Can cats drink coffee?

Picture of cat sniffing a cup of coffee
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Many people consume caffeine throughout the day. From a fresh cup of coffee first thing in the morning and a cold, refreshing soda with lunch, to a hot cup of tea in the afternoon, people often depend on caffeine to jumpstart their day and to keep them going well into the evening.

When it comes to sharing coffee or other caffeinated beverages with your cat, it’s widely discouraged. Not only can it cause several side effects, but death can also occur under certain circumstances. There are also a few factors that can make one situation more critical than others, including the size of the cat, the cat’s current health, and the amount of caffeine that has been ingested.

In this article, we will dive deeper into why coffee isn’t good for cats, the side effects that cats may have after ingesting coffee, how to help treat a cat if they have ingested coffee, and how to prevent future caffeine exposure. When in doubt, it’s always best to seek veterinary expertise when it comes to the safety and well-being of your feisty feline, especially if caffeine has been consumed.

Caffeine is Dangerous to Cats

Ingesting caffeine is toxic for cats. It can take just 30 minutes for caffeine to reach peak levels in the bloodstream and cause serious side effects, although it can take up to an hour to notice the unsettling signs. Once the signs of caffeine ingestion become apparent, they can last anywhere from 6 to 12 hours. In extreme cases, symptoms can persist longer.

Signs of Toxicity

Once the caffeine has peaked in the cat’s bloodstream, several signs and symptoms exist. These include:

  • Restlessness
  • Hyperactivity
  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea
  • Tremors and/or seizers
  • Rapid and/or irregular heartbeat
  • Increased blood pressure

Factors Affecting Toxicity Levels

Many factors contribute to how sick your feline will become after ingesting coffee or any other caffeinated substance. Some of these factors include the size of the cat, how healthy the animal is, and how much caffeine has been consumed.

Smaller cats, or cats in poor health, can demonstrate signs of caffeine toxicity after a smaller amount of coffee when compared to larger cats in good health. Another contributing factor is how much coffee was ingested. A cat who had one or two teaspoons could have a milder case when compared to another who drank several teaspoons.

When to Seek Treatment

If you suspect that the cat only had a small taste, make sure it has access to plenty of fresh water and keep a close eye on it for the next 12 hours. If you notice any side effects, even if they are mild, it’s best to seek veterinary advice to err on the side of caution.

If you suspect that your cat has ingested a larger amount of coffee or another caffeinated substance, it’s best to seek out veterinary assistance. If you catch your cat in the act of ingesting coffee, take it away immediately and try to estimate how much has been consumed. This information, along with the cat’s approximate weight, is helpful when contacting your vet.

Veterinary Intervention

If you find yourself at the vet’s office for caffeine toxicity, there are several things that may occur to help your furry pet feel better. First off, your vet could elect to induce vomiting. When a lot of coffee or caffeine has been ingested, expelling it from the stomach will prevent further absorption.

Since it can take anywhere from 24 to 48 hours for caffeine to fully leave a cat’s system, another option the vet has is to give your feline an IV to help flush out the caffeine. This will not work immediately, but it will help the body process it slightly faster. It also aids in kidney function and prevents dehydration, which often accompanies vomiting and diarrhea.

Cats experiencing an accelerated heart rate and/or tremors and seizures can be given medication to help ease these symptoms. Medication can also be given if your cat is experiencing high blood pressure. In some instances, activated charcoal might also be given to a cat to prevent further caffeine absorption.

Regardless of the symptoms, cats who are brought to the vet for caffeine toxicity usually spend a day in the animal hospital. In more severe cases, cats can be kept for a few days to help manage symptoms and for observation. It is important to note that the different techniques veterinarians use to help treat caffeine toxicity should not be tried at home, as they can lead to even more serious complications.

Prevention

The best way to keep your lovable feline safe is to make sure everything that contains caffeine is out of reach and stored properly in containers and/or cabinets. Keep in mind that a fresh cup of coffee or espresso isn’t the only caffeinated substance that can potentially harm your cat. You should also keep them away from:

  • Soda and energy drinks
  • Tea and tea bags
  • Medications and caffeine pills
  • Coffee beans, powders, and grounds
  • Chocolate and chocolate-flavored treat

It’s also important to watch your morning cup of coffee, especially if you use milk or dairy products. Cats are attracted to the sweet smell of milk, despite being naturally lactose intolerant. If they have even a few licks of coffee that have been mixed with milk, even a few drops that may have spilled onto the counter, they can develop a taste for coffee. This, of course, can lead to serious problems.

Keep Your Kitty Away from Caffeine

Cats and caffeine don’t mix. Ingesting coffee or other caffeinated substances can lead to caffeine toxicity and undesirable side effects. If large quantities of coffee have been ingested, it can also lead to death.

If you notice any signs of caffeine toxicity, or you suspect your feline friend has ingested coffee, it’s best to seek veterinary advice as soon as possible. Thankfully, there are several approaches vets can take to treat your cat if it has accidentally ingested coffee or another caffeinated substance.