It’s not uncommon for people to leave a cup of coffee or tea on the counter and if you have curious pets like mine (I love them, but they get in everything), they may find themselves sneaking a taste of your coffee. There are surprisingly an abundant amount of items or foods common in most homes than can be harmful to pets, outside of harsh chemicals like cleaners. There’s a full list in a section below that outlines some of these items. While coffee or tea might have documented health benefits in humans, it can be deadly for your pets depending on how much they ingest at one time. Coffee, tea or chocolate aren’t the only common sources of caffeine around the house, caffeine pill or energy drinks are popular these days as alternatives to coffee. My first advice is to be mindful of what your pets can get into.
Is Coffee or Caffeine Bad for Cats or Dogs?
High concentrations of alkaloids called Methylxanthines that can be found in coffee, tea, and chocolate are bad for cats & dogs in large quantities. Methylxanthine is a fancy term for Caffeine which acts as psychostimulant for people but harmful to your pets. Excessive amounts of caffeine from chocolate or coffee can cause panting, seizures, puking, and excessive thirst and urination, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors, diarrhea, and if enough is ingested by your pet, it could lead to death. However, if you or your pet spills coffee or tea on accident, then your pet happens to lick it in small amounts, most pets should be fine and should not cause any concerns.
Strangely enough, the oldest cat to ever lived on record drank coffee daily according to the owner, here’s a link to her Wikipedia, RIP Creme Puff The Cat. To be on the safer side, I wouldn’t recommend any caffeine for your pets, regardless of the amount. Looking around the web, the weight of your pet and the amount ingested are key variables if caffeine or coffee levels are toxic to your pets.
Theophilline, theobromine, and caffeine are the most popular. They can be found in different concentrations in coffee, chocolate, and tea. Caffeine is the main methilxanthine of coffee; theobromine is abundant in chocolate in which the theobromine–caffeine ratio varies widely, but it is typically higher than 1; and theophilline is the primary methylxanthine in teaScienceDirect
Common Sources of Caffeine
- Caffeine pill
- Dark Chocolate
- Energy Drinks
- Prescription pills
Pet Symptoms of Caffeine Toxicity
A cat or dog that has had too much caffeine will exhibit hyperactivity (more than the usual) and restlessness. My cats, for example, will run around the house (we call it ‘the zoomies’) and chase each other for 5-6 minute spurts, then sleep for the next 21 hours. A restless animal from too much caffeine will pace, run around, and vocalize discomfort. The symptoms can last upwards of 12 hours depending on your pet.
List of Common Household Food / Items Bad For Cats (Full List Here)
- Yeast Dough
- Onions, Garlic, Chives
- Milk and Dairy
- Macadamia Nuts
- Grapes and Raisins
- Coconut and Coconut Oil
- Chocolate, Coffee, and Caffeine
My Dog / Cat Just Drank a Cup of Coffee with Cream and Sugar
Again, depending on how much cream & sugar your pet drank they might be okay. But cats and dogs do not produce enough of the enzymes required to break down the lactose in milk called lactase. As a result, your pet may get an upset stomach if they are sensitive enough. As far as sugar, it will have a similar effect as it does in humans if consumed at low levels. However, xylitol can cause liver failure if enough is ingested by your pet.
Who to Contact If Your Pet Was Poisoned?
If you live in the US call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center Phone Number: (888) 426-4435. The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) is your best resource for any animal poison-related emergency, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. If you think your pet may have ingested a potentially poisonous substance, call (888) 426-4435.
Again, small amounts of caffeine or coffee should not be cause for any alarm for your pet’s health. But if you think your cat or dog ingested a large amount of caffeine, you should definitely take it to the vets or call animal poison control.
Final Thoughts & Conclusion
I love my pets like children and I would be devasted if anything happened to them, and it was because of my negligence. Luckily my cats have zero interest in drinking coffee even if I leave it out on the counter, but they do love to break glassware. I’ve had my fair share of broken mugs and glasses thanks to my very rambunctious kitten. Hopefully, this post has given you some ideas of how to deal with a pet that has ingested coffee (caffeine).