It can be a delectable treat for those of us who enjoy chocolate. Although most pet parents are aware that dogs should not have chocolate, it is less well known that our feline friends cannot have a small nibble, either. Humans enjoy a variety of foods that are poisonous to cats! Today, our Pflugerville veterinary team tells us about some foods to avoid feeding your cat, as well as what to do if they develop chocolate toxicity.
Can cats eat chocolate?
In a nutshell, no! Chocolate contains caffeine and theobromine, both of which are toxic to cats if consumed in large enough quantities. These compounds are stimulants, and when absorbed in the body of a cat, they become highly toxic. Dark and barker's quality chocolate is more toxic to cats due to higher levels of cocoa (and thus more toxic compounds).
What About Chocolate-Flavored Foods?
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. Although your cat may not experience fatal effects from some chocolate ice cream, 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.
Symptoms Of Chocolate Toxicity In Cats
If your cat has recently gotten into some chocolate (e.g. you see them licking a chocolate bar wrapper), 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 not usual in cats, who don't pant to cool themselves as dogs do)
- Tremors, shaking
Regardless of whether your cat shows signs of toxicity listed above if they consume chocolate contact your primary vet or head to the emergency vet right away, as symptoms can onset suddenly.
Other Foods Toxic To Cats
Even if you make sure to keep the KitKats away from the kitty, there are some other foods that you might be surprised to learn are also a no-go for your cat. Some of these foods include:
- Grapes, raisins
- Cow's milk (many cats are lactose intolerant!)
- Uncooked eggs, raw meat/bones, raw dough
- Garlic, onions, leeks
- Uncooked potatoes, tomatoes
Diagnosing & Treating Food Toxicity In Cats
If your cat eats chocolate, try to keep as calm as possible. Cats are very sensitive to your emotions, and keeping a level head will help them remain calm and potentially prevent symptoms of chocolate poisoning from worsening.
When you arrive at the veterinary office, your cat's vet will perform a physical examination and ask for any information about what they've eaten (type and estimated amount of chocolate). Depending on the circumstances, your veterinarian may induce vomiting to prevent your cat's body from absorbing toxins. Your cat will also receive fluids and any additional procedures or medications that your veterinarian recommends.
Preventing Chocolate Poisoning In Cats
It may be no surprise to learn that keeping chocolate treats locked away is the easiest way to prevent your cat from eating something harmful. 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.
Healthy Treats For Your Cat
Although it's never good to give your cat too much 'human' food (which often has too much salt and fat for our pets to safely process), there are a few appropriate snacks that you can share with them now and then:
- Berries (if there are stems and leaves, remove them first)
- Ripe banana slices
- Carrots, green beans
- Diced, unsalted cooked turkey or chicken (sans skin)
- A little bit of tuna (low sodium)
- Catnip tea or low sodium chicken broth frozen into ice cubes
Even though your cat can't enjoy a chocolate bar with you, there are several tasty treats that you can offer from your kitchen, and a wide range of pet treats made just for your four-legged friend!
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.