Can I Give My Cat Chocolate?
Every reasonable human being loves chocolate. Though the best way to eat it is in bar form, most of us aren’t picky: we will gladly take our chocolate in beverages, ice cream, baked goods, drizzled over deep-fried anything, and of course, blanketed over our favorite fruits. We understand that chocolate is supposed to be a relatively small part of our own diets. We know to limit how much we eat, and to keep it away from our dogs—most of us have come to realize that our dogs can’t handle chocolate in any amount. But what about cats?
While all pet owners have heard at least one story of the dangers of combining dogs and chocolate, fewer people are familiar with the effects of feeding chocolate to cats. Many of us are less inclined to toss our feline friends table scraps, but sooner or later, we will find ourselves in a situation where our cat is begging for a square of dark chocolate. So, should we share? Can cats have chocolate?
Answer: No, your cat should not, under any circumstances, eat any amount of chocolate. This is not one of the foods that can be okay in moderation or as a rare treat. Chocolate is just as poisonous to cats as it is to dogs—in fact, your cat may exhibit symptoms of poisoning that are more severe because of their smaller size. This means you should avoid feeding your cat anything that contains any amount of chocolate or cocoa flavoring.
Risks of Feeding Your Cat Chocolate
This shouldn’t be too much of a sacrifice, because there is no good reason to feed chocolate to your cat anyway. Even if it were not toxic, chocolate would be a terrible treat for your cat. Most chocolate is high in sugar, fat, and calories. Cats, who are obligate carnivores, often struggle to digest the high amounts of sugar found in most chocolate bars and chocolate-flavored snack foods. The high fat and calorie content also greatly increases your cat’s chances of becoming overweight or obese, which can lead to a wide variety of health problems that may reduce quality of life and lifespan. Overweight cats are at a higher risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, and several types of cancer.
In addition to being an unhealthy food, chocolate isn’t even a food that is well-formulated for your cat’s taste buds. The sugar that makes desserts so harmful for cats (and so delicious to us) turns out to be for absolutely nothing—unlike us, who are often possessed by our sweet teeth, cats do not even have the ability to taste sweet things! If your cat is drawn to rich chocolatey desserts, it is likely due to the fat content. There are much better ways you can appeal to your cat’s love of that umami flavor!
But, of course, the most pressing reason not to feed your cat chocolate is the fact that it can literally kill them. Chocolate contains two chemicals that are highly toxic to felines: caffeine and theobromine. Different types of chocolate have different concentrations of toxins—baking chocolate is widely considered to be the most dangerous, followed by dark chocolate, milk chocolate, and white chocolate. If your cat eats enough chocolate or cocoa-based products, they will develop theobromine toxicity, which is a serious, life-threatening condition.
To give you an idea of just how poisonous chocolate is to cats: as little as a tablespoon and a half of cocoa powder, a small slice of chocolate cake with frosting, or a single square of baking chocolate may be enough to result in poisoning.
Things to Keep in Mind
If your cat eats too much chocolate, they may develop symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, fever, stiff or rigid muscles, rapid heart rate, extreme thirst, excessive urination, accelerated or troubled breathing, anxiety, pacing, low blood pressure, fainting, behavioral changes, and physical weakness. These symptoms will vary in duration and severity based on your cat’s size and how much chocolate they have eaten. Left untreated, your cat may have seizures, suffer from heart failure, or lapse into a coma. If you suspect your cat has eaten chocolate, the safest thing you can do is contact the vet’s office immediately. If your cat has yet to develop poisoning symptoms, your vet may induce vomiting and administer activated charcoal to minimize the poison absorbed. Cats who are already symptomatic may require more care.
In conclusion, you should never feed your cat any amount of chocolate or chocolate-flavored foods. In addition to being nutritionally empty and high in fat and calories, chocolate contains substances that are extremely toxic to felines. If left untreated, chocolate poisoning can be fatal—which is an awfully big price to ask for a food that cats, who are unable to taste sweet things, can’t properly enjoy. Do your cat a favor and stick with treats formulated specifically for felines. Other foods that should not be given to cats include: Onions, garlic, grapes, raisins, milk, coffee, mushrooms, raw chicken, raw eggs and others.