Can cats eat Easter chocolate?
Cats cannot eat chocolate as it contains two toxic compounds, methylxanthines theobromine (3,7-dimethylxanthine) and caffeine (1,3,7-trimethylxanthine) which are central nervous system stimulants. Veterinarians commonly report an increase in cases of chocolate poisoning in cats during Easter and Christmas when well-meaning pet owners share their treats.
Dogs are at greater risk of chocolate poisoning than cats because they are more likely to consume large quantities of chocolate, whereas cats are more selective eaters as well as being unable to taste sweetness.
Clinical signs of chocolate toxicity in cats
Clinical signs of chocolate toxicity occur between 6-12 hours of exposure.
- Increased thirst and urination
- Vomiting, which may smell of chocolate and/or contain blood (hematemesis)
- Abdominal tenderness and bloating
How much chocolate is toxic to cats?
The lethal dose of theobromine poisoning is as little as 100 – 200 mg per kg of body weight and 150 mg per kg of body weight for caffeine. However, the concentration of theobromine and caffeine can vary between brands and the natural variation of cocoa beans.
Ingestion of theobromine lower than the lethal dose can still cause acute and life-threatening symptoms. Caffeine is toxic to cats, however, the levels of caffeine in chocolate are relatively low, and cats metabolise this much faster than they do theobromine, so this article will focus mostly on that.
|Dry cocoa powder||576 mg per oz/28 g||64 mg per oz/28 g|
|Baking chocolate||363 mg per oz/28 g||22.4 mg per oz/28 g|
|Dark chocolate 70-85%||225 mg per oz/28 g||22.4 mg per oz/28 g|
|Milk chocolate||57.4 mg per oz/28 g||5.6 mg per oz/28 g|
Although the concentration of theobromine in chocolate is 3–10 times that of caffeine, both constituents contribute to the clinical syndrome seen in chocolate toxicosis. In addition, the high-fat content of chocolate can also cause pancreatitis. This is an extremely painful condition in which the pancreas becomes inflamed due to the inappropriate activation of digestive enzymes which begin to break down the pancreas.
Other Easter dangers
Chocolate isn’t the only thing off the Easter menu. Hot cross buns contain raisins which are toxic to cats. The toxic principle is unknown, but ingestion leads to acute kidney failure.
Lillies are a popular Easter flower but are deadly to cats. Again, the toxic principle is unknown, but ingestion causes acute kidney failure. All parts of the lily are dangerous, including pollen and water.