat is chowing down on some chocolate the first step is to stay calm and separate them from the food. Cats are very sensitive to your emotions, and keeping a level head will help them remain calm. 

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.

Are there ways to prevent the occurrence of chocolate toxicity?

The simplest way to keep your feline friend safe from chocolate toxicity is to put it up and out of reach. 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.

What are some cat-safe treats?

While you should generally steer clear of giving your cat human foods, some are safe to give in moderation like:

  • Berries (if there are stems and leaves, remove them first)
  • Ripe banana slices
  • Carrots, green beans
  • Diced, unsalted cooked turkey or chicken (without the skin)
  • A small amount of low-sodium tuna
  • Catnip tea or low-sodium chicken broth frozen into ice cubes 

While your kitty can't eat that delicious chocolate bar with you, you can safely share small amounts of the snacks listed above with them.

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 you think that your cat may have ingested a toxic substance or food, contact our vets in La Mesa right away for emergency care.