We realized our kitten got a coffee bean quite a while ago and it's not exhibiting any weird symptoms that we can realize. Should we worry?

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    If "quite a while ago" is several days the bean may have already passed through the intestines. Still, taking him/her to a vet is your best option. – Bob Jarvis - Reinstate Monica Apr 18 at 17:54
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    How much does your cat weigh? Could you please include the mass into your question, it would help roughly estimating the danger level for your cat because the toxicity data is expressed as amount of toxin per unit of cat's mass; thanks. – lila Apr 18 at 22:22
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    If it starts spending $10 every morning on a latte at Starbucks, then you should start worrying. – Tyler Durden Apr 19 at 15:57

Contact your vet.

Caffeine is indeed toxic to cats. According to vetmeds.org, cats can only tolerate about 36 to 68 milligrams per pound. For a small cat, they estimate that amounts to less than .05 ounces of coffee beans, which is a very tiny amount. If your kitten is very small, the risk is even greater. So perhaps if the kitten has truly only eaten one bean, it may not need medical attention, but I would definitely at minimum consult your vet as soon as possible.

As stated on pet poison helpline, symptoms of caffeine poisoning may include:

  • Hyperactivity
  • Restlessness
  • Vomiting
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Elevated blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Elevated body temperature (hypothermia* [sic])
  • Abnormal heart rhythm
  • Tremors

*Original source says "hypothermia" and this was preserved in quotation, but the actual correct word in this context is "hyperthermia".

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    Note that the quoted toxic dose of caffeine for cats (80–150 mg/kg or 36–68 mg/lb) is similar to the toxic dose per body mass for humans. So on the whole, caffeine does not actually seem to be much more toxic to cats than to humans, although body mass obviously makes a difference. – Ilmari Karonen Apr 18 at 17:59
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    (As a personal anecdote, my family used to have a cat that loved the taste of coffee and would e.g. lick spilled coffee grounds off the kitchen counter. As far as we could tell, he never seemed to suffer any obvious ill effects from it, although of course it's hard to be sure there were no chronic effects.) – Ilmari Karonen Apr 18 at 18:00
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    Apart from the third one, these symptoms looks a lot to me like what caffeine does to humans. :-) – Jeffrey Apr 18 at 18:13
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    No, those symptoms are signs of toxicity and are not equivalent to what normal doses of caffeine do to humans. I don't think many people are voluntarily drinking coffee in amounts that result in severe tremors and abnormal heart rhythm that makes one feel like the organ is going to jump out of your chest at any second. Also, cats metabolize caffeine much slower than humans, it stays in their system a few times longer than in humans. LD50 may be similar, but sub-lethal doses are safer for humans than for cats and dogs. – lila Apr 18 at 19:44
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    Just for reference, I did a quick google search and the first couple results I got indicated that a single typical coffee bean is probably about 0.13g or 0.005oz (both numbers rounded). – anjama Apr 18 at 20:59

This should be harmless, based on gathering the numbers in the other answer and the comments therein.

A dangerous dose for a cat is around 36 to 68 mg of caffeine per pound (79 to 150 mg per kg) of cat weight. A single coffee bean is around 0.13g and contains between 1 to 10 mg of caffeine. Additionally, your cat swallowed an entire bean, not the same amount of finely ground coffee. It can't digest it, so most of the caffeine will just pass through your cat unaltered. You said she is not showing any symptoms so I wouldn't worry about it.

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    Is a kitten's digestive tract large enough to pass an "undigestible" coffee bean? – Sean Apr 19 at 13:22
  • @Sean General rule: if it is small enough to be swallowed, it will pass through the rest of the digestive tract as well. – quarague Apr 20 at 8:00

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