Can Cats Eat Easter Chocolate?

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

Early signs

Clinical signs of chocolate toxicity occur between 6-12 hours of exposure.

Late signs

  • Hyperactivity
  • Hyperirritability
  • Rapid breathing
  • Rapid heartbeat (tachycardia)
  • Ataxia (wobbly gait)
  • Elevated temperature (hyperthermia) due to excessive muscle activity
  • Muscle twitching or tremors
  • Seizures
  • Cyanosis
  • Coma
  • Death

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.

Type (source)

Theobromine

Caffeine

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
White chocolate Insignificant Insignificant

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.

Author

  • Julia Wilson, 'Cat World' Founder

    Julia Wilson is the founder of Cat-World, and has researched and written over 1,000 articles about cats. She is a cat expert with over 20 years of experience writing about a wide range of cat topics, with a special interest in cat health, welfare and preventative care. Julia lives in Sydney with her family, four cats and two dogs. Full author bio