Can cats drink coffee? Is it harmful? (Answered ✅)

Ever wondered if cats can drink coffee? We’ve got the low-down on everything to know about cats and caffeine including how to determine and treat toxicity.

Animals have a far faster metabolism than humans, which makes ingesting stimulants like tea and coffee dangerous. Now, don’t panic if your feline friend has managed to get a few licks in on your cup. It’d take accidentally ingesting a concentrated caffeine pill or drinking a whole cup of really strong coffee for your little one to be at dire risk. 

There are, however,  several danger signs to know nonetheless. We’ll be taking you through a complete look at everything you need to know, including the science of why they shouldn’t be drinking coffee and how you can help a caffeine-stimulated kitty come down easier.

Can Cats Have Coffee?

While the short answer is, yes, cats can drink coffee, this doesn’t mean that they should. Caffeine sensitivity in felines is extremely high. Caffeine affects the body and senses of a cat similarly to humans. Beyond a certain threshold, caffeine is toxic to all animals.

Drinking coffee brings on the same onset of symptoms felt in humans. Nervous system hypersensitivity and hyperactivity translate to restless behavior. While a very little bit of coffee or an energy drink containing caffeine is likely to do little more than promote erratic behavior, it does cause a string of physical repercussions that can quickly become dangerous.

Can Caffeine Hurt Cats?

Caffeine can and will hurt your cat if they’ve ingested too much. A once in a blue moon occurrence of kitty licking up coffee isn’t going to pose too much of a problem unless they’re in poor health or suffering from an underlying condition. Again, most of the studies connecting the scattered caffeine-related events like heart attacks triggered by coffee consumption in humans all occur after a prolonged period has passed.

The build-up of caffeine is especially dangerous, which is why you don’t want to get your cat into the habit of drinking coffee or tea regularly. Tipping the balance creates a harmful situation quickly causing ongoing health complications. Both immediate caffeine toxicity from a high-caffeine overdose and an accumulation of caffeine in the body can hurt your cat and any other pet concerned.

Why is my cat obsessed with coffee?

How Much Coffee Is Poisonous To Cats?

The American College of Veterinary Pharmacists lists toxicity at between 36 to 68 milligrams of caffeine per pound. Compare this to the 46.5 mg of caffeine in the average cup of coffee, and you’ll soon see how hard it is for a feline friend to consume enough for acute toxicity.

The average housecat weighs 10 pounds which means he or she would have to get in a whopping 520 mg of caffeine. That’s 13 full cups of coffee. Even a freshly roasted espresso only has 212 mg of caffeine on average, and no cat is going to drink two full shots without being put off by the taste. Most animals wouldn’t go near the bitter stuff, especially not black.

Signs That A Cat Has Had Coffee

A little coffee normally won’t cause more than these minor symptoms to be on the lookout for:

  • Excitability
  • General Twitchiness
  • Hyperactive Behavior
  • Playfulness
  • Mildly Upset Stomach

The above-mentioned signs of an excited nervous system should subside quickly within an hour or two. If you notice your cat panting, this is almost always a cause for concern regardless of the trigger. Panting indicates cardiac and respiratory distress, two serious symptoms that can’t be overlooked. Caffeine, theobromine, or another compound has likely reached toxic levels in your cat. Seek immediate veterinary assistance.

Why Do Cats Like Coffee In the First Place?

A cat that keeps coming back for coffee is a kitty that’s picked up both a bad habit and slight addiction, in most cases. Initially, a cat will only be drawn to drink coffee by its curious nature. Seeing an owner and other humans about the house intently sipping from a cup of coffee is enough to make any pet want to try what they’re seeing as well. After a few licks, their quick metabolism ensures a reliable craving for more caffeine, theobromine, and theophylline.

Furthermore, the alluring smell of milk and sweetness calls many cats and other pets in. The fatty nature of cream is what kicks off interest for most. Take the creamy dairy product out of the equation, and the majority of felines and other animals won’t go near the stuff. However, if a beloved pet has managed to grow accustomed to the bittersweet taste of coffee over time by stealing licks from misplaced mugs here and there, they may just hunt down other caffeine sources as well. Drinking coffee isn’t something that you want to allow or by any means encourage.

How much coffee is poisonous to cats?

What To Do If My Cat Drank Coffee?

Firstly, if you haven’t already – take it away! Assess the amount of coffee your cat has consumed. Contact your vet immediately if you’re uncertain about the quantity or anxious regarding any prevailing physical symptoms or erratic behavior. Early intervention is the most reliable way to prevent harm from poisoning. There are also local poison control centers to assist available in each country.

USA: ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center – (888) 426-4435

UK: Animal PoisonLine – 01202 509000

Australia: Australian Animal Poisons Helpline – 1300 869 738

New Zealand: New Zealand Animal Poisons Helpline – 0800 869 738

Canada: Canadian Federation of Humane Societies – 1-888-678-2347

If your cat has only lapped up a little coffee and they appear to be in the clear and free from risk, monitor your little one’s status over the next six to twelve hours. Make sure there is ample clean water available and do your best to make them comfortable. Don’t let your stress lead you to disturb your pet, creating anxiety in a sensory stimulated kitty.

