7-Eleven cherry Slurpee or spooning Moose Tracks ice cream too fast can result in a scrunched-up face of temporary agony that’s fun to watch — but not experience.
Brain freeze is now spilling across species
lines, starting with cats. The Internet can’t get enough cat videos, and
right now it can’t get enough of cats with brain freeze.
videos start when a pet owner shares some ice cream and the cat takes
cute little cat licks. They end with cats freezing in horror or making
an odd sound in what looks like pain.
Godwin, a neuroscientist at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in
Winston-Salem, N.C., said brain freeze in humans hasn’t been studied
extensively. But he did offer an explanation of how brain freeze works.
“Cold has an effect on the palate and arteries that run in the back of
the throat,” he said.
Godwin said it is thought that the cold
temperature causes a rapid change in the diameter of the anterior
cerebral artery (one of the arteries that sends blood to the brain). The
brain itself doesn’t have pain receptors, so the pain signal may be
coming from the meninges, the protective covering of the brain, Godwin
But what about cats? I reached out to cat veterinarians
across the country to get to the bottom of brain freeze and its effects
on kitties. Here’s what the experts have to say:
veterinarian and owner of the Cat’s Meow Cat Clinic in Sebastian, Fla.,
is not a supporter of people intentionally giving their cats brain
freeze. “It’s pretty unhealthy for the cat,” she said. “Cats have very
similar nervous pathways [to humans].”
veterinarian and medical director for The Cat Practice in New York,
isn’t totally convinced about the harmful effects of brain freeze in
cats. “There hasn’t been much research on feline brain freeze,” he said.
“I can’t imagine that [brain freeze] would be different in cats.”
said there’s nothing wrong with feeding cats ice cream or yogurt. He
cautioned that cats can have lactose intolerance, which can result in
gastrointestinal problems and diarrhea.
He stressed that cats do
not have the same dietary requirements as humans, but he understands why
people might be tempted to feed their cats human food.
people feel bad about feeding their cats the same thing every day, and
they think the cat needs variety,” he said. “Some people feed [cats]
table food because of the bonding experience.”
Clinic veterinarian Sara Tamas said she is guilty of sometimes allowing
her own cat to lick a bowl she finished using to eat ice cream. “A few
licks is not harmful, but it has more calories than they need,” she
If you must insist on feeding your cat ice cream or making
your own video about your cat having brain freeze, Tamas recommends no
more than a teaspoon to a tablespoon a day. Like humans, cats can have
harmful effects from too much sugar consumption.
“Every extra spoonful counts,” she said.