We’ve all heard the expression "curiosity killed the cat," and thankfully, cats don't tend to be too curious about chocolate. If they were, we’d have a problem.
Chocolate is toxic to our furry little munchkins. The theobromine and caffeine content in cocoa beans can wreak havoc on their digestive system and send their body into shock.
Kittens are the most at risk. For one, their curiosity is through the roof. And secondly, their digestive systems are less resilient to processing food that’s bad for them.
In the rest of this article, we’re going to take a closer look at the warning signs to look for and what to do if you think your four-legged loved one has eaten some chocolate.
How Much Chocolate Can a Cat Eat?
There's no hard and fast rule for how much chocolate your cat can get away with eating.
Chocolates that are especially poisonous to cats are milk chocolate, baking chocolate, and semi-sweet chocolate. The amount that's toxic depends on two factors.
1. The weight of your cat.
2. The type of chocolate. (Different types of chocolate have different levels of the caffeine and theobromine).
The problem then is to know exactly how much chocolate your cat can safely consume, which can be tricky to confirm. The weight of your cat is easy enough to figure out on the fly if you have a scale in your bathroom.
If you're lucky enough to know how much chocolate kitty ate, there's a handy-dandy toxicity calculator available at VeterinaryClinic.com that you can use to decide if a trip to the vet is necessary. It factors in the average toxin content of various kinds of chocolate against your cat's weight to determine the level of risk.
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Signs and Symptoms
The range of indicators is pretty wide for chocolate toxicity in cats, so there’s a lot to watch out for. Vomiting and diarrhea are common signs that Mr. or Mrs. Whiskers has gotten into some cocoa. Both are signs that the body is trying to expel something that doesn’t belong.
Increased body temperature, increased heart rate, and rapid breathing are also telltale signs. Their little bodies are doing all they can to make an inhospitable environment for the foreign invaders, which in this case are the theobromine and caffeine found in chocolate. Hopefully, you’re able to catch it before it comes down to this, but severe cases of chocolate exposure can induce seizures, coma, and ultimately cardiac failure. Low blood pressure can also occur, but that’s something that’s difficult to spot without the help of a veterinarian.
The key takeaway is to look for anything out of the ordinary. Kittens are goofy and spasmodic, it’s true, but their behavior is also predictable and has patterns. If kitty doesn’t seem like herself, play it safe and take a quick trip to the veterinarian.
What They Can Do for Kitty at the Vet’s
For one, your vet has a lay of the medical landscape. They know when they see two sharp a peak or too low a valley in the way your cat is presenting. Accurate blood pressure and heart rate measurements will also help to eliminate potential causes and risk factors.
If the vet decides that the signs of toxicity are there, they can pull out the fancy bag of tricks: urinalysis, electrolyte panels, and a chemical blood profile. They can also do an ECG (electrocardiogram) to check the heart for further abnormalities.
How to Safely Induce Vomiting
If you can’t make it to the vet, or if you’re positive that your cat has gotten into too much chocolate recently, making them throw up is also an option. It takes roughly two hours for food to enter the small intestine, so as long as it hasn’t been longer than that, it could be worth a shot.
Check out the video below of veterinarian Dr. Karen Becker explaining how to induce vomiting by feeding your cat hydrogen peroxide hidden in ice cream.
While this an awful subject to think about, it’s always best to be prepared for the worst when it comes to those adorable little snuggle puppets we call cats. When first spotting the signs of chocolate poisoning, trust your gut. Don’t over think the warning signs. If something seems off, take action!
Forcing your cat to throw up with hydrogen peroxide isn’t going to hurt them, but chocolate toxicity that goes undealt with will.
You know your cat better than anyone else. If they seem out of it, struggling to stand and walk with their usual grace, play it safe and take all the necessary precautions you can to ensure a long, healthy life together for you and your cat.
Image credit: Alex Goodey