Can Cats Eat Ice Cream?

Ice cream is probably my favorite food.  There is always a good occasion for ice cream.  Celebrating?  Ice cream.  Sad?  Ice cream.  Long, strenuous hike?  Ice cream.  Day out with one of the kids?  Sounds like the perfect time for ice cream.

Delicious food is part of my love language (of course, it follows that hiking and running are my meditation, possibly to offset the ice cream habit) and so the urge is strong to share this expression of love with my family – including the pets.  Shouldn’t my cat get to bask in the glory of sweet, creamy, chilled perfection?

Cat licking lips

Sadly, the answer is no.  There are many reasons not to share many human foods with pets, and ice cream is no exception.  In the case of cats, the first problem is that many of them are lactose intolerant.  This is a really funny thing to learn, seeing as how “a cat with cream” is a familiar stereotype, but there it is:  It is very common for a cat to have unsavory digestive responses to consuming dairy – namely, diarrhea.  I know that this is something you don’t want to deal with.  Nor do I.

Another interesting fact is that cats don’t have the ability to taste sweet flavors.  Can you imagine?  Disclaimer: as much as I adore ice cream, I do attempt to keep my sugar intake to a minimum, overall – but to not have the ability to enjoy it when the time is right sounds downright sad!  Cats, luckily, don’t feel this way, since they have never experienced the joys of desserts.  After all, cats are designed to eat meat, and don’t have a need for sweet things.  Rest assured, your cat does not care, my cat does not care – if they share our treats with us, they are just being social.  We should probably let them off the hook and give them a treat they will actually enjoy, which is made for cats.

Have you seen those hilarious videos out there on social media which show humans giving their cats ice cream, and the cat reacting with a super funny brain-freeze grimace?  When you think about the fact that the cat not only can’t appreciate the flavor of the ice cream, that it might make them sick, and that they are now experiencing a very uncomfortable, perhaps even painful sensation from consuming it, for reasons they don’t understand – it all just seems kind of mean.  Kitty brain freeze definitely falls into the category of reasons why a cat shouldn’t eat ice cream.

And there are even more health reasons to withhold ice cream from cats.  For example, the sugar in ice cream amounts to unnecessary calories, and could contribute to feline obesity and related health conditions, such as diabetes and pancreatitis.  In addition, some foods used to flavor ice cream, such as chocolate, can be toxic to cats.

Ice Cream (1)

Despite the cautions against giving cats ice cream, there will still be many a cat owner who insists that their cats love it, and suffer no ill effects from the occasional lick of a vanilla ice cream cone.  This may be absolutely true.  You may have a cat who is tolerant of lactose, and vanilla ice cream is a pretty simple food.  If you do wish to share ice cream with your cat, a general recommendation is to keep the consumption to less than 10% of the cat’s calorie intake for that day.  This ensures that most of the food consumed meets the cat’s nutritional needs, and keeps kitty at a healthy weight.  And, as always, when offering a new food, keep a close eye on your cat for adverse reactions.


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