"Where's the harm? My cat seems to enjoy chocolate and it's only a small piece."
Just because certain foods, such as chocolate, are enjoyed by us humans and are perfectly safe for us, it does not mean they are suitable for cats. Chocolate contains chemicals which rarely cause problems for humans, but for cats and other domestic pets, these chemicals can, in rare cases, be deadly.
One problem is that cats in general find chocolate very tasty and so, it is important not to feed it to them, otherwise they will eat what you give them up to the point where it poisons them.
Chocolate contains the compound theobromine which is a diuretic as well as a cardiac stimulant. This can cause the pet's heart rate to increase or it may cause the heart to beat irregularly, both of which can be dangerous to the animal. The level of theobromine present in chocolate varies depending on the type of chocolate. For example, dark chocolate contains higher levels than milk chocolate and so could pose a greater risk to your pet.
There are many problems that can result from feeding a cat chocolate. Chocolate is relatively high in calories so it can contribute to the development of obesity in your cat. A cat can lose its appetite for it's normal food if it eats chocolate. The largest problem is though the fact that chocolate contains the chemical theobromine as mentioned above. If this chemical builds up in the cats system, it can be potentially lethal, and one reason for this is that cats cannot clear theobromine from their bodies as quickly as people can.
Many cat owners would simply expect their pet to develop an upset stomach after eating a large amount of chocolate but few realize its lethal potential.
Further problems which can arise from chocolate poisoning are Diuresis (increased urine production), diarrhea, lethargy, vomiting, depression, and muscle tremors. These are signs which must be recognized by any cat owner so that the cat is not fed too much chocolate.
Treatment for chocolate poisoning in its advanced stage can be very unpleasant for both the cat andthe owner of the cat, so it is much better to be safe and to cut down chocolate consumption of your cat to a minimum. If you do have worries that your cat has consumed large quantities of human chocolate it would be wise to consult your vet - pronto. Spotting the symptoms early on can be very beneficial and can give the cat a much better chance of surviving any poisoning which may have occurred.
If you wish to feed your cat chocolate, there are alternate "chocolate" treats for cats which are produced by some pet food manufacturers. They will either use a vegetable substitute made to taste and look like chocolate, or they will take out the theobromine, or use greatly reduced, safe levels in the chocolate treats they produce. While a very small amount of chocolate may not be harmful to some cats, it is always safest to avoid giving any to them at all.
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