Purr-fect Treat or Frosty Faux Pas? Can Cats Eat Ice Cream?

by Jayley
Can Cats Eat Ice Cream

If you’ve ever snuggled up on the couch next to your cat while savoring a bowl of ice cream, you might have considered sharing a spoonful with your cat friend.

However, cats should avoid consuming ice cream for similar reasons as humans: it contains excessive sugar and fat unsuitable for their diet. Besides the general unhealthiness, there are specific reasons why ice cream isn’t suitable for our furry companions.

The image of a contented cat lapping at a bowl of cream is classic. In the past, well-cared-for cats were often offered a saucer of milk and regular meals.

While many cats enjoy dairy products like milk, yogurt, and cream, large quantities are not advisable. Some cats can handle small amounts without any issues. But what about frozen dairy products like ice cream? Can cats safely eat it, or is it a treat best avoided?

That is why we stumble upon a question;

The Dangers of Ice Cream for Cats

Can Cats Eat Ice Cream?

The answer is simple, it is not recommended. While a small amount of ice cream is unlikely to make your cat sick, larger quantities can lead to digestive issues and provide no nutritional benefits for felines.

Ice cream primarily comprises fat and carbohydrates. As obligate carnivores, cats gain no nutritional value from the sugar and dairy present in ice cream. You might have seen cats being offered a bowl of milk in stories, movies, or TV shows, but it’s actually a widespread misconception that cats should drink milk. Milk is not good for cats and can cause stomach problems.

Despite your attraction to the sweet taste of ice cream, research shows that cats lack sweet taste receptors and are not naturally drawn to sugary foods. Hence, they aren’t “missing out” if you refrain from sharing your ice cream with them.

The Dangers of Ice Cream for Cats

Cats may be drawn to milk or high milk fat content in ice cream due to memories of their mother’s milk and its comfort. However, adult cats lack the enzyme to digest lactose, leading to upset stomachs and possibly diarrhea if they eat ice cream. Indulging in ice cream or other junk foods can also cause cats to lose interest in their regular meals, opting for the allure of fatty dairy products instead. This could lead to nutritional deficiencies if it becomes a habit.

Sugar is never a safe option for cats, and sugar-free ice cream may contain the sweetener xylitol, which is toxic to felines. It’s crucial to avoid giving your cat chocolate ice cream or any ice cream containing chocolate pieces, as chocolate is also toxic to them.

Furthermore, feeding your cat such a cold treat like ice cream can result in brain freeze. While watching cats experiencing brain freeze in YouTube videos might be amusing, it’s important to remember that the cold headache can be distressing for them. To ensure your cat’s safety and happiness, it’s best to prevent them from going through such discomfort.

Can Cats Actually Experience Brain Freeze From Eating Ice Cream?

Brain freeze is a term used to describe the peculiar pain we might feel occasionally after consuming something very cold. This sensation occurs due to the rapid cooling of blood vessels inside the mouth when we ingest frozen food.

Icy foods are not healthy as they can lead to severe dental discomfort, particularly in individuals with sensitive teeth, and there’s no reason to believe that cats are any different, so you can’t allow your cat to experience such pain.

Given that many cats have poor dental health, numerous YouTube videos depict cats having a shocked reaction to eating ice cream.

While observing animals displaying abrupt changes in expression can be entertaining, it’s essential to remember that such experiences could be distressing not only to their brain but also to their tummy.

Is It Safe For Cats To Indulge In Ice Cream As A Treat?

Cats can have some ice cream flavors, but only in extremely tiny amounts – however, it’s not necessarily a recommended treat.

According to Dr. Bonk from The Dodo, “Ice cream is safe for cats in very small quantities, but I mean just licking the spoon after you’re done.”

If a cat eats more than that, it might experience digestive issues here’s an example: 

  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  •  stomach pain

Dr. Bonk further explained that ice cream contains milk, posing a problem since most adult cats are lactose intolerant, making it difficult for them to digest ice cream.

Moreover, ice cream is loaded with sugar and fat, which can lead to various other problems like weight gain, obesity, diabetes, and arthritis.

If you decide to let your cat lick your ice cream spoon, it is vital to ensure that the dessert doesn’t contain any toxic ingredients like the sweetener xylitol or chocolate, as both of these can be extremely harmful to cats in any amount.

Is There An Actual Ice Cream For Cats?

If the thought of your cat missing out on a delightful summer treat saddens you, there’s good news – cat “ice cream” actually exists.

Pet Winery is the company behind this creation, offering a cat-friendly version of ice cream that is gentle on your pet’s system. This special treat contains only two ingredients: lactose-free goat milk and dried bonito fish flakes.

Read also: Can Cats Eat Cheesecake?

Why Should Cat not Eat Ice Cream?

According to the FDA, ice cream contains an ingredient called propylene glycol, which is considered “safe” for human consumption. It is commonly added to mass-produced ice cream to prevent the formation of ice crystals. However, propylene glycol is no longer permitted in cat foods because cats are highly sensitive to it. Ingesting large amounts, especially in liquid form, can lead to poisoning in cats and dogs.

