Can Cats Eat Popcorn? 5 Things You May Not Know

Cats are sophisticated animals, and their nutritional needs are distinct from those of humans. Therefore, our feline friends can’t eat the same things we can.

Although some popcorn toppings may be harmful to cats, this does not mean that popcorn itself is toxic.

One could make the case that there is some nutrition in it. After all, many brands of cat food include corn in their lists of ingredients. Popcorn is made from corn, so it stands to reason that it is healthy for your beloved fluffy friend.

Can Cats Eat Popcorn?

To put it briefly, yes and no. While popcorn on its own is safe for cats, adding butter and salt to it makes it dangerous due to the risk of choking and other health problems.

Although popcorn is not on the ASPCA’s list of toxic foods, the butter and salt that are typically added to it can cause a number of health problems over time.

Since cats are obligate omnivores, their digestive systems cannot process grains in the same way that ours do.

“Cats… have no metabolic/nutritional need for carbohydrates,” Dr. Gary Richter of Oakland, California’s Montclair Veterinary Hospital and Holistic Veterinary Care tells Rover. Grain consumption in moderation is acceptable within the context of a healthy diet.

The prepackaged, microwaveable popcorn that is widely available is another issue.

We won’t make you say it twice, but perfluorooctanoic acid has been linked to ADHD and thyroid problems in humans and is found in many microwave bags.

Many brands of microwave popcorn also use a lot of fake butter. Diacetyl, a chemical found in artificial butter, has been linked to lung disease in animal studies.

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Is it going to be an issue if a few kernels fall to the ground? Not likely at all.

Corn vs. Popcorn vs. Cats

Meat is an essential part of a cat’s diet because they are carnivores. However, they can also gain from the carbs, protein, and fiber found in vegetables, fruits, and other crops.

Okay, so let’s discuss corn for a bit. Cat food corn is usually field corn rather than the sweet corn humans eat from cans or cobs.

  • There is a lot of water, sugar, protein, and carbohydrates in field corn.
  • Popcorn is high in calories and carbs but low in protein, fiber, and sugar.

Your cat will not get enough nutrition from any kind of corn, whether it be field corn, sweet corn, sour corn, processed corn, fried corn, steamed corn, boiled corn, air-popped corn, or stovetop corn.

Therefore, there is no such thing as a healthy popcorn or corn snack.

Specialized cat treats or actual meat are much better options. Both your pet’s health and its appetite will benefit from these treats. If corn is so bad for cats, then why is it used in so many cat foods?

Dry and canned cat food both use corn as a filler. Grain-free foods are more expensive and healthier because they don’t contain corn or other cheap fillers.

While corn may not be harmful to your pet, it also doesn’t offer much in the way of benefits when used in pet food. Honestly, though, popcorn is even worse for you.

Health Benefits of Popcorn

This crunchy whole food snack is packed with nutrients that are great for human health. Popcorn, as a whole grain food, is packed with nutrients, say nutritionists.

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Popcorn has a wealth of nutrients, including dietary fiber, vitamins B1, B3, and B6, and minerals like zinc, magnesium, and potassium.

Antioxidant polyphenols found in popcorn have been linked to improved circulation, gastrointestinal health, and a lower risk of prostate and breast cancer.

Many fruits and vegetables contain polyphenol, but the concentration of this compound is typically low because of the presence of water.

Popcorn is so low in water content (4%) that it provides a concentrated dose of this helpful cancer fighter.

Is popcorn toxic to cats?

This is not as simple as saying “yes” or “no,” as I mentioned at the outset.

Cats of any age or breed can safely consume popcorn by itself without risk.

It can’t fulfill your pet’s nutritional needs, so it’s not a good choice for a snack, regardless of how often you give it to them. But unseasoned popcorn kernels are 100% safe for your cat’s health.

However, some popcorn add-ons are known to be harmful to cats and other pets.

Popcorn flavorings like salt, butter, sugar, caramel, and spicy seasoning can add more calories and other unhealthy ingredients than the popcorn itself, but we tend to forget this.

Even if you buy plain popcorn and season it yourself, your cat should still avoid it.

Cats should avoid the sugary and spicy seasonings. Toxic reactions and stomach upsets are real possibilities.

When fed on a regular basis, popcorn flavored in this way can lead to hypertension and other health problems in cats.

The salty condiments are also not a good idea. Cats don’t have a good sense of thirst, and high sodium levels are dangerous for them.

Can Cats Eat Corn?

Just like with popcorn, you shouldn’t give your cat corn that has been seasoned with salt and butter.

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However, cats tend to favor particular surfaces. Cornmeal, polenta, oats, barley, and whole wheat breadcrumbs are all examples of whole grains that PetMD says are safe to feed in small amounts.

It’s easier for a cat to digest and provides some nutrition if the food is completely cooked.

However, a diet consisting primarily of animal meat is the healthiest option for your cat.


Alternative Healthy Snacks

Vegetables are a great place to start when looking to diversify your pet’s diet away from conventional treats. Cat owners can try feeding their feline friends food or treats that contain vegetables.

“Not everyone is going to eat them,” Dr. Richter warns. When consumed as part of a well-rounded meal, vegetables provide beneficial nutrients.

The American SPCA says these vegetables are safe for cats to eat:

  • Zucchini
  • Celery (the crunchy is a big hit!)
  • Carrots
  • Peppers, green
  • Vitamins A, C, and K abound in spinach.
  • Beans, green
  • Peas (a nutrient-rich ingredient common in many commercially prepared cat and dog foods)
  • Feeding your cat pumpkin is a common way to increase the amount of fiber in its diet.
  • Broccoli

Dr. Richter recommends that a healthy diet make up the majority of your cat’s food intake. Treats, in general, are not nutritionally sound and shouldn’t account for more than a small percentage of their daily calorie intake.

Trying out new nutritious treats for your cat is a great way to spend quality time with your furry friend.

Vegetables like popcorn, corn, and others should never replace actual meals. Cats, being carnivores, require specific nutrients only found in cat food.

No need to freak out if your cat snatches a kernel or two while cuddling up to you on movie night. Cats can consume a limited amount of corn.

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