Nothing beats chocolate, right? Whether as a tasty dessert or a pick-me-up after a tough day, chocolate is one of the most exquisite foods on Earth. For us, that is. For our furry feline friends, though, chocolate is one of the worst and deadliest substances they can consume. It can make them terribly ill and even kill them. With this in mind, please keep all foods that contain chocolate as far away from your cats as possible.

Let’s talk a bit about what makes chocolate so dangerous for our pets. The problem is that chocolate contains a particular chemical called theobromine. It is related to caffeine, and just like caffeine, it has an adverse effect on our little furry friends. And given that our cats are so small to begin with, even a minor amount of theobromine can really do significant damage. This means that even the smallest bits of chocolate can be deadly to cats if consumed.

It is important to note that not all varieties of chocolate are equally harmful to your pet. Different types contain different levels of theobromine. For example, the worst variety for cats is unsweetened or baker’s chocolate. Semisweet chocolate and milk chocolate generally contain less theobromine and are therefore less harmful. Dark chocolates are harder to categorize neatly. Gourmet brands tend to be worse than less fancy options. White chocolate contains the lowest levels of any variety.

Now I do want to emphasize that NO type of chocolate is good for your cat and that all varieties should be considered deadly. If your furry friend consumes any chocolate of any kind, you need to seek medical attention immediately.

At this point, you’re probably thinking, “Of course I’ll call my vet immediately if he eats chocolate, but how do I know if he has if I don’t see him do it?” Here is a quick list of symptoms you should look for within 12 hours of consumption:

Excitability/ Irritability
Vomiting/ Diarrhea
Excessive thirst and more frequent urination (this is common in cases involving greater theobromine toxicity)
Muscle spasms and seizures (in more severe cases)
Increased heart rate

If you see any of these signs and talk to your vet, she will most likely recommend inducing vomiting or administering charcoal, though the exact treatment plan will obviously depend on the severity of the case and the symptoms displayed by your cat.

For more information on this issue and other holiday hazards, please search for “chocolate” in our feline health library.

Thanks for your interest in this issue! Let’s keep our little guys and girls healthy and happy!