Coffee & Tea
December 6, 2022

Is Coffee Bad for Cats? What Happens to a Cat on Caffeine?

Is coffee bad for cats? What happens to a cat on caffeine? Read on to learn what your favorite morning drink does to your felines and how to keep them safe!

Dan Doughty
Table of Contents:

Cats are considered one of the most curious mammals. They observe, explore, and do things we sometimes least expect. They also love to taste and drink human food. And yes, that includes our favorite morning beverage, coffee.

Since coffee's a favorite go-to drink for many, it's not unusual to see boxes and cans in our kitchens. Drinking coffee is part of many people's routines, and leaving unwashed cups or mugs is a frequent occurrence. And when there's food residue, you bet your cat's superhuman smell is on to it. But is coffee bad for cats? What happens to a cat on caffeine? Let's find out!

Can Cats Drink Coffee?

Yes, cats can drink coffee if they're curious, but they shouldn't. Coffee contains caffeine and theobromine, two elements that are listed as highly toxic substances for our fur babies. Some of their effects are increasing your cat's heart rate, stimulating its senses, and increasing its urge to urinate.

Do Cats Like Coffee?

Most cats don't like coffee, but given their instinct to assess their surroundings, it's usual to see them loitering around your kitchen, sniffing all the items that tickle their smell. Cats' sense of smell is 14 times better than humans. Humans only have around five million odor sensors compared to our feline friends' 200 million.

So can they smell a coffee's aroma? Sure, they do. But do they like it? Well, that's something only the kittiens know. 

More often than not, they're only around your coffee containers out of curiosity rather than pure, genuine love for your morning drink.

What Happens If a Cat Drinks Coffee?

While common for humans, coffee is considered a foreign substance to a cat's digestive tract. But is coffee toxic to cats? A cat on caffeine's reaction can vary. Factors like the amount of coffee ingested can also affect your feline's direct reaction.

Generally, caffeine is present in any coffee variation and is highly toxic to cats in colossal dosages. Ingesting it can lead to serious internal problems and even death. Mild symptoms may also quickly escalate depending on factors such as your feline's health and temperament. 

Here are some of the most commonly reported instant reactions of cats to caffeine ingestion:

  • Cats become restless: you'll see them moving around like they can't settle.
  • They're unusually hyperactive: their usual prim and proper demeanor turn chaotic.
  • They feel hot: due to hyperactivity, their body temperature rises, resulting in a hot feeling.
  • They might vomit: vomiting can be a sign of poisoning and requires immediate care. 

Depending on your feline's natural disposition and health, the effect of caffeine ingestion can manifest as fast as five minutes or as slow as a few hours. 

Are Coffee Grounds Toxic to Cats?

Given the potent concentration of ground coffee, it's reasonable to say that direct ingestion has a dangerous level of toxicity to cats.

An average Arabica coffee bean has a caffeine content of 1.2% of its size. While this amount sounds minimal when we factor in dilution once we add water, huge quantities consumed can be dangerous for pets.

In general, cats are unlikely to ingest fresh, ground coffee directly, so you don't have to worry. However, some households use this substance in the soil as a cat repellant, so if your cat wanders a lot, it might ingest some.

What to Do If Your Cat Drank Coffee or Ate Coffee Grounds

You'll always hear this, but it's still worth saying. Don't panic!

The idea of cats getting sick can horrify many pet owners, especially if their fur babies never had any health issues. However, nothing's more precarious than panicking and failing to do the basics. 

When your cat drinks coffee, the first thing to do is to observe its reaction. How is your pet reacting? Is it moving differently from the normal? 

Most vets agree that minimal caffeine ingestion, like a simple lick or two, often has no adverse effect on felines. However, if they've taken a large sip and manifested gestures like sudden lethargy, it's best to call in medical care. 

It'd also help to keep your cats comfortable and refrain them from roaming around your house. Keeping them in one place ensures they won't get any more idea of tasting anything they shouldn't.

Instant Coffee vs. Coffee Ground: What Is More Dangerous for Your Cats?

No specific study identifies the type of coffee that's more harmful to cats. However, we can look at the essential ingredients that differentiate instant coffee from freshly ground beans to gauge their potential for harm.

Instant coffee can contain substances like artificial flavoring, sugar or glucose syrup, creamer, skim milk powder, cocoa, or malt extract. The unique mix of these ingredients changes the caffeine concentration and the product's smell, which can be more poisonous. 

Ground coffee, on the other hand, has a more potent and purer scent. It's pure caffeine throughout and doesn't have any additives that can potentially reduce or add more harm to your cats.

As to which type of coffee is more dangerous, further studies will need to be conducted to offer conclusive proof. However, it's essential to remember that both are foreign substances that can potentially harm your kittens. 

Is Decaffeinated Coffee Good for Cats?

According to the National Coffee Association, the decaffeination process removes around 97% of the caffeine from the beans. While this sounds like a safer alternative for your pet babies, it's not. Cats with sensitive digestive systems still can't tolerate even the mildest presence of caffeine. 

Does Adding Sugar Make Coffee Good for Cats?