For cats, significant consumption of foods or liquids containing propylene glycol can result in a condition known as Heinz’s body hemolytic anemia, which causes the destruction of red blood cells. Dr. Karen Becker explains that symptoms of this type of anemia may include fever, sudden weakness, loss of appetite, reddish-brown discolored urine, pale mucous membranes, and skin discoloration.

If you observe any of these symptoms in your cat, it is crucial to contact your veterinarian for advice. If you suspect that your pet has ingested a large amount of ice cream or other substances that can cause anemia (such as garlic, onions, heavy metals, acetaminophen, etc.), it is essential to seek immediate veterinary care at an animal hospital.

The Majority Of Cats Are Lactose Intolerant

Lactose intolerance is a relatively less serious but still concerning consequence of your cat consuming ice cream. As kittens are weaned, the enzyme responsible for digesting lactose gradually diminishes in their gut. 

Consequently, ingesting lactose found in milk and most types of ice cream can result in cats experiencing upset stomachs, diarrhea, and vomiting.

Moreover, due to its typical sugar, fat, and dairy content, ice cream can contribute to obesity in cats. Obesity is becoming increasingly prevalent among domestic cats, with approximately 60-70% of cats in the United States classified as overweight or obese.

Apart from the issues arising from lactose intolerance, ice cream is not simply frozen cream; it contains a significant amount of added sugar.

In some cases, if you’ve purchased one of the fancy varieties, it might also contain fruit, pieces of cookie, fudge, or chocolate. None of these additional ingredients are suitable for cats. And that’s not all; there are more concerns to consider.

Can Cats Eat Chocolate Ice Cream?

Chocolate ice cream poses a double threat to cats. Similar to dogs, cats should never be allowed to eat chocolate. Chocolate contains caffeine and theobromine, chemical compounds that can be highly toxic to cats if ingested. This can result in various severe symptoms, including vomiting, diarrhea, increased heart rate, low blood pressure, seizures, and in extreme cases, cardiac failure or coma.

Although some common ice cream additives and flavorings, such as strawberries, are safe for cats, chocolate is an absolute no-go when it comes to your cat’s well-being.

When attempting any ice cream recipe, it’s essential to avoid chocolate entirely. The reason behind this is that chocolate contains an alkaloid called theobromine, an organic compound that cannot be metabolized by your cat’s body. As a result, the theobromine can accumulate and become toxic, which will cause an unpleasant feeling.

Even a small amount of creamy chocolate can be harmful to your cat. The lethal dose of theobromine is around 100 to 200 milligrams per kilogram of the cat’s weight. A mere one ounce of cocoa powder can contain up to 800 milligrams of this toxin. It’s evident that even a small quantity of chocolate ice cream can pose a serious risk to the health of your cat.

Can Cat Eat Ice Cream Safely with Vanilla?

A small taste of vanilla ice cream can be the safest way to let your cat enjoy a summer treat. But that’s it! if your kitty appears to have a craving for dairy, it’s better to offer a small portion of plain, low-fat yogurt instead of ice cream.

So, can cats eat ice cream? Now you understand why both cats and dogs should avoid consuming ice cream, vanilla, or chocolate alike. If they lick a vanilla ice cream, they likely won’t harm your pet, but it’s best not to make it a regular habit.

Above All Else, Are We Even Asking The Right Question?

When it comes to sharing human food with our pets, the crucial question is not ‘Can they eat it’ but ‘Should they eat it.’ This is because certain ingredients in ice cream are not suitable for your pet.

We’ll explore those ingredients and assess the potential risk of ice cream causing stomach upsets or more serious issues in our feline companions. Additionally, we’ll consider the impact on your cat from consuming extremely cold food.

Sharing your favorite tub of ice cream with your furry friend involves two aspects. Firstly, ice cream is a dairy product, and secondly, it’s served very cold. Neither of these is a natural food for an adult cat, but the key concern is whether or not ice cream can be harmful to them.

What Ingredients Are Found In Ice Cream?

As per its definition, ice cream should have a minimum of 10% milk fat, and the primary ingredients in ice cream are milk, cream, and water.

Additionally, ice cream contains added sugar, emulsifiers, stabilizers, and flavorings. The inclusion of sugars caters to our sweet cravings, making sweetened ice cream more appealing. The other ingredients play a crucial role in enhancing the texture and appearance of ice cream, thus giving rise to the wide array of ice cream varieties we enjoy today.

What Is The Reason Behind Cats Liking Ice Cream?

You might find it surprising that the sugar in ice cream isn’t what appeals to your cat.

Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning their entire digestive system is designed to eat and process animal body parts, such as meat and organs. Sugar isn’t a necessary component in their diet, and in fact, they can’t really taste it, so it doesn’t hold much value for them.

What cats find attractive about ice cream is its fat content, which is not harmful to them. However, the lactose and other carbohydrates present in ice cream could be problematic for your cat. So, this raises the question of whether or not ice cream is suitable for them.


While cats may be drawn to the fat content in ice cream due to their carnivorous nature, it’s essential to remember that they are obligate carnivores and do not require sugar in their diet. The sugar in ice cream holds little appeal for them, and they might not even taste it.

Although the fat content itself is not harmful, the lactose and other carbohydrates in ice cream can be problematic for feline digestion. As responsible pet owners, it’s best to avoid offering ice cream to cats and instead opt for healthier and more suitable treats to ensure their well-being and overall health. 

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