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Can I Put Ice Cubes in My Cat’s Water Bowl? Vet Approved Facts & Alternatives

Kathryn Copeland

By Kathryn Copeland


Vet approved

Dr. Alice Athow-Frost Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Alice Athow-Frost

Veterinarian, BVM BVS MRCVS

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Almost nothing is better than drinking ice-cold water on a hot summer day, especially when you’re feeling parched. But have you ever wondered if your cat needs help cooling down, particularly since they wear their fur coats all year round? Putting ice cubes in your cat’s water could be a solution, but is it safe to do this? For the most part, putting ice cubes in your cat’s water is safe, but there are a few things to consider first.

Let’s discuss the safest ways to give ice cubes to your cat and extra ideas to help keep them cool and comfortable.

What Are the Risks of Putting Ice in Your Cat’s Water?

Ice is generally safe for cats, but there are a few risks involved that you should be aware of.

Damage to the Teeth

Most cats won’t actually eat the ice, but if your cat happens to enjoy crunching on ice, it could damage the enamel (the hard outer coating of the tooth) or cause tooth fractures. However, this is rare because cats are more likely to lick ice rather than bite it.

close up of cat with fractured teeth and bacterial plaque
Image Credit: Todorean-Gabriel, Shutterstock

Choking Hazard

This is a rare occurrence, but if your cat tends to wolf things down, it is a possibility. If the ice cubes are large, they can be a potential hazard, leading to choking or becoming stuck in the throat.

Small pieces of pea-sized ice would be best, as they are least likely to cause your cat any harm.

Brain Freeze

Yes, we think that cats can experience brain freeze just like we do! When drinking frigid water, the sudden change in temperature in the mouth and throat causes the body to try and warm it up again.  It does this by widening blood vessels and therefore increasing blood flow to the neck and head.  This sudden change in blood vessel size causes the pain we know as brain freeze. We can’t know for sure if cats suffer from this in the same way as humans, but it is thought that they do.

close up of shocked tabby cat
Image Credit: PONGTORN SUKGASEM, Shutterstock


This isn’t exactly a risk, but it shouldn’t come as a surprise that some cats will want to play with the floating ice cubes, which likely means a big watery mess.

If they manage to flip the ice cubes out, they might chase them around the house, so you can expect to find water trails and mini puddles on your floors.

How Can You Encourage Your Cat to Drink More Water?

Cats aren’t known to be big water drinkers, so it’s up to us to ensure that they drink enough of it.

Water Temperature

Most cats prefer drinking cool to cold water, but not all cats do, so you might need to put out two bowls of water; one cold and the other room temperature. Whichever bowl your cat prefers is a good indication of what water temperature you should regularly give them.

tabby cat drinking water
Image Credit: Pattysan, Shutterstock

Multiple Sources of Water

Experts believe that cats like to have more than one source of drinking water. Additionally, cats seem to prefer small drinking bowls (6 inches or less) located away from their food bowls.

Cat Water Fountain

If your cat doesn’t seem interested in drinking water from a bowl, you can try something completely different, like a cat water fountain.

It’s believed that cats are more drawn to running water because the water is fresher. Stagnant water can be a literal breeding ground for bacteria, which cats know on an instinctual level.

black and white cat drinking from a water fountain
Image Credit: ErikGlez, Shutterstock

Clean Bowls

You should thoroughly clean your cat’s bowl(s) every day to keep the water fresh and clean. If the water is at all smelly or dirty, cats will not want to drink from it, so ensure that you use unscented soap and rinse thoroughly.

Full Bowls

Try to keep the bowl topped up with water close to the brim. Cat’s whiskers are sensitive, and a cat is thought to  experience something called whisker fatigue, which occurs when they must put their face into a narrow bowl. It presses against their whisker pads, which can be uncomfortable and overstimulating.  Keeping the bowl full will make this less likely to occur.

Other Ways to Keep Your Cat Cool

Cats don’t pant like dogs.  If you do see your cat panting it can be a sign that they are very unwell and must be taken to the vet for assessment.  If panting doesn’t stop once your cat has cooled down, they must be taken to your vet immediately.

In order to cool down, cats sweat through their paw pads, and the saliva that they leave on their coats evaporates, keeping them cooler. But there are a few other steps that you can take beyond putting ice cubes in their water to help your cat keep cool.

Get Airflow

Cats don’t like sitting in front of fans, but if you don’t have air conditioning, you’ll want to set up a few fans around the house. Placing a frozen bottle of water in front of the fan can boost the cooler air.

If you’re going through a heatwave, you might want to invest in a small, portable air conditioning unit or consider checking into a pet-friendly hotel with AC.

cat inside a hotel room
Image Credit: Victor Katikov, Shutterstock

Use a Cooling Mat

You’re likely going to find your cat stretched out on a cool floor (like the bathroom tiles) in an effort to cool off. You can try getting a cooling mat for your cat, which might help. If you don’t have a cool mat, you can freeze a plastic bottle of water and place this under the cat’s bed to give them a cool area to relax on.

Remove Mats and Carpets

If you have small scatter rugs on your floors, consider removing them on hot days. This will give your cat more areas to stretch out to help cool down.

professional worker with removing a carpet for renovation works in a living room
Image Credit: ungvar, Shutterstock

Close Window Coverings

During the hottest parts of the day, close your blinds and/or curtains, particularly for windows where the sun is shining directly through. As much as cats love sleeping in sunny patches, they’ll likely shy away from the sun if it’s hot inside.

Use a Cooling Bowl

Instead of putting ice cubes in their water bowl, try a cooling bowl. You fill the walls of the bowl with water, place it in the freezer overnight (be sure to put out another bowl of water for your cat during this time) and then fill it with water in the morning. These bowls are designed to keep the water at a cool temperature for most of the day.

empty pet cooling bowl
Image Credit: yar-andy, Shutterstock

Elevate the Bed

If your cat sleeps on a cat tree most of the time, you don’t have to worry about this tip. But if your cat sleeps on a cat bed on the floor, you’ll want to elevate it or get an elevated cat bed. Beds kept off the floor can provide air circulation, which will help your cat stay cooler.

Wet Them Down

Don’t soak your cat, but if they seem uncomfortable, you can take a cloth (like a washcloth), dampen it with cold water, and rub your cat with it, which should help them cope with the heat. But observe your cat; if being rubbed with a damp cloth upsets them, find other ways to help them cool down.

What Are the Signs That Your Cat Is Hot?

Cats can have just as much difficulty dealing with the hot weather as we do. Look out for the following signs and ensure you get your cat somewhere cool before being too hot turns to heat stroke which is a very dangerous and sometimes fatal condition.

  • Panting; if panting doesn’t stop when a cat is removed from the heat, it is urgent that you seek veterinary attention.
  • Sweaty paws (leaving wet pawprints on the floor)
  • Excessive grooming (trying to cool themselves off)
  • Restlessness (trying to find a spot to cool off)
Signs of progression to heat stroke include:
  • Red mouth and tongue
  • Rapid breathing and pulse
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Stumbling and staggering
  • Seizures
  • Coma

See your vet immediately if your cat seems uncomfortable or to be suffering from heat exhaustion or heatstroke.


You should take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that your cat is adequately hydrated. Consider a water fountain if your cat doesn’t seem to be drinking enough water.

If you decide to add ice cubes to your cat’s water bowl, keep them small, and only put in a few. You want the water cool, not frigid.

If you follow these tips, your cat will enjoy cooler water on a hot day and have other ways to make themselves more comfortable.

Featured Image Credit: Hans, Pixabay

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