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Do you think your cat would love to share your cold treat on a hot day? In this article we will be answering a popular kitty question – can cats eat ice cream?
If you picture a cat in your mind, then you probably think of a cute kitty lapping up a fresh bowl of milk.
This image is a common one that can be traced back to the early 20th century.
Cats back then were given milk at mealtimes.
You could not simply run out to the local supermarket and pick up a bag of cat food. You would instead serve a piece of brown bread soaked in milk for breakfast and offer small bits of meat in the evening.
Cats and Milk
But in the 1930s, cat diet recommendations changed to exclude milk and bread.
A raw meat and water diet was suggested instead.
Recommendations and cat food choices have changed quite drastically over the years. Moving on to the processed cat food most of us choose to use these days.
However, you have probably caught your cat trying to paw the last few drops of milk out of your dinner glass. Your feline obviously did not get the cat heath memo.
Naturally, if your cat goes a bit nutty over a bit of milk, you may think that ice cream is the perfect treat.
In this article we are going to explore the questions of whether or not ice cream is good for your cat.
Ice Cream For Cats?
Before we get too deep into the subject, you should know that your cat will not become seriously ill if they eat a little bit of ice cream.
Can cats eat ice cream? Yes they can. But it’s not quite that straight forward.
This is true even if the treat is a sugar-free variety that contains an artificial sweetener.
You may know that some sweeteners, like xylitol, are toxic to dogs. However, this is not a concern for cats.
Another interesting thing that separates cats from dogs is the fact that cats do not like sweet foods.
In fact, research studies indicate that cats do not have any sweet taste receptors and they are not drawn to sweet food items.
They also do not avoid the taste. They simply do not respond to sweetness at all.
Why Do Cats Like Ice Cream?
If you find it surprising that cats are drawn to treats like ice cream, but they cannot taste the sweetness that most humans crave, then you need to look more closely at the ingredients in the ice cream.
If you think about the dairy products that you eat, then you may notice how your cat begs for a lick of whole milk, but seems to ignore your skim or fat free milk.
You may also notice your quart of Ben and Jerry’s being eyed by your feline, while your frozen yogurt treat is completely ignored.
There is a simple answer to why your cat is so finicky, and it has nothing to do with the brand of the treat your desire.
Cats are drawn to the high fat and carbohydrate content of the ice cream and the whole milk.
While other foods surely have more carbohydrates and fat than ice cream, cats are very familiar with the taste and consistency of milk.
After all, a mother’s milk is essential when it comes to kitten nutrition.
Is Ice Cream Bad For Cats?
Now that you know why cats like ice cream, you may want to know if it is bad for them.
Well, it can be bad in large quantities. Basically, you can give a spoonful of ice cream to your cat as a rare treat.
If the ice cream becomes a daily food item, then a few things can happen. The worst issue is the diarrhea that is likely to develop once too much of the treat is consumed.
Are Cats Lactose Intolerant?
Cats, like many of their human companions, are lactose intolerant.
This means they lack enough of the lactase enzyme to digest the lactose in the milk. However, some cats do have more of the enzyme than others.
This is true of humans as well and why your lactose intolerant friend or relative might be able to eat a bit of yogurt, but they probably cannot drink a full glass of milk.
As you know, kittens consume the milk that is produced by their mothers.
Kittens do produce a great deal of the lactase enzyme when they are young. As kittens move on to eating solid foods, they need more enzymes to help them digest proteins.
Since milk is no longer part of the cat’s daily diet, lactase production reduces significantly.
This means that milk cannot really be digested properly, because the body knows your cat has no real need to consume or digest milk any longer.
Has your cat ever eaten a string, some of the grass from your child’s easter basket, or a bit of the mouse toy they like to bat around? Then you may know that undigested items work their way through the digestive tract and come out the other end (sometimes in quite an unpleasant manner).
Ice Cream Can Upset Cats’ Stomachs
The same sort of thing happens with the undigested lactose in the ice cream. It makes its way through the digestive tract and comes out with the other waste.
However, unlike the string or piece of toy, the undigested ice cream remains in fluid form, mixes with the other waste, and creates a diarrhea situation.
Also, some of the lactose actually curdles when it comes into contact with the digestive fluids in your cat’s stomach.
This can contribute to gas, abdominal discomfort, and even more diarrhea.
Is ice cream bad for cats? Yes, in any significant quantity ice cream is bad for cats.
