A million-dollar question like this is at the same time — one of the most absurd questions on the internet today. We already know that dogs cannot eat chocolate because it’s toxic for them, but what about cats? Can they?
If you are a pet owner, you’ve certainly been in a situation where you would eat chocolate and your furry friend wanted to join you, whether it’s chocolate ice cream, cookies or any other food that has chocolate ingredients. What did you do in this situation? Did you actually let your cat try some, or did you eat it all by yourself? Just imagine eating your favourite sweets in front of your pet friends and not sharing them. It usually seems coldhearted and mean, so you might catch yourself taking a tiny piece of your chocolate and giving it out to your cat or dog, thinking that it’s not going to harm them, and that they will be happy to share the food with you. Maybe you are right. But what is the science behind chocolate? What are the ingredients in it and can they become toxic for your furry friends? If so, what can you do about it? These are the most common questions that may come to your mind while you’re eating your favourite ice-cream.
What’s in it?
We all know that chocolate is made of cocoa, cacao, milk and sugar. There are other sweeteners that may replace sugars, but there are always some sweeteners inside. On top of that, we have a lot of additional flavors, preservatives and other ingredients.
Although it’s widely known that sugar is bad for dogs’ vision, (cats’ as well), and can cause obesity, diabetes and other sugar-based health conditions, there is one particular substance that is extremely lethal for cats, and that is theobromine. This alkaloid can be found in the cacao plant which is being used for chocolate, and it can cause multiple symptoms such as vomiting, seizures, diarrhoea, elevated heart rate and can have detrimental health effects in case of ingestion of even the smallest amount of chocolate. However, the higher the amount of this substance in chocolate — the more serious health consequences will occur. On top of theobromine, in the majority of chocolate foods there’s usually another ingredient that is not harmful to us but could be very harmful to cats. That is caffeine. Caffeine can also cause severe disabilities in cats, so you should try to avoid it at all costs. These two toxins work as stimulants in human bodies, but when they get into cats’ bodies, they transform into toxins. These toxins affect pets including dogs and cats, raising their blood pressure and causing numerous cardiac arrhythmias, as well as tremors or even seizures. If you notice that your cat is vomiting that is actually a good sign because it means that their system is trying to find a way to eliminate these harmful toxins. However, a good thing to know is that not every single amount of caffeine is dangerous for cats, so if your cat ingests somewhere around 10 and 15 milligrams of caffeine per pound of their body weight — they can experience some mild side effects, while everything above that can lead to serious toxicity.
How can I know that my cat is poisoned?
It’s not that hard to tell if you gave your cat a piece of chocolate to eat. But not every amount of chocolate can cause symptoms, nor you can be completely sure how your cat will react. Therefore, if your cat eats any amount of chocolate, try to be careful, alert, and pay extra attention to the animal’s behavior for the next couple of hours — especially up to 5 hours. In this period, you can notice the first signs, and they are oftentimes vomiting and diarrhoea, as the first cat’s reflex to fight these ingredients and get them out of the system. On the other hand, if your cat eats a lot of chocolate, you have to pay attention the next day or two, and it’s advised to go see your vet right away.
Other signs of poisoning are simply signs that show you that something is going on and that your cat’s behaviour is not the same as usual. If you notice that your furry friend is drinking more water than usual, or that it is unusually ecstatic, energetic or even restless — that can be a sign that your animal has ingested some chocolate and that is now fighting with the ingredients in it. Keep in mind that your cat doesn’t necessarily have to be faster, it can be slower — lethargic, unable to maintain balance or have difficulties with breathing. More severe symptoms are clear indicators that your pet is not feeling okay — the rise of their temperature, fast breathing, seizures and shaking — depending on the type of chocolate your cat ingested, as well as the amount of it. In rare cases, this can lead to a fatal outcome.
What can be done if a cat eats a chocolate?
Although giving your cat at a piece of your chocolate cookie might not cause the death of your beloved little furry friend, it’s important to mention that cats do not detect sweetness the same way as we do, so they will not be able to feel when is the right time to stop, and they might even like the chocolate taste, especially if there’s milk inside. However, prolonged use of chocolate can lead to obesity as well as damage their internal organs, and finally, cause death — which is the worst-case scenario you can imagine. It’s hard to tell what the minimum dose of sweet treats could harm your cat, so the best option would be to avoid it whatsoever. When it comes to your cat’s wellbeing, it’s recommended to be selfish and enjoy your sweets all by yourself! Also, keep chocolate out of your pet’s reach, and feed them only with food specifically designed for them, whether it’s wet or dry. If you want to share your snacks with your pets, instead of sharing your food with them, make sure to get some tasty cat snacks and you can enjoy eating them simultaneously.