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Do Cats Get Brain Freeze? Facts & FAQ

bored domestic cat
Image Credit: IceEye, Pixabay
Last Updated on November 16, 2023 by Elizabeth Gray

If you’ve ever sucked down a milkshake too quickly, you’re probably familiar with the discomfort of brain freeze. A quick Internet search will reveal multiple clips of cats reacting abruptly to their first taste of ice cream or frozen treats. If you’re wondering whether cats get brain freeze, the answer is, most likely, yes, but we can’t know for sure since they can’t tell us.

Keep reading to learn why cats probably get brain freeze and another reason they might react so dramatically to eating cold food. We’ll also let you know whether brain freeze is dangerous for cats and why feeding your cat ice cream is not a good idea either way.

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What is Brain Freeze?

Brain freeze is the common term for a brief headache caused by breathing in, eating, or drinking something very cold. The scientific term for brain freeze is sphenopalatine ganglion neuralgia.

When cold material strikes your mouth or throat, the blood vessels expand rapidly to warm up. This sudden expansion is thought to trigger the pain response we know as brain freeze.

Since Cats and humans share similar brain anatomy, it makes sense that they would experience similar responses to eating cold things. Because of this, we can reasonably conclude that cats probably experience brain freeze. Again, there’s no way to officially confirm this because a cat can’t tell you they got a headache from licking your ice cream cone.

Gray persian cat is licking ice
Image Credit: Chaiwat Hemakom, Shutterstock

Another Possible Culprit

Eating something cold could trigger brain freeze in your cat, but dental pain is another reason they might react strangely. Humans with cavities and other dental issues are familiar with the pain of eating hot, cold, or hard items. Many cats suffer from dental disease because they typically don’t get the same oral preventative care dogs do. Brushing a cat’s teeth is not easy!

Instead of brain freeze, your cat’s teeth could be causing them pain when they eat something cold. Have your vet check your kitty’s teeth to determine if they need a cleaning or other treatment.

vet checking cats teeth
Image Credit: PRESSLAB, Shutterstock

Is Brain Freeze Dangerous for Cats?

Brain freeze is a temporary pain that isn’t dangerous for humans. It’s probably not risky for cats either, but it’s certainly not pleasant for them. After all, cats can’t understand the concept of brain freeze, they just know that something they eat is causing them pain.

While watching your cat make a face after eating ice cream may be amusing, remember that it’s uncomfortable and probably confusing for them. In extreme cases, your cat may develop a reluctance to eat because they’re worried it will hurt. Anytime a cat loses their appetite, they risk developing a potentially deadly condition called hepatic lipidosis.1

In addition, ice cream isn’t a good food for cats. Cats can’t digest dairy products, so this sweet treat may cause an upset stomach. Some cats are sensitive to high-fat foods like ice cream and may develop pancreatitis if they eat it regularly.

American shorthair cat eating at home
Image Credit: Apicha Bas, Shutterstock

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Cats can probably get brain freeze, but they don’t understand what they’re experiencing. Since brain freeze is most likely uncomfortable for cats, avoid deliberately causing this response. Sneaky cats may like to lick out your ice cream bowl but don’t feed your kitty this dessert regularly. Ice cream is unhealthy for cats, and the dairy and fat content may trigger serious health conditions in your kitty.

Featured Image Credit: IceEye, Pixabay

About the Author

Elizabeth Gray
Elizabeth Gray
Elizabeth Gray is a lifelong lover of all creatures great and small. She got her first cat at 5 years old and at 14, she started working for her local veterinarian. Elizabeth spent more than 20 years working as a veterinary nurse before stepping away to become a stay-at-home parent to her daughter. Now, she is excited to share her hard-earned knowledge (literally--she has scars) with our readers. Elizabeth lives in Iowa with her family, including her two fur kids, Linnard, a husky mix and Algernon, the worldʻs most patient cat. When not writing, she enjoys reading, watching all sports but especially soccer, and spending time outdoors with her family.

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