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Can Cats Eat Vanilla? Facts & FAQ

Vanilla is sometimes okay to give to felines. As an ingredient, it doesn’t actually add much to the food but flavor. Therefore, your cat can technically eat as much as they want without any negative effects.

(In fact, vanilla is so safe for practically all creatures that it is commonly used as a flavoring for babies. You may find it in some formulas, for instance.)

However, you should be careful giving your cat processed foods with vanilla in them. Commonly, these foods contain sugar, which is not good for cats. Adding a drop of vanilla to your cat’s food or medication is one thing. Feeding your cat vanilla ice cream is a completely different thing!

Therefore, we do not recommend feeding your cat processed foods with vanilla. However, adding vanilla to their food or medication is often okay. It is not toxic to cats and should not cause any health problems. It is simply a flavoring.

With that said, some vanilla extracts contain other ingredients, like alcohol. Because cats are so little, you should not use these extracts. Look for extracts without any alcohol in them, which are often common enough to be found at your grocery store.

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Can Cats Taste Vanilla?

Cats have different taste buds than ours and they likely taste things differently than we do. However, we do not know exactly how they taste these things. We can’t exactly ask them, after all. (And, even if we could, how would we compare tastes?) Unless we discover a way to get into our cat’s bodies, we likely won’t know any time soon!

However, there is anecdotal evidence that cats can taste vanilla at least somewhat. For instance, it is sometimes utilized as a medication flavoring. Some owners also state that their cats like vanilla. Still, we don’t know if it tastes the same way to both humans and cats.

Is It Okay to Give Cats Vanilla Ice Cream?

One of the most common ways cats are introduced to vanilla is in vanilla ice cream. However, this is not necessarily okay for them to eat. While a quick lick may not bother them, ice cream contains a lot of ingredients that aren’t best for their stomach or diet.

Firstly, most ice cream is very high in sugar so we do not recommend it for most felines. Sugar is simply empty calories. It does not provide your cat with any vitamins or nutrients. However, it can cause them to gain extra weight if they eat too much of it. Some cats may choose to eat ice cream over their cat food if given the opportunity, which can lead to nutritional problems.

Secondly, ice cream is also high in dairy. Most cats are dairy intolerant. Therefore, they may experience stomach upset. Of course, the exact level at which each cat is sensitive to dairy varies. Some cats are extremely sensitive and may have bad diarrhea after consuming ice cream. Others may be fine unless they eat a lot.

Either way, dairy is usually not suitable for cats after they reach adulthood.

Thirdly, many ice creams contain other ingredients. While these may be safe for your feline, they may not be. For instance, some artificial sweeteners can be toxic to cats. Reading the ingredient list is necessary to ensure that there is nothing toxic in the vanilla ice cream.

Credit: NicO_l, Shutterstock

Is Vanilla Toxic to Pets?

Alcohol-free vanilla is often safe for most pets. It is absolutely safe for cats and dogs, in fact. There are many extracts out there that do not include any alcohol. If you want to feed your pet vanilla, that is what you want to get.

On the other hand, some vanilla extracts are made with alcohol (which is actually the traditional way to make them). In these cases, it is not okay for your cat to consume. Even small amounts of alcohol can be toxic to cats. Therefore, it is not recommended in the least. It can lead to serious health problems, especially if they drink a whole bottle.

For this reason, we recommend carefully looking at the vanilla extract ingredients before moving forward. There is not an obvious labeling distinction between these products. However, the ingredient list should make it clear.

Can I Give My Cat Vanilla Pudding?

Typically, the vanilla in the vanilla pudding is perfectly fine. Even if it was made with alcohol, it is watered down considerably by pudding and other ingredients. Therefore, vanilla is typically not the ingredient you need to be worried about.

However, that does not mean that your cat should eat the pudding. In many cases, the added sugar in the pudding is a poor dietary choice for cats. It can easily make your cat consume extra calories, which can lead to obesity. In many ways, pudding is a lot like ice cream. It isn’t the vanilla that is bad for your cat—it is everything else.

Some pudding may include dairy, which is not a good option for most cats. However, this isn’t true of all pudding. Some are made without dairy and are usually labeled as diary-free for this reason.

As we’ve stated, dairy is not appropriate for most cats. In adulthood, most felines are dairy intolerant. Therefore, pudding with dairy can cause all sorts of digestive problems. It is not toxic, but it is absolutely not great for most cats.

vanilla pudding in a bowl
Image Credit: Brent Hofacker, Shutterstock

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Vanilla itself is fine for cats as long as it is not made with alcohol. Vanilla extracts are made with both alcohol and non-alcohol substances. Therefore, be sure to check the ingredient list and only purchase alcohol-free vanilla. While the amount of alcohol in any vanilla is very small, it may be enough to affect your tiny feline.

With that said, many vanilla-flavored items have added sugars, which are not appropriate for cats. Therefore, you should check the ingredient list of anything you plan on feeding your feline. If it includes added sugars, it probably isn’t the best choice.

For instance, vanilla ice cream and pudding are both poor options for cats, as they contain dairy and added sugar.

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Featured Image: Maren Winter, Shutterstock