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Most cats do not have a strong sweet tooth, and as a rule of thumb, pets shouldn’t be given table scraps or people food. Perhaps, however, your cat has shown interest in candy, baked goods or even chocolate. 

But can cats eat chocolate in very small amounts? The fact of the matter is, chocolate is a known toxin to cats and other pets. Learn more about the risks and what to do if your cat eats chocolate.

Cats and Chocolate: What to Know

Cat sitting with a box of chocolates wondering cats can eat chocolate

Chocolate is generally bad for cats. Once a cat eats more than just a small amount of chocolate, serious side effects can occur, and cats can die from eating chocolate.

Chocolate is poisonous to cats because it contains a compound called theobromine (which acts as a diuretic and heart stimulator) and caffeine. Each kind of chocolate has varying amounts of these compounds. The darker the chocolate, the higher the amount of theobromine and caffeine. Since most chocolate has much higher amounts of theobromine than caffeine, veterinarians usually calculate how poisonous the chocolate will be to cats based on levels of theobromine. 

Can Cats Eat Chocolate Ice Cream?

In theory, a cat would probably be more curious about your chocolate ice cream than a piece of chocolate, since cats are typically drawn to dairy products over sweets.

Chocolate ice cream often contains several kinds of chocolate. For example, recipes may include unsweetened cocoa powder as well as semisweet chocolate.

If your cat takes a couple quick licks of chocolate ice cream, it should not cause harmful side effects. However, if a cat eats more than two or three tablespoons of chocolate ice cream, they are likely to experience side effects from the chocolate.

Compared to eating a piece of chocolate, chocolate ice cream is much less toxic to cats since the chocolate is diluted with the other ingredients such as cream and eggs. That said, some cats are lactose intolerant or sensitive to milk products, so even a small amount of ice cream may cause stomach upset regardless of the chocolate flavoring.

Can Cats Eat White Chocolate?

White chocolate contains very low amounts of harmful theobromine and caffeine. As far as chocolate toxicity goes, your cat would need to eat pounds of white chocolate before seeing side effects. But as expected, white chocolate contains high levels of sugar that are very unhealthy for your cat. And eating that much white chocolate would cause an upset stomach.

While your cat is much less likely to eat so much white chocolate that they experience serious side effects, a diet high in sugar is likely to lead to obesity and possibly other health issues, like diabetes mellitus. 

It’s important to avoid sugary foods in your cat’s diet, but if they had a tiny bite of white chocolate, know that it won’t hurt them.

Cats and Chocolate: Understanding the Risks

Cat feeling unwell laying on the couch

Symptoms of chocolate poisoning in cats begin about six to 12 hours after they eat chocolate. Mild signs may include increased thirst, bloating so the belly appears more rounded, vomiting, diarrhea and restlessness.

If your cat ate enough chocolate to cause more serious symptoms, these symptoms will be initially mild and then progress or worsen. Serious symptoms of chocolate toxicity in cats can include:

  • Hyperactive behavior
  • Difficulty walking
  • Tremors that cause twitching or uncontrollable shaking
  • Seizures
  • High blood pressure
  • Elevated heart and breathing rate
  • Elevated temperature
  • Coma which can lead to death

Cats who weigh approximately 8 pounds will have chocolate poisoning symptoms after eating the following amounts of different types of chocolate:

  • 1.25 ounces of milk chocolate (example: ¾ of a regular-sized Hershey’s bar)
  • 0.5 ounces of chocolate chips (1 tablespoon)
  • 0.2 ounces of unsweetened baker’s chocolate (1 teaspoon)
  • 0.1 ounces of dry cocoa powder (1/2 teaspoon)

These amounts are an approximation, and every cat is unique. If your cat eats twice the amount of any chocolate listed above, they will likely experience severe side effects. Baked goods can also lead to symptoms of chocolate toxicity, and it can be challenging to know how much chocolate is in each baked good.

What to Do If Your Cat Eats Chocolate

Cat at the vet

If your cat eats chocolate and it is more than a single bite of a baked good or a couple licks of ice cream, you should either call a veterinarian or an animal poison control hotline immediately. They will help determine if the amount of chocolate requires monitoring at home or emergency treatment

Be sure to do your best to quantify how much chocolate and the exact kind of chocolate your cat ate. Look at the recipe or the container if it was a baked good. Call as soon as possible, as a veterinarian can help your cat vomit up the harmful chocolate but only up to three hours after the chocolate was eaten.

Unfortunately, there is no safe way to get a cat to vomit at home or treat chocolate toxicity’s harmful symptoms. While many dog parents have probably heard of hydrogen peroxide as a way to get dogs to vomit, this is not an option for cats.

If your cat is showing symptoms of chocolate toxicity of any kind, you should bring them to an emergency clinic right away. Symptoms can continue to worsen, and they will need care as soon as possible.

How to Prevent Your Cat from Eating Chocolate

Cat staring at a baked good and wondering if cats can eat chocolate

Many of us enjoy baking, or at least eating freshly baked goods that someone else made, so it is common to wonder how to keep your cat from eating chocolate. Be sure to cover all baked goods or sweets left on counters with something a cat cannot get through (cats can easily remove plastic wrap or tin foil). And thoroughly rinse off and clean up dishes used to make baked goods.

Some cats are excellent at opening cupboards or even certain doors. Child-proofing mechanisms to keep cupboards and doors shut are useful in preventing cats from breaking into cabinets, too. 

And if your kids are having a tasty treat that could be harmful to your cat, let your child know not to share. As most kids accidentally “share” with pets by dropping food, it might be best to distract your cat or even put them in a different room temporarily while your child finishes that tasty treat.