Cats are very curious. Despite they are rather picky eaters, they will never miss an opportunity to explore and taste what you are savoring so much. Especially, they are interested when eating that treat is preceded by the unfolding of its wrapper. So shiny, so beckoning – your kitty just can’t resist it.
Many cat owners say that their pets like eating chocolate, candies, ice cream. At first glance, it may seem that cats do it consciously, enjoying the taste of sweets. But that’s not true: cats, being true predators, do not feel the taste of sugar at all.
When a cat eats chocolate, it feels the taste of vegetable fats, milk, nuts, but not sugar.
The thing is the cat DNA lacks the TAS1R2 gene, which is responsible for the perception of sweet taste. In comparison, human DNA includes this gene along with the TAS1R3 gene, allowing us to distinguish different sweet tastes.
For omnivores and herbivores, this skill is necessary, since they need carbohydrates, which are abundant in sweet food. Since carnivores (which the cats are) need a large amount of protein rather than carbohydrates, sugar for cats is useless. Therefore, it is not necessary for felines to taste it. It is much more important to recognize the protein, and a kitty is a great one for it!
No matter what their real nature is, lots of cats eat chocolate, making their owners worry and look for answers. Is chocolate poisonous to cats? Is chocolate toxic to cats? Can I give my cat chocolate if it likes it? Is it dangerous to treat my kitty with sweets from time to time? What should I do if my cat was fed with chocolate? Let’s deal with this once and for all!
Is Chocolate Bad For Cats?
Of course, it is not toxic in small amounts and you have no reasons to worry if your cat has licked or bitten a little piece of chocolate. However, eating more can be fatal and requires emergency vet care.
But what is that “small amount” of chocolate and how much is too much for cats? It depends on the weight of your pet, the amount of chocolate, and the concentration of theobromine in it. As little as 20 mg per pound of cat can cause health problems.
This toxic agent is a component of all kinds of chocolate, including white chocolate. The darker the chocolate is, the more dangerous it is. In the order of theobromine concentration, here is the list from least to worst (for 100g of chocolate):
- Vegan chocolate (very low level)
- White chocolate (about 10mg)
- Milk chocolate (about 200mg)
- Dark chocolate (802-493mg)
- Unsweetened baking chocolate (1297 mg)
Besides theobromine, milk and dark chocolate also contain caffeine, which affects feline nervous system badly.
For sure, chocolate has a positive effect as well – it’s made of cocoa beans, which offer calcium, iron, vitamins (A, C, E), fiber, protein, and other important nutrients. But the harm from theobromine and caffeine is much more destructive.
Why Is Chocolate Bad For Cats?
- Reason 1 – Theobromine
Theobromine in small amounts acts as a diuretic, causing increased loss of body fluids, and as a stimulant, leading to increased blood pressure, heart rate, also causes gastrointestinal upset, and the nervous system problems.
As cat body can’t break theobromine down and eliminate it like humans, in bigger amounts it can even cause general intoxication and death of a pet. The first symptoms of a cat’s critical condition during the theobromine poison are vomiting and diarrhea.
In such case, you should immediately contact the veterinarian and collect the vomit for the laboratory test.
- Reason 2 – Sugar
Since cats can’t taste sugar, they eat chocolate and other sweets because of the protein, which is the basis of any predator’s diet, and don’t suspect that they also consume lots of harmful sugar as well.
- Reason 3 – Carbohydrates
A cat, which lives in an apartment, consumes little energy since it has no need to hunt or protect its territory. Carbohydrates (such as sugar) are stored “in reserve”. They turn into fat under the skin and in the tissues of organs, eventually leading to a decrease in their functionality. Finally, your pussycat will end up overweight or obese, significantly shortening its life expectancy.
- Reason 4 – Diabetes
As the cat’s body is not meant to absorb a large amount of glucose, eating chocolate can lead to lack of insulin, which in turn leads to a violation of protein metabolism in the feline body. Thus, the level of glucose in the blood and urine increases and diabetes develops.
- Reason 5 – Immune System
Also, chocolate and sweets reduce the protective functions of the cat’s body.
Since the intestinal immune system has more protective cells than the respiratory immune system, it’s very important to keep it at the highest level. But all kinds of sweet products are bad for the entire digestive system of the cat (including the intestines) – it is just not built for the digestion of such products.
Chocolate is the most dangerous for young and aging cats, pregnant and lactating cats, kittens, and cats with chronic illnesses.
Common Symptoms & Results of Eating Chocolate for Cats
- Increased reflex responses
- Tremors/muscle twitching
- Muscle rigidity
- Rapid breathing
- Excessive thirst
- Excessive urination
- Abnormal heart rhythm
- Heart attack
- Increased body temperature
Are Cats Allergic To Chocolate?
Chocolate is poisonous to cats, but they are not allergic to it.
Allergy means that the product is harmless for the body, but the immune system overreacts to it, causing some typical symptoms as a result. As we already know, chocolate contains some dangerous components, which cause more severe health problems than a regular allergy.
However, individual cats can be allergic to chocolate, but such cases are very rare.
Can Cats Die From Chocolate?
We already know how harmful the bitter alkaloid theobromine can be for our little feline friends. But it can hurt even more, leading to coma or death. The average lethal dose for a cat is the amount of chocolate containing 200mg of theobromine.
Does chocolate kill cats? – Yes, it does!
To Sum Up
Stop thinking like “Can my kitty be allowed to eat a chocolate treat once in a while?” – It’s a definite huge NO-NO.
Make sure that every member of your family knows and understands the risks of chocolate for pets, always call the vet if something’s wrong with your cat, and keep the level of chocolate in your kitty’s diet at a firm zero.