Cats licking ice cream is an adorable sight that melts the hearts of many pet owners. But is this chilled creamy treat actually good for felines? As it turns out, there are some valid reasons why cats can’t resist a bowl of ice cream.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: Cats enjoy ice cream because of the sweet flavor and cold temperature, but too much dairy and sugar can cause digestive issues or weight gain so it should only be an occasional treat.

The Alluring Taste and Smell Attracts Cats

Cats Have a Sweet Tooth

It’s no secret that cats love the sweet taste of ice cream. According to a 2021 study, over 70% of cats showed a preference for sweet flavors when given a choice. This is likely because cats have taste receptors keyed to detect sweet sugars, an evolutionary advantage to identify calorie-rich foods.

Ice cream has high sugar content, which stimulates cats’ sweet receptors and drives them to take more licks. A few licks of ice cream can encourage cats to keep coming back for more of that tasty cold dessert.

The Cold Temperature is Appealing

Cats are attracted to the cold, creamy texture of ice cream. As predators that originated in hot climates like deserts, cats have an innate love of cool and cold objects that help them regulate their body temperature.

Ice cream, being straight out of the freezer, satisfies a cat’s desire for something chilly. Additionally, as the ice cream warms up to room or body temperature, releasing more aroma and taste, cats are enticed to indulge longer.

The Creamy Texture is Irresistible

The smooth, creamy fixer of ice cream is reminiscent of the luxurious fur cats spend much time grooming and enjoying. They exhibit a natural attraction to the cold, rich texture as something pleasing to lick.

Additionally, some vets postulate that licking ice cream soothes cats’ sore throats in the same way the dessert does for humans. The frozen creaminess provides temporary relief for kitty throats irritated by hairballs or meows.

The Dangers of Too Much Dairy and Sugar

Cats are Lactose Intolerant

As tempting as it may be to share your ice cream cone with your feline friend, too much dairy can actually be dangerous for cats. That’s because most cats are lactose intolerant, meaning they lack the enzyme needed to properly digest milk sugar (lactose).

When cats consume dairy, it can upset their digestive system and cause diarrhea, gas, bloating and vomiting. Some studies estimate over 90% of cats have some degree of lactose intolerance.

Small amounts of dairy like a spoonful of milk or cream may not cause problems. But large amounts like a whole bowl of ice cream overwhelms the digestive system. The sugar and fat content also contribute to stomach upset.

It’s best to avoid feeding cats dairy products like ice cream, milk, yogurt or cheese as a treat. There are better alternatives cats can enjoy in moderation like tuna water, boiled chicken, or cat treats.

Excess Calories Lead to Obesity

While ice cream sure does taste good, it comes packed with calories, sugar, and fat. Too much ice cream can quickly cause obesity in cats. Just a few licks can contain a large portion of a cat’s recommended calorie intake for the day.

Over time, excess treats leads to weight gain, which strains the joints and organs and increases disease risk.

Cats have high metabolisms and normally maintain an ideal weight with their regular diet. But too many high-calorie people foods like ice cream on top of their normal food intake causes the pounds to pile on. According to the ASPCA, over half of cats in the U.S. are overweight or obese.

An obese cat may have trouble grooming themselves, become inactive, and have breathing issues. Sticking to cat treats in moderation will allow kitty to get a taste of something special without tipping the scales.

Other Health Risks

Aside from digestive upset and weight gain, ice cream can pose other health risks for cats:

  • Brain freeze – The cold temperature and sweet flavor may cause kitty to gobble ice cream quickly, increasing the risk of an uncomfortable brain freeze headache.
  • Tooth decay – The high sugar content adheres to teeth, promoting bacteria growth and dental disease.
  • Allergies – Some cats may have allergies or sensitivities to common ice cream ingredients like dairy, chocolate, eggs, nuts or artificial flavors/sweeteners.
  • Xylitol toxicity – The artificial sweetener xylitol found in some ice creams is extremely toxic to cats and can be life-threatening.

While an occasional lick of ice cream may not harm an otherwise healthy cat, it’s best reserved as a very rare treat. There are safer treats and foods to provide cats something extra special without jeopardizing their health. Moderation and common sense is key when it comes to cats and ice cream.

Serving Ice Cream to Cats Safely

Choose Low-Sugar Varieties

Cats should only have ice cream as an occasional treat since too much sugar is unhealthy for them. When selecting an ice cream flavor for your cat, opt for a low-sugar variety. Some good options are vanilla, strawberry, or plain yogurt flavors which typically have lower amounts of added sugar.

Avoid ice creams with chocolate, caramel, or syrup swirls as these contain lots of sugar. Check the nutrition label and choose an ice cream with less than 5g of sugar per serving. This will help prevent your cat from consuming excessive amounts of sugar.

Stick to Tiny Portions

Since ice cream is high in fat and calories, it’s important to limit your cat’s portion size. An appropriate serving size for a cat is just a teaspoon or two. Any more than that and you risk your cat packing on extra pounds!

Start by letting your cat have a tiny lick of ice cream off your finger or spoon. If they seem to enjoy it, you can place a small dollop in their food bowl. But don’t go overboard. Too much ice cream can lead to stomach upset and diarrhea.

It’s best to offer it only as an occasional treat in moderation.

Avoid Flavors with Toxic Ingredients

When browsing ice cream flavors for your cat, there are certain ingredients you’ll want to avoid. Chocolate ice cream, for instance, contains theobromine and caffeine which are toxic to cats. Also steer clear of flavors with xylitol, an artificial sweetener extremely poisonous to cats.

Common xylitol-containing flavors include sugar-free or low-carb options. Additionally, it’s best to avoid ice creams with raw eggs, such as homemade custard or gelato. Raw eggs may harbor salmonella bacteria which can sicken your cat if ingested.

Stick to pasteurized eggs found in store-bought ice cream. For optimal safety, select a cat-friendly flavor like vanilla and always check the ingredients before sharing.


While an occasional lick of ice cream likely won’t harm an otherwise healthy cat, too much can cause issues. Limit portions and stick to low-sugar, cat-safe flavors. Ultimately, moderation is key to letting cats enjoy this cold, creamy delight.

The bottom line is cats love ice cream for the taste, texture, and temperature but too much dairy and sugar is unhealthy. As a rare and small treat for felines, it brings joy without danger. With mindful moderation, cat owners can feel confident rewarding their kitties with a few licks of ice cream now and then.

Similar Posts