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Can a Cat Get Brain Freeze? Facts & FAQ

Chantelle Fowler

By Chantelle Fowler

blue tabby maine coon cat licking homemade ice cream treat popsicle

The Internet can’t get enough of cute cat videos. One type of video that’s been taking social media by storm is cats eating ice cream and promptly malfunctioning, seemingly suffering from some form of kitty brain freeze. But is it possible for a cat to get brain freeze like a human, and is it cruel to purposely try to elicit such a reaction from our pets?

While we can’t know for sure what a cat is feeling, they can likely experience a pain like what we feel when we eat or drink cold things too quickly. Read on to learn more.

What Is Brain Freeze?

Brain freeze, while not serious and rather fleeting, is an intense pain in the front part of the head. Humans get brain freeze when we eat, drink, or breathe in something very cold. The scientific term is a mouthful—sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia.

Brain freeze occurs when our bodies sense sudden, extremely cold temperatures in our mouths or throat. In response to these temperature shifts, it reacts by trying to warm up. The blood vessels in our heads then expand, allowing additional blood to flow into the area for warmth. This quick change in blood vessel size causes the significant pain associated with brain freeze.

Can Cats Experience Brain Freeze?

We can’t know how cats are feeling, so we can’t say for certain that they can or can’t get brain freeze.

Some experts believe that since cats have similar neuroanatomy to ours, their sensory experience will be similar to ours. It’s assumed that when cats eat or drink something cold, they experience a similar pain to what we know as brain freeze.

Others believe that cats’ reactions to cold food or drink could be due to teeth’s sensitive nerve endings exacerbated by periodontal disease.

orange cat meowing
Image Credit: Piqsels

Is It Okay to Offer My Cat Cold Things?

You should think twice before making your own viral video of your kitty eating ice cream.

Not only is offering ice cream to cats generally not recommended as it’s high in sugar and fat but doing so to elicit a “funny” reaction is bordering on cruelty. You know how painful brain freeze can feel, so why would you want to put your kitty through that? Additionally, you know that brain freeze is something you risk when you eat or drink cold things. Your cat will be totally caught off guard as it has no way of knowing the tasty food you’re offering them can come with the extreme head pain side effect.

What Treat Can I Share With My Cat?

While offering ice cream once in a blue moon is unlikely to cause serious issues for your kitty, feeding it too often could cause tummy problems. Additionally, offering ice cream to get a funny cat video is cruel and immoral.

However, if you want to share something off your plate with your kitty, you might be curious about what options you have. Since cats don’t have sweet receptors and cannot taste sweet stimuli, you’d be better off sharing foods with your kitty that you probably don’t consider treats at all.

Since cats are obligate carnivores, they’re likely to find meaty foods to be the best treat on your plate.

This includes things such as:
  • Salmon
  • Chicken
  • Turkey
  • Beef
  • Liver
  • Lamb

Safety note: When offering your kitty meat from your plate, it must be cooked thoroughly. Do not give cats raw meat, and please ensure all skin and bones have been removed before offering them to your kitty. Additionally, do not season or sauce the meat you intend to share.

Final Thoughts

While there’s no way for us to know that our cats for sure experience brain freeze in the same way we do, we do know that they clearly respond negatively to such unpleasant sensations caused by cold food like ice cream. Under no circumstances should we ever subject our cats to pain for our entertainment in an attempt to become the next viral sensation.

Featured Image Credit:

Chantelle Fowler

Authored by

Chantelle is passionate about two things in her life – writing and animals. She grew up on the prairies in Canada surrounded by animals. As an adult, she chooses to share her home with five cats, two guinea pigs, and a bearded dragon. Chantelle, her husband, and their child take great pride in being THOSE kind of animal parents - the ones who spend a thousand dollars on wall-mounted cat shelves so that their cats can ha...Read more

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