Consider Giving Your Cat Activated Charcoal

Activated charcoal in small quantities is a safe, effective means of slowing and often preventing the absorption of toxins. Either mix it into their feed or, even better still, administer using a syringe to make sure every mouthful is swallowed. The ASPCA advises that all species of animal receive 2 to 6 mg of activated charcoal per pound of bodyweight. A repeat dose can be given every 4 to 8 hours at a half the original measure in severe cases. All pet owners should keep activated charcoal on-hand to assist in case of accidental poisoning.

Cats And Coffee Frequently Asked Questions

If you’ve been left wondering anything about cats and coffee, here are all the answers to the most frequently asked questions.

How Much Coffee Can Kill A Cat?

It all depends on the type of coffee. All varieties are dangerous, but lighter roasts are typically higher in caffeine and therefore pose a greater risk. The least threatening coffee is instant coffee. A 6 fluid ounce cup of instant coffee contains 46.5 mg of caffeine on average. Even at the lowest toxicity threshold possible, the average 10-pound cat has to drink just under eight full cups of instant coffee to ensure lethality. Freshly roasted filter coffee contains 94.8 mg of caffeine – that’s four cups of bitter coffee to kill a cat. Highly unlikely.

Can Cats Drink Decaf?

No, cats can’t drink decaf. Caffeine isn’t the only toxic substance in coffee – there are hundreds. One of the most harmful is theobromine, a toxin to cats. Theobromine is a naturally occurring stimulant present in tea, cacao, and other foods that’s responsible for their characteristic bitter flavor. Absorption in cats, dogs, and other pets is slow compared to humans happening over 12 to 18 hours instead of 2 to 3 like people. During this period, poisoning begins to manifest as hyperexcitability, constant irritability, a dangerously elevated heart rate, difficulty breathing, diarrhea, and muscle twitches.

Can Cats Drink Coffee Creamer?

Contrary to popular belief, cats are actually lactose intolerant. Soon after weaning, they lose the lactase enzyme that makes the digestion of dairy products possible. Without it, lactose cannot be broken down into single sugars. Drinking milk or coffee creamer, a dairy product containing lactose, will cause your cat gastrointestinal distress. Consumption of lactose typically leads to diarrhea over the next few hours and general discomfort.

Can Cats Drink Starbucks Coffee?

There is no coffee or tea on the Starbucks menu that’s completely safe for cats and other pets.  Starbucks did however start selling ‘Puppuccino’s’ for dogs in 2015.  It’s not on the menu but every US Starbucks reportedly sells them if you ask for it.  

Puppuccino’s are a great treat for your pet as it consists entirely of whipped cream in an espresso cup

There is no coffee or tea on the Starbucks menu that’s completely safe for cats and other pets. Starbucks did, however, start selling the ‘Puppuccino’ for dogs in 2015. It’s not on the menu, but every US Starbucks reportedly sells them if you ask for it. While safe enough to serve to your pet every now and then as a treat, this drink consisting entirely of whipped cream in an espresso cup is loaded with lactose. There’s barely enough served to affect your cat or dog’s digestive function at all, which is why the tasty initiative continues.

Why Is My Cat Obsessed With Coffee?

Despite being lactose intolerant, cats are often drawn to the smell of milk thanks to the fattiness of the cream.  But even if you don’t use milk in your coffee, once a cat gets a taste for coffee, perhaps having licked it several times from a counter top or taking it straight from your mug, addiction can become possible. Caffeine and, more predominantly, theobromine are addictive substances that can lead to a cat seizing every opportunity to get a lick of coffee possible.  

What Can I Do About Cats That Drink Coffee?

Don’t leave your cup unattended. If you’re trying to avoid drinking coffee in front of your cat, change up your hours. Help your cat cut the habit, cold turkey. If a cat who never usually drinks milk starts seeking it out fervently, it may have developed an underlying health problem. Any irregular, spontaneous dietary changes call for a visit to the vet.

What Can I Feed My Cat Instead Of Milk?

Those who’d like to substitute milk with another healthy liquid treat should try feeding their cat chicken breast or white fish cooked in clean water that’s been allowed to cool down. Don’t add any salt or oil. Save this savory milk replacement for a once-a-day surprise. There’s nothing you can do about the initial cravings if your can has formed an addiction, but they’ll subside within a month.

Cats And Coffee - The Final Word

It’s very hard for most cats, even small ones, to get in enough coffee to induce dangerous symptoms and toxicity. There is a far greater risk from energy drinks as well as caffeine pills which are known to easily contain 1000 mg of caffeine each or more.  However, we suggest that you always contact a vet if you are worried. Nothing can compare to the peace of mind granted from a direct assessment by a seasoned professional who cares.