Coffee may be just the thing many of us need to get up and ready to go in the morning, but most cats don’t really need help to get going.
They get going when they feel like it (usually when they are hungry), nap when they feel like it, and generally think that our way of doing things is worthy of a cat’s disdainful sniff (or confusion, depending on the cat).
So, while we humans often need our coffee in the morning, cats certainly do not – and in fact, coffee and anything else with caffeine in it is not only useless to cats, it’s actually quite toxic.
If you have ever accidentally scattered some grounds on the floor or on the counter and had your cat curiously poking at them, you may have immediately wondered: Are coffee grounds toxic to cats?
Short answer: Yes. Coffee beans, grounds, and brewed coffee are all dangerously toxic to cats. And we don’t just mean it might make them barf and they will carry on – we mean, a moderate amount is enough to kill your cat (and even small dogs).
So why are coffee grounds so toxic?
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All That Caffeine!
The caffeine in a cup of coffee may be (just) enough to get our brains going and ready for the day, but it’s way too much for cats and their body size. Caffeine is made up of a chemical called Theobromine, which is the stuff that makes you jittery if you overdo it.
In cats, theobromine goes beyond jitters into outright hyperactivity, elevated heart rate, and even seizures. The more that gets consumed, the greater the side effects and symptoms will be.
It takes a lot of coffee for us humans to feel overly jittery and have to worry about our heart rates, but cats are much smaller than we are, so it doesn’t take nearly as high a dosage.
And while a cat licking a few drops of coffee is unlikely to do much, going after the coffee grounds is more likely to make your pet quite ill.
As a note, it’s theobromine that also makes things like chocolate, energy drinks, and many types of tea equally toxic to cats (and dogs). They just cannot process it as we do, and they get sick on a far smaller amount.
Signs of Caffeine Toxicity if Your Cat Ate Coffee Grounds
The signs that your cat may have inadvertently poisoned itself show up pretty quickly – usually within 30 minutes. Symptoms of caffeine toxicity include:
- Increased heart rate
- Increased vocalization
- Loss of muscle control
- Seizures and tremors
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- Increased urination
These symptoms can last for around twelve hours which makes for a very uncomfortable pet.
How much it will take for your cat to get poisoned depends on the amount of caffeine they got and the size and health of the animal. The larger, healthier, and younger the cat is, the more it can tolerate compared to a small, old cat with other health issues.
In the case of most cats though, we aren’t talking much of a difference between harmless-if-uncomfortable and get-your-pet-to-the-vet as soon as possible. And coffee grounds, particularly fresh ones, contain a lot of caffeine in them, compared to a few drops of coffee on a counter, so the risk is even higher.
Do Cats Like Coffee Grounds?
Do you have to worry now that your cat will try to sneak coffee grounds?
Thankfully, most cats don’t really like coffee grounds. They are often used as a successful deterrent to keep cats out of gardens in fact because most cats don’t really care for the smell.
But, you just never know with cats – they do have their own personalities after all and some of them are either too curious to care about the smell, or actually like the smell.
If you have one of those cats, it’s absolutely critical to keep the grounds well out of their reach and make sure they cannot get into the garbage.
However, it’s unlikely that your cat will make much (or any) effort to go after your grounds. Just prevent accidental poisoning by keeping the grounds away from their food, water, and play area, and everyone should be fine.
What Can I Do If My Cat is Poisoned?
If you notice your cat is displaying some of the symptoms listed above and you suspect they go into the coffee grounds, it’s important to take your cat to the vet as quickly as possible.
The vet may do things like induce vomiting or use activated charcoal to prevent the cat’s body from absorbing any more of the caffeine.
Your cat may also need to have IV fluids to prevent dehydration and if there are cases of tremors and seizures, your cat may need medications.
In mild cases, a cat usually just stays through the day – in more severe cases, it may have to stay for several days for treatment and supervision. Make sure to tell your vet if you suspect caffeine poisoning so that the appropriate tests can be done.
Other Sources of Caffeine
Coffee grounds and tea bags are probably the worst offenders for cats (Aside from chocolate-covered coffee beans) because they are more concentrated and easier for cats to eat. But other sources of caffeine to watch out for include:
- Energy drinks
- Diet pills
- Chocolate bars
And since cats are curious, they may well get into some of these things and make themselves quite ill. It’s important to keep foods like this well out of your cat’s reach and clean up any messes promptly so that they don’t do it for you with disastrous results!
Coffee grounds are definitely toxic to cats. Caffeine can cause a whole range of health problems, and in a high enough dosage, it can be fatal.
Fortunately, most cats don’t really like coffee grounds and will avoid them, but it’s still important to monitor your cat for signs of sickness if there was exposure. The earlier you can get your cat to the vet, the better the outcomes will be.
Has your cat ever gotten into caffeine or coffee grounds? How was it dealt with?
Pam is a self-confessed cat lover and has experience of working with cats and owning cats for as long as she can remember. This website is where she gets to share her knowledge and interact with other cat lovers.