Nutrition

Can Cats Have Pup Cups From Starbucks? Are Puppuccinos Safe For Felines?

Just like dog owners, cat parents enjoy treating their companions to a tasty treat. Can cats have a Starbucks Puppiccino? We cover the dos and don'ts of feeding your cat a pup cup.

Tara Maurer holding cat smiling

Last Updated: August 14, 2023 | 4 min read

Starbucks paper coffee cup and cat sitting on a bench

This article should not substitute contact with a veterinarian. Contact your local vet immediately if your cat is reacting poorly after consumption.

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Humans have dealt cats a rough hand. We’ve called cats aloof, unloving, and untrainable. Superstitions warn that cats will bring bad weather, colds, and—in the case of black cats—bad luck.

Historically, felines haven’t received the same treatment from the pet products industry as our other four-legged pal, and chain restaurants only cater to their dog clientele: Dairy Queen offers free ice cream for dogs, In-N-Out Burger includes dog-friendly menu options, Sonic provides a Wag Cup treat for dogs—plus, its Wag Shop sells toys, costumes, and other merch for puppers. All this attention to “man’s best friend” has forced cat owners—an estimated 46.5 million U.S. households—to get creative when treating their kitties. 

You’ve likely heard of the Starbucks pup cup. Fondly called a Puppuccino, this complimentary treat is an off-menu item you can order for your dog when you’re in line to get an iced caramel macchiato or Pink Drink. Some cat owners have taken to ordering pup cups for their kitties, raising the question, “Can cats have Puppiccinos”—or more accurately, “Catuccinos”? 

What Is A Pup Cup?

The Starbucks pup cup is an espresso-sized cup of whipped cream. Sizes vary based on the location you go to but, simply put, ordering a Puppuccino will get you a dollop of whipped cream for your feline friend. Remember that this is Starbucks’ version of the pup cup; other establishments may have their version of this complimentary treat.

Can Cats Have Pup Cups?

You may have seen one of the many viral TikToks of a cat getting a pup cup from Starbucks and wondered if your cat would also enjoy a Puppuccino. While whipped cream isn’t toxic to cats, it isn’t recommended for felines. Your cat may be able to stomach a lick or two of a pup cup without any adverse effects, but we don’t recommend giving your kitty a whole dollop of whipped cream. 

Are Pup Cups Safe For Cats?

While we don’t recommend feeding your cat a pup cup, this treat isn’t dangerous. Feed your cat a pup cup in moderation to avoid any adverse effects.

Why Is Whipped Cream Bad For Cats?

A hungry ginger cat peeks into a bowl of cream for a cake. Whipped cream

As its name suggests, the main ingredient in whipped cream is heavy cream from cow’s milk. Despite the myth telling us that cow’s milk is good for our felines, cats are—in fact—lactose intolerant. When kittens are first born and rely on their mother’s milk, they can produce lactase, the digestive enzyme that breaks down lactose—a sugar in milk. As kittens are weaned, they naturally produce less lactase and have difficulty digesting milk. Cats with lactose intolerance may experience various adverse effects:

  • Abdominal Pain: Excess gastrointestinal and abdomen gas causes abdominal pain. If your cat limits their movements after eating a pup cup, it indicates they may be experiencing abdominal pain.
  • Bloating and Gas: Gas and bloating occur when your cat cannot break down the lactose found in whipped cream.
  • Constipation: Your kitty may experience constipation if their GI tract struggles to transport food and liquids through the intestines.
  • Dehydration: Vomiting and diarrhea can cause dehydration. Dehydration can lead to dry mouth, dizziness, fast heart rate, muscle cramping, thirst, and more. In severe cases, dehydration can cause brain damage, kidney damage, and death.
  • Diarrhea: Runny stools can lead to dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, and kidney failure.
  • Increased Thirst: Increased thirst is a result of vomiting and diarrhea.
  • Vomiting: Vomiting helps eliminate harmful substances from the body.

Other ingredients found in whipped cream include sugar, corn syrup, and vegetable oils. Being obligate carnivores, cats’ digestive systems are adapted to break down nutrients from meat efficiently. Animal materials are considered easier to digest, and physiological differences occur between herbivores, omnivores, and carnivores. For example, the small intestine length of the herbivorous cow spans 93 to 172 feet. For humans, the small intestine averages 20 feet long. Cats? A mere 3 to 5 feet. The structure of a cat’s digestive system means it will be more challenging to break down sugary whipped cream.

Remember, just like with humans, foods that are high in sugar and fat can lead to health issues, including:

  • Arthritis: Dietary sugar can increase inflammation, thereby increasing joint pain.
  • Diabetes: Excessive sugar intake can lead to insulin resistance, and a high-fat diet is associated with a significant risk of diabetes.
  • Obesity: Consuming more calories than you burn can lead to obesity, which increases the risk of other health problems, including diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
  • Tooth Decay: Bacteria metabolize sugar in the mouth, which forms an acid that demineralizes teeth, eventually resulting in cavities.

The History Of Cats And Milk

Cat putting paw in a glass of milk

If you’re still stuck on the fact that cow’s milk is bad for cats, you’re likely curious how the myth about cats and milk came to exist. Many historians believe it all began when cats were used as farm mousers. Cats would earn their keep catching mice, saving farmers money on rodent control. Mice can create damage when chewing about to make their nest and carry parasites that may be passed onto other farm animals, so farmers welcomed the working cats and would treat them to readily available cow’s milk as a reward.

Before pasteurization, milk naturally contains lactase to break down the milk sugar lactose. While pasteurization kills dangerous bacteria, it also inactivates the enzymes naturally found in milk. If these cats were getting raw milk straight from the cow, historians reason cats had a better chance of digesting the milk. Other historians argue that gastrointestinal issues went unnoticed since cats once lived primarily outdoors and could hide any sickness associated with dairy consumption.

We know that most cats go crazy for dairy when given the occasional lick, and there are a few reasons to explain why cats like milk. First, dairy milk contains protein and fat—essential for a cat’s diet. Your feline may not consciously choose dairy for its macronutrients but likely love the taste of dairy thanks to its high content of these cat-favorite nutrients. Second, cats grew up drinking mom’s milk, so it’s reasonable that cow’s milk may have a familiar smell and taste. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Pup Cups Free?

Yes, the Starbucks pup cup is free. Remember that this is a complimentary service and may vary based on location.

Do Cats Like Pup Cups?

While the reaction to a pup cup will vary by the cat, your cat will likely enjoy the fluffy texture and tasty fat. If you want to try it, remember to feed in moderation. A teaspoon is a good starting place.

Final Thoughts

Can Cats eat pup cups? They shouldn’t. Still, it’s hard to look at your precious kitty and deny them a simple treat that makes them oh-so-happy. If you decide to get a puppuccino for your cat, always confirm it’s only whipped cream. Stick to only a few licks instead of the whole cup. Your cat will be thankful for the treat, and you won’t have to clean up any litter box messes.

small orange kitten next to a wasp

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