Cocoa Garden Mulch Toxic To Cats?

By Elisa Black-Taylor

After reading Michael’s new article about weedkiller being used in communal, lawned areas of apartment buildings I felt the need to address the topic of Hershey’s Cocoa Mulch.

Cocoa garden mulch toxic to cats?
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Cocoa garden mulch toxic to cats? Photo by La.Catholique

I became interested in this product, which is made up of cocoa bean husks, last week when I saw a post saying a dog had died after eating the mulch. This product sounds like a good method to turn a waste product into something useful. Cocoa mulch is sold as a mulching product and used in gardens the same way regular mulch is used.

The problem is the mulch is reported to contain up to 300-1200 mg. of theobromine, which is the ingredient in chocolate that is poisonous to pets. After one week outside in an area that receives a lot of rain, cocoa mulch will turn into the consistency of a chocolate brownie. In other words; doggy treat. Or kitty treat, as the case may be. What if a cat drinks from a puddle near where the mulch has been spread?

Useful links
Anxiety - reduce it
FULL Maine Coon guide - lots of pages
Children and cats - important

So I started to dig around on the internet to see if there was anything to back up claims that the product could pose a danger to outdoor pets. The Hershey company, manufacturer of the product, made a statement many years ago saying that 50% of dogs who eat it will have serious complications from ingesting the product. While a cat isn’t as likely to chow down on this, I do worry about water runoff infected with theobromine. There’s a good write-up on the Snopes site (Google: “snopes cocoa mulch”).

As it turns out, there have been cocoa mulch hoaxes, but there was also some truth in them. The companies that manufactured the mulch didn’t pull the product, because it wasn’t a “food” issue. And their label at the time listed it was harmful to pets.

Fast forward to today. Cocoa mulch may or may not harm an animal. The stories passed around online about pets falling over in seizures after ingesting the mulch may or may not be true. I simply can’t say for certain on any of this. Hershey’s and other companies who manufacture the product are said to have changed the formula.

Still, the problem of something inside of a product we think is all natural and healthy for the environment, but turns out to be the opposite, is a concern. Just Google “cocoa mulch” and see how many articles pop up about this product. Many are years old and considered outdated to the product made today. That may or may not be true.

It’s very simple to figure out what we can learn from this example. We must learn to read labels and understand what the different compounds can do to our pets. Then either keep our pets away from the toxic product or refuse to use it in the first place. I think it’s sad we have to become “scientists” in order to protect our pets.

Readers, have any of you ever had a bad experience using a product touted as being “natural” or “good for the environment.” Something the average pet owner would never expect to be deadly?


Associated page: Toxic to cats.

Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

Note: sources for news articles are carefully selected but the news is often not independently verified.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

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5 Responses

  1. Michael says:

    I think this garden mulch is just another example a dangerous substance for the cat and I don’t understand why manufacturers can’t take into account the cat who is almost bound to wander over mulch somewhere, sometime. The cat seems to be out of mind fairly often.

  2. Elisa says:

    I ran across a post a few days ago where a dog had died after eating this mulch. It read as though it was a recent death and not from years back.

    I hate to be so vague as to whether the mulch can still poison pets. But I just don’t know one way or the other.

    • Michael says:

      Thanks Elisa. I hope you don’t mind that I shortened the title a bit. It is more about length. I checked and it seems to be a genuine health problem or was and the question mark at the end of the title just puts a query against it.

      This mulch is another potential or actual health hazard for the inside/outside cat and I am pleased we did the page because people should be aware.

  3. marc says:

    I’ve never heard of this kind of mulch however I know all about mulch. It’s the lazy way to stop anything growing in your garden and usually is used around apartment buildings or on pretty little green bits in cities and parks and such. Sometimes gravel is used. There are many kinds and they all look and smell different. Never heard of cocoa mulch though but the thought of it is a little scary to be honest. My cats don’t like chocolate because when they sniff it they back off (I am holding it and wouldn’t let them lick it – don’t worry) – but dogs will eat anything from cat litter to chocolate ice cream so I’d be quite worried about my dog if there was cocoa mulch around.

    Great article Elisa – once again you have brought to light another specific danger that I am just glad I now know about. You are good at that 🙂 – it’s important.

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