Can Cats Eat Ice Cream – Nutritional Problems?
Another reason why ice cream and other sweet treats are not a great idea is the fact that they do not leave room for your cat to consume more nutritious foods.
This can lead to nutritional deficiencies.
Despite this fact, a fairly famous study from the 1930s conducted by Dr. Frances Pottenger Jr. shows that cats are quite healthy if they eat a diet that consists of unpasteurized milk and raw meat.
You probably should not run out to your grocery store just yet to start your feline on the latest and greatest raw food diet.
Dr. Pottenger’s study does tell us a few things though.
It shows that cats can thrive if they are given milk and dairy products. It also indicates that your feline companion needs a diet that is high in the protein taurine, which is prominent in raw meat.
What does this mean for you and your cat?
Well, it basically means that a bit of ice cream is just fine as long your cat eats an overall diet with plenty of protein.
Can Cats Eat Vanilla Ice Cream?
If you want to start serving your cat some ice cream as a treat, then you may be a bit curious about the flavor that is best. Vanilla is a good choice.
If you also desire to curb the diarrhea, then you might want to try some ice cream made from goat’s milk.
Goat’s milk is very different from the milk that comes from a cow. The milk does not need to be pasteurized, and this means that some of the natural enzymes are left in the fluid.
Interestingly enough, one of the enzymes aids in the digestion of the lactose.
You can make some of the ice cream yourself at home with a simple recipe and an ice cream maker. Just substitute the goat’s milk for the cow’s milk and cream, cut back on a bit of the sugar, and voila, you have a treat that is fit for a feline.
However, you probably should watch closely for any signs of diarrhea. Since cat diarrhea can cause some dehydration issues, it is best to take your cat to your veterinarian if you notice a problem.
Can Cats Eat Strawberry Ice Cream?
If you want to make your own unique kitty concoction, then you might decide to add some strawberries to your vanilla goat’s milk ice cream.
However, this is probably not the best idea.
Strawberries are sweet and not something that your cat will necessarily like.
They are non toxic, so they are definitely safe, but they have no nutritional value to a cat.
Can Cats Eat Chocolate Ice Cream?
While some additives, like strawberries, are safe, chocolate is a definite no-no when it comes to the health of your cat. You definitely should stay away from chocolate in any ice cream recipe you try.
Specifically, chocolate contains an alkaloid, or an organic compound, called theobromine that cannot be processed by your cat’s body. It can then build up and become toxic.
It only take a bit of chocolate to harm your cat.
Dr. Sharon M. Gwaltney-Brant, a veterinarian and toxicology consultant, tells us that the lethal dose of theobromine is 100 to 200 milligrams per kilogram.
One ounce of cocoa powder can contain as much as 800 milligrams of the toxin.
It is easy to see how just a little bit of chocolate ice cream can really make your cat ill.
Cats Eating Ice Cream – Brain Freeze, Fact Or Myth?
Another thing to think about is whether or not you want to give your cat brain freeze or not.
That is correct, cats can in fact develop brain freeze, because they have the same types of nerves and nervous system pathways as humans.
Since brain freeze involves the constriction of the blood vessels and the reaction of the nerves, your kitty might just get one of those dastardly headaches.
You can learn more about the phenomenon that is likely to affect you and your feline by investigating one of the many studies conducting that scientifically explain the problem. The FASEB Journal has one fascinating study that shows blood flow changes when cold foods enter the mouth.
Can cats eat ice cream?
In conclusion, your favorite kitty pal may just enjoy a tiny bit of vanilla ice cream on occasion, and this is probably fine. But there is no nutritional benefit to it.
Of course, you should always check with your veterinarian if you are unsure about whether or not a tasty frozen treat is the best thing for your cat.
Great cat treats that are also appropriate for their digestive system are the best way forward.
Let us know your thoughts!
Have you ever seen your cat have a cat ice cream brain freeze? Do you have an awesome goat milk cat ice cream recipe to share? Share with us in the comments below.
Li et al. 2006. Supplement: The WALTHAM International Sciences Symposia Innovations in Companion Animal Nutrition: Nutritional Evolution: Cats Lack a Sweet Taste Receptor
Pottenger, FM (1995) Pottenger’s Cats. Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation, La Mesa, California.
American Physiological Society (APS). “Changes in brain’s blood flow could cause ‘brain freeze’.” ScienceDaily.