Now that this important piece of business is out of the way, let’s get into the details.
You already knew that dogs couldn’t eat chocolate but you probably weren’t so sure about cats because no one ever mentions that part of the story. It’s certainly not because people care more about the safety of dogs than they do about cats, and it’s not even due to lopsided research (as is the case with pet intelligence, which you can read more about on our blog here). It’s simply because it almost never happens. In reported incidents of pets eating chocolate, a whopping 95% of the culprits are dogs, and the reasons for this are fairly simple. While cats will generally only sample bites that smell like something they know they like, dogs are more inclined to eat anything, including garbage, and will repeat the habit regardless of taste. Because cats can’t physically detect sweetness, chocolate and most other desserts hold little intrigue for them, so there’s very little risk of a kitty sneaking out of her cat cave to swipe a bite of chocolate or even accepting one from an unknowing human. And thank goodness for that, because . . .
Chocolate is really bad for cats.
Sure, it’s not exactly a healthy food for humans either, despite our best efforts to find randomly specific reasons it’s “good” for us, and it can certainly be toxic to dogs, too, but cats are particularly susceptible to its dangers. For kitties, the two problematic components of chocolate are caffeine and theobromine, with the more serious effects coming from the latter. Theobromine can be found in some other plants but is most famously found in the cacao plant, from which all real chocolate originates. Cats absorb this molecule very slowly, leaving a level that seriously stresses their systems, particularly their livers, and can lead to liver failure and death in the worst cases. Even the smallest doses of chocolate can be fatal (like, seriously small: 0.2 ounces of baking chocolate could do it), so any consumption should be immediately reported to your vet. It’s possible that your kitty might not need an emergency room visit or even a trip to the dreaded vet’s office at all, but only a vet should make this determination. Call immediately even if you know little to nothing about what the kitty ate, but here’s the information your vet will be most interested in when you call:
*Your cat’s size/weight
*The time your cat consumed chocolate
*What type of chocolate your cat consumed
*The specific product your cat consumed (save the wrapper if you can—the information on the packaging can be invaluable to your vet)
*How much chocolate your cat consumed
It’s possible you won’t witness your clever cat making the dopey decision to chow down on chocolate, but the good news is that you’re likely to notice the symptoms of her poor judgment. You’re basically looking for the same characteristics of Coffee Kathy from the office, hopped up on her third double espresso by 9 AM:
*Increased reflex response
And while Coffee Kathy is hopefully not vomiting or having diarrhea, your cat is likely to be doing at least one of these, and this is good. The first step in many chocolate treatments is to get as much of the chocolate as possible out of the cat’s system before it begins taking effect (this is why your vet would like to know what time the feast occurred), and that often involves inducing vomiting. It’s possible your vet will instruct you to do this at home before coming in for treatment, but never make this decision on your own. Improperly or unnecessarily done, you could cause more harm than good. Pro-tip for any cat or dog household: You should always have a syringe on hand in case you do need to induce vomiting in your four-legged friends. You’ll need to force your pet to drink hydrogen peroxide, and that’s never going to happen without one. Most pharmacies will give you one for free any time, so stop by and grab one next time you’re out and you’ll be prepared if the need ever arises.
White chocolate isn’t real chocolate, so is that okay?
Still no. It’s true that white chocolate doesn’t contain any cocoa solids, but there can still be trace amounts of caffeine and theobromine in this sugary-sweet concoction and, since cats are so sensitive to these substances, you still need to contact your vet if kitty consumed any. For reference, you can generally assume that the darker the chocolate the worse it is for your pet (cat or dog), but no chocolate is safe. There are plenty of other foods that are unsafe for cats; so, while you’re making the wise decision to educate yourself on the topic of food toxicity for your furriest family members, check out this larger list of foods your kitty shouldn’t eat. In general, human food isn’t ideal for cats at all and should never be used as a regular substitute for cat food, but the occasional special meal or random treat is fine, provided it doesn’t appear on that list of no-nos. If you do want to prepare a fun feast for your furball, you can play it safe by whipping up something simple from Cooking for Two: Your Cat & You, with recipes, specifically formulated for cat safety.