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Health & Wellness

Can cats have chocolate?

Just say no to cocoa for cats.

It’s a well-known (and cruel) irony that chocolate, one of the most universally beloved foods for people, is also one of the biggest no-nos for dogs. As delicious as it can be for humans, it can have terrible effects on our furry family members. And unfortunately, the same is true for our other pets, like cats. 

While certain human foods are OK to share with our feline friends, chocolate is definitely not one of them. The reasons are myriad, and the effects? Downright scary. That’s because of the chemical compounds found in chocolate. 

“Chocolate contains two chemical compounds that can lead to vomiting and diarrhea, speed up the heart rate and cause abnormal heart rhythms and tremors,” Dr. Liz Devitt, DVM, a general practice veterinarian and veterinary consultant for Fetch, says. “In extreme cases, chocolate toxicity can result in seizures and death.”

Is chocolate poisonous to cats? 

Despite the range of chocolates out there, none of them are cat-friendly. According to Dr. Devitt, the darker the chocolate, the higher the levels of theobromine and caffeine (the dangerous chemical compounds).

But what about white chocolate? “Although white chocolate only has trace amounts of these compounds, the high fat and sugar content can cause gastrointestinal (GI) upsets for your cat,” Dr. Devitt adds. “There’s really no chocolate that is 100% safe.”

Health risks of cats eating chocolate

Regardless of the chocolate type, consumption can lead to some jarring results. According to Dr. Devitt, this could include vomiting, diarrhea, a sped-up heart rate, abnormal heart rhythms and tremors. 

In extreme cases, Dr. Devitt notes, seizures and death are possible. So, long story short, keep all chocolate safely away from your feline family members.

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Here's what to do if your cat ingests chocolate by accident 

If, by some unfortunate circumstance, your cat eats chocolate, you must take action immediately. 

“Call your veterinarian and/or an animal poison control center right away,” Dr. Devitt says. “If possible, find out what kind of chocolate, and estimate how much your cat got into. Was it cocoa powder? Milk chocolate? Chocolate-covered raisins?”

The more details you can provide, the better. For instance, Dr. Devitt advises being on the lookout for whether or not your cat ate chocolate and the wrapper. 

“Sometimes food wrappers can block the GI tract, causing more medical problems than chocolate ingestion,” Dr. Devitt shares. “Sometimes, chocolate is used to coat food items, like raisins, that may potentially be even more toxic.”

Another thing to be mindful of is “sugar-free” chocolate, which may contain a synthetic sweetener called xylitol (often found in marshmallows). Even though it might not have the same effects on cats that it does on dogs, it’s best to avoid it at all costs to protect your pet’s health.

The Dig, Fetch's expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too.

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