Adding sugar doesn't remove caffeine from your coffee, so it doesn't make this drink better for your cats. Also, while no sufficient data claims that sugar is bad for cats, it does have other long-term adverse effects:

  • Weight gain
  • Diabetes
  • Tooth problems

As a general rule, don't give cats coffee. No amount of artificial sweetener or additives can make this beverage suitable for their diet.

What are the Symptoms of Caffeine Poisoning in Cats?

Knowing the initial signs of caffeine poisoning in cats can mean their survival. Pet owners must be mindful of their feline's behavioral change after drinking coffee. 

Below is a table that highlights the most visible symptoms your cats will exhibit when experiencing caffeine poisoning.

Mild Caffeine Poisoning Symptoms

Severe Caffeine Poisoning Symptoms

Increased heart rate


Higher body temperature


Unusual lethargy

Sudden collapse

Irritability and high blood pressure


Regardless if it's mild or severe, it's necessary to be vigilant and prompt in addressing the symptoms to help your cats feel better. 

When to Call Your Vet

Contrary to what some people think, calling the vet shouldn't be the last resort. You'd need to assess the basics as soon as you learn your cat drank coffee. You can start by asking the following questions:

  • How much coffee did my cat drink?
  • What type of coffee is it?
  • Are there other substances mixed with that coffee?
  • Is my cat showing any signs of feeling unwell? 
  • If my cat looks unwell, what are the symptoms?

The sooner you get to talk to your vet, the better. Remember that even mild symptoms can escalate rapidly when not addressed.

How to Prevent a Cat from Drinking Coffee

The easiest way to prevent cats from drinking coffee is to stash it away from their reach. They're notorious little breeds of animals who can climb and find ways to find snacks, so it's best to put coffee and other beverages locked in cabinets or fridges. 

Is It Safe to Treat Cats on Caffeine at Home?

Self-medication without input from a professional vet can do more harm than good to your cats. Unless you've had experience handling caffeine poisoning in felines, it's best to consult your vet first. 

Misdiagnosing your cat's condition based on your observations alone can be dangerous. You risk missing vital signs that can signal serious internal injuries. 

More importantly, there's no specific manual on applying first aid to cats who drink coffee. To be safe, you're better off calling your vet. 

Treatment Process for Cats Who Drank Coffee

The treatment method for cats on caffeine relies on the vet's initial findings. If your cat has only taken a sip, close monitoring at home might be sufficient. Your vet will give you instructions on what to look for and record a few items, like your cat's temperature.

However, your vet might suggest a stay in the clinic for severe cases. Depending on the cat's condition, treatment can start by administering intravenous fluid to keep your pet hydrated. At the same time, the vet will work on flushing out the caffeine from the cat's body using meds.

The idea is to remove as much caffeine as possible from the cat's system, as it tends to be reabsorbed by its bladder. The longer it stays in the bladder, the higher the potential for adverse effects. 

Your vet may also request supplementary procedures like blood tests to get a broader look at your cat's condition. This situation is rare, but if your feline has a current health issue, covering all the bases is the safest way to administer treatment. 

Common Factors that Affect Your Cat's Reaction to Caffeine Ingestion 

Besides the amount of caffeine your cat drinks, external and pre-existing factors affect your feline's reaction to caffeine. Below are the most common ones. 

Current Health Condition

Cats with existing health conditions such as heart problems and lactose intolerance may experience more severe reactions than healthier pets. Since caffeine increases the heart rate, felines with health issues may suffer from cardiac arrests.


Different cat breeds have varied temperaments, and they play a significant role in their tendencies to explore. Breeds such as the Siamese, Himalayan, Siberian, Bengal, and Ragdoll are known for being naturally curious. This attribute makes them more susceptible to ingesting toxic substances, like coffee! 

Amount of Caffeine Ingested

It's virtually impossible to pinpoint the amount of caffeine your cats might have ingested, but being keen on a close estimate will help. 

The rule of thumb is that more coffee is worse. 

Caffeine Concentration or Type

Strong caffeine levels can be poisonous to your cats. There are four major types of coffee beans—Robusta, Arabica, Excelsa, and Liberica. Among the four, Robusta is said to be the strongest. If that's your daily dose and your cat has decided to give it a try, then it's wise to act fast and see if your pet is all right! 

Final Words

Coffee isn't suitable for your cats. We might get our daily need for an energy boost by drinking it regularly, but our felines are a different story. They don't get any benefits from it, and it might put them in danger. 

If you ever find them drinking coffee, immediately stop them. Be mindful of their reaction for the first few minutes, and call the vet if they show signs of poisoning. 

To ensure their safety, you should also stash your supply away from their reach and avoid leaving leftovers and unwashed mugs in the sink. 

Cats are naturally curious, and they'd love to taste your snacks. Be vigilant and keep your coffee away from them!

About the author
Dan Doughty
Dan Doughty is the founder of Dripshipper. In operation since 2018, Dripshipper has helped thousands of merchants start a private label coffee brand and supply coffee to their customers.

Start a coffee business online

Start free trial