Can Cats Eat Ice Cream?

can cats eat ice cream

Ice cream is one of the most widely adored treats in the entire world. From kids to adults, I don’t know many people who don’t like ice cream. Since ice cream is a delicious dairy-based food, your feline friend might want a taste of it as well. But is ice cream safe for cats to eat?

Some people try to keep their cats away from their food whenever possible simply to ensure that there is no chance of the cat ingesting food that it is not capable of digesting.

Other people are perfectly fine with giving their cats a sniff or two of food and maybe even a lick to determine if the cat is actually interested in the food or not. 

If you are someone who falls into the latter group, one of the common concerns that you may come across is whether or not your cat can safely lick or even eat something that it seems to like.

This concern, combined with the videos that people see of cats eating all kinds of food that are meant for people, can be concerning and lead to questions. 

For instance, there are plenty of videos of cats consuming ice cream, and even videos showcasing cats who seem to have an apparent brain freeze, but is that ice cream specialized pet-safe ice cream or is it any ice cream that you could find at the store?

Unfortunately, the answer to whether or not cats can eat ice cream is a little bit of a complicated one. 

Cats can eat some ice cream in certain amounts and in certain situations. But there is a bit more to it…

In this article, you will learn how much and what kind of ice cream your cats can safely eat. However, you first need to have some understanding of a cat’s digestive system.

Cats and Lactose Intolerance 

Cats, by their nature, are considered to be obligate carnivores. This means that they absolutely must have their diets that consist almost entirely of meat

Along with that, cats do not have the digestive enzymes or the gut flora to process other types of food, such as dairy and plant matter. Because cats lack the digestive enzymes for milk (among other things), this means that all cats are lactose intolerant.

Considering that ice cream is commonly made from milk, this already means that your cat cannot have unlimited amounts of standard ice cream as it will cause digestive distress due to that lactose intolerance. 

Two aspects of this that you may want to explore: 

  • Figure out just how sensitive your cat is to dairy (as it varies per cat) 
  • See whether or not dairy-free ice cream would be a safer alternative for your cat.

Now that you know that cats, by nature, cannot have a lot of dairy in the first place, you know that the amount of ice cream that they can safely eat is limited. 

With that in mind, what kinds of ice cream can cats eat and exactly how much can you feed them?

Cats and Ice Cream

As a short answer, if you are worried about your cat who may have just taken one or two licks of ice cream, you will not have to worry even if you are using the sugar-free variant. This may be a bit more concerning if you are eating chocolate ice cream so keep an eye on your cat in that case. 

Otherwise, standard vanilla ice cream is not going to be toxic to your cat. If you are worried about the sweetness of the ice cream, whether it is through natural sugars or artificial sweeteners, you won’t have to give this a second thought. 

Curiously enough, cats do not seem to have taste buds on their tongues that respond to sweetness, meaning that cats physically cannot taste the sweetness in ice cream.

Assuming that you are not feeding your cat chocolate ice cream and that your cat is not extremely sensitive to dairy products, your cat can safely eat about a small spoonful of ice cream without any worry. 

It should be a rare treat so that your cat does not fill its stomach on food that provides no nutrients and is hard for the cat to digest, but it can be a treat nonetheless. 

After you get past a small spoonful of a serving, the chances are more likely that your cat will develop some degree of diarrhea and digestive distress, considering the lactose in the ice cream.

As for flavored ice creams, you should generally try to stay away from those. Flavored ice creams may use artificial flavors that your cat cannot process, leading to even more digestive distress than the lactose in the ice cream will already provide. 

Some flavors of ice cream that use real ingredients could contain fruits that your cats cannot eat, turning the ice cream into a toxic treat. And, as you should know, chocolate is an automatic “no” for cats, considering its toxicity. 

Your best bet when feeding your cat ice cream is to stick with standard vanilla ice cream as this will not cause nearly as many problems as other forms of ice cream.

Lactose-free ice cream should also not be used as a substitute as the dairy milk alternatives can have other fats that can be harmful to your cat. Instead, stick with the kind with lactose and only give your cat small amounts of ice cream at a time. 

Another thing to keep in mind is that cats have very sensitive digestive systems. If you are going to feed your cat ice cream at all, you should let the ice cream melt a little bit so that it becomes warmer. This will help your cat consume the ice cream without any additional problems that can stem from it.

Remember that ice cream should only be a very rare treat for your cat and that this should never be a regular treat. If you still do not feel comfortable with the digestive problems that ice cream can bring for your cat, you can consider searching for pet-safe ice creams or, more specifically, cat-safe ice cream.

Editorial Team

When we aren't scooping up droppings to ensure a luxurious litter box experience for our fur babies, we are writing all sorts of stuff about cats for your enjoyment and knowledge.

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