Can Cats Eat Ice Cream? Vet Approved Facts & Alternatives

If you enjoy ice cream’s cold, sweet taste as a frequent dessert, you might be tempted to let your cat take a lick off your bowl afterward. However, it’s essential to consider whether cats can safely eat ice cream. Unless it contains additional toxic ingredients, ice cream isn’t necessarily unsafe for cats to eat on occasion but in general, you should keep this treat to yourself.

In this article, you’ll learn why ice cream isn’t good for cats. If you want to share some human food snacks with your cat, we’ll offer some safer and healthier suggestions than ice cream.

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Ice Cream and Cats: The Cold Truth

As tasty as it is, ice cream isn’t the best treat for cats for several reasons. Commercial cat treats are much healthier.

cat being fed a cat treat or cat food by hand
Image Credit: Jakub Zak, Shutterstock

Ice Cream is a Dairy Product

Even though cats are often pictured or described as drinking bowls of milk, the truth is that dairy products can cause problems. Cats don’t have the necessary digestive enzymes to break down lactose, which is the sugar found in milk and other dairy products. Because of that, eating ice cream may cause them to have digestive issues, such as diarrhea.

Again, some cats may be able to tolerate the occasional lick of ice cream, but you could be in for a smelly surprise later if your kitty isn’t one of them.

Ice Cream Is Unhealthy

As with some of the tastiest human foods, ice cream is generally high in fat, sugar, and calories. As true carnivores, cats need to eat a lot of protein, moderate levels of fat, and minimal carbs, including sugar. Ice cream hits them with a blast of fat and sugar, and even a small amount could exceed your cat’s recommended daily calorie count. Don’t expect much nutritional value from ice cream; it’s primarily filled with empty calories.

Chocolate Ice Cream
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Ice Cream May Contain Toxic Ingredients

Some flavors of ice cream include toxic ingredients that are dangerous for your cat to eat. The biggest concern is chocolate, which can be life-threatening to cats in large enough amounts. Chocolate can disrupt the cat’s normal heart rhythm and cause tremors and seizures.

Sugar-free ice cream may be flavored with the artificial sweetener xylitol. While xylitol is a bigger concern for dogs, cats should also avoid eating it.

What Should You Do If Your Cat Eats Ice Cream?

If your cat eats ice cream, check the ingredients to see if they include chocolate, xylitol, or any other items you aren’t sure are safe. Contact your vet if you know your cat ate chocolate or aren’t sure whether an ingredient is toxic. If your cat has medical issues such as diabetes or food allergies, you should also contact your vet if your cat eats ice cream.

If the ice cream doesn’t contain toxic ingredients, monitor your cat for any digestive upset, including vomiting and diarrhea. Contact your vet if these occur, especially if your cat’s appetite is affected. To prevent any issues, rinse your ice cream bowl and spoon thoroughly, and don’t deliberately offer your cat a lick of your dessert.

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What Other Treats Can You Offer Your Cat Instead of Ice Cream?

cat eating boiled eggs
Image Credit: Anastasiya Tsiasemnikava, Shutterstock

To prevent obesity, cats should eat only the recommended number of calories daily, including food and treats. Because treats are not nutritionally balanced like cat food, they should only make up about 10-15% of the calories. Commercial kitty snacks are a healthier option if you want to give your cat treats.

If you prefer to offer human foods instead, here are some safe and relatively healthy options:

  • Lean, cooked meat or fish
  • Cooked eggs
  • Vegetables, such as green beans or cucumber
  • Fruits, such as melon or berries
  • Whole grains, such as oatmeal or quinoa

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While your cat may enjoy ice cream as much as you do, it’s generally not a good idea for them to eat it. Ice cream is unhealthy for cats, and the lactose found in dairy frequently causes digestive issues. Stick with feeding your cat a nutritionally balanced diet, and if you want to offer treats, consider one of the safer options we listed in this article.

Featured Image Credit: Elena Veselova, Shutterstock

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