Can I Give My Cat Ice?
There are many joys associated with the wonders of modern technology, including but not limited to Netflix, smart phones, microwaveable noodles, hand sanitizer, indoor plumbing, and quick-dry nail polish, but one of the simplest (yet most revolutionary) modern inventions is the freezer. In addition to keeping our otherwise prone to spoilage food in perfect condition for months, the modern freezer also gifts us with more ice cubes than we could possibly want. We have enough ice to pour into our drink, crush into a slushie, and make an ice pack for our sprained ankle. Some of us love ice so much that, during the summer, we will eat it by itself straight out of the cup.
And why not? Ice is cold, refreshing, crunchy, and zero calories, so it can’t possibly hurt us. But, though we are perfectly happy crunching on ice to cool down, we often read scary stuff online about ice cubes and our pets. Some pet parents casually mention dropping ice cubes into their pet’s water bowl, while others create urgent-sounding blog posts that seem to suggest we are killing our cats by exposing them to a couple ice chips every now and then. So, what’s the truth? Can cats have ice?
The answer is yes. As long as it is made of clean, pure, unflavored water, cats can eat ice. There is nothing innately dangerous about ice cubes or ice chips. If the water was safe enough for your furry friend to drink when it was a liquid, it is safe enough for them to consume as a solid—freezing water does not alter its chemical makeup, so it certainly will not poison your cat. Though there are some on the Internet who suggest that the temperature of food and drink can hurt your (and your pet’s) body, there is no research behind these claims.
Though ice is not chemically any different from liquid water, there may be some benefits to giving your feline friend ice every now and then. Because ice is just chunks of frozen water, it contains no calories, sugar, or fat, so there is no way that it could cause your cat to gain weight. It makes a fabulous frozen treat for cats who may be prone to overheating during exercise or on a particularly hot day. Neither dogs nor cats can sweat, so ice can be a great way to help keep cool our pets down after they spend some time outside. Of course, if you think your cat may be seriously overheated, you should seek veterinary care as soon as possible—a few ice cubes will not be enough to support your cat through heat stroke.
Ice can be especially handy for those of us who have pets of the feline persuasion, because cats are notoriously finicky about their fluids. If you’re having a hard time keeping your cat hydrated, there are many ways you can make their water more appealing, including refilling the bowl with fresh, clean water every day—cats don’t like stale water—and opting for a bowl that is shallow and wide instead of narrow and deep.
If those tricks don’t work very well, ice may be the best tool in your arsenal. There really has not been much research on the effects of water temperature on cats, but there have been several studies performed on humans, and they have found that people drink significantly more water if it is cool and refreshing than if it is hot or room temperature. Cold water is simply much more palatable. One study performed on human athletes found that participants drank up to 37% more water if the temperature was cold! Many pet parents report that their cats are much more likely to drink cold water, too.
Things to Consider
Some online sources suggest that ice can seriously hinder feline digestion because their gastrointestinal tract runs at a high temperature. This is largely a myth. Just like humans, cats can regulate their own body temperature, and eating ice will not cause any serious damage to their core temperature.
The only real concern associated with giving ice cubes to cats is tooth problems. If your cat crunches on hard ice cubes, there is a very slight chance that they may chip a tooth. If you know your cat is going to chew on the ice instead of licking it like a popsicle, it may be a good idea to offer them crushed ice or ice chips instead of big, hard cubes—this will make it safer for their teeth.
In conclusion, it is perfectly safe to give your cats ice in the summer. As long as the water you use to make the ice is clean and unflavored, there is no reason to avoid giving it to your cat—ice can be a great way to keep your pet cool and to convince them to drink more water. If you’re worried about your cat chewing on whole ice cubes, give them crushed ice instead.