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Can Cats Eat Popcorn? Facts & Safety Tips

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By Nicole Cosgrove

Can Cats Eat popcorn

If you just opened a bag of popcorn, your cat will likely be curious to see what you’ve got. Like other pets, cats will readily consume homemade food, sometimes out of curiosity. Popcorn is a popular snack for us humans, but is it safe for your feline friend?

The answer is yes and no. The real question may be ‘do cats even like popcorn?’ Generally, cats won’t be drawn to popcorn, but they can eat it. On the other hand, the additives and toppings commonly used in making popcorn can be harmful to your cat’s health. If it’s a kitten, they are also likely to choke.

Before feeding your cat any popcorn, here’s what you need to know.

When is Popcorn Safe for Your Cats to Eat?

Corn is present as a filler in most commercial cat foods. Therefore, your cats might be already eating corn. So how can you package the popcorn safely for your cats?

Serve it Plain

Popcorn contains additives and toppings such as onion, garlic, caramel, butter, salt, and other spices. These products can cause health issues for your cat.

Despite having an inclusive diet, cats don’t digest grains in the same way as humans. Therefore, to keep your pet safe, serve this snack plain.

Serve It as a Treat

Popcorn has little or no nutritional value to your cat. Once you offer your cat a bowl, it might eat some or toy with the rest. Therefore, serve it as a treat in moderation and plan to give your cat other nutritional options.

Serve Small Kernels

If you are going to feed your cat popcorn, ensure that the kernels are small in size. Compared to smaller dogs, cats tend to have smaller mouths, therefore, need their food in small bits. Break up the larger kernels to prevent choking or blockage.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Why is Popcorn Unsafe for Your Cat?

Before you share some popcorn with your cat, here are some reasons why this is not safe.

Your Cat Might Choke

While it’s much safer for your cat to eat popcorn in moderation, it’s highly risky for young or older cats. If your cat falls in any of these categories, it’s better to avoid feeding them popcorn to keep them safe and alive. In addition, since they can’t chew well, the popcorn might be stuck on the throat or intestines, causing digestion problems.

A kitten’s diet should include foods rich in protein to help with body growth. Unfortunately, corn does not contain these essential nutrients; therefore, it’s not a necessity.

Too Many Additives

Cats are commonly faced with an obesity problem if they are not taken care of properly. For example, feeding your cat popcorn that has dairy products or butter is fattening. Caramel and other seasonings used in making popcorn also contain too much sugar or salt, which is harmful to your cat’s health.

Giving your cat these flavorings regularly can cause them to develop high blood pressure and other complications. In addition, salty toppings have high sodium complications and could easily lead to dehydration.

Popcorns will expose your feline friend to constipation. As a starch-based grain, cats don’t have the proper enzymes in their saliva to digest these types of carbohydrates.

Harmful Unpopped Kernels

When making popcorns, you might have some unpopped kernels. These easily get stuck on human teeth during eating. The same will happen to your cat, which is harmful to its teeth and digestive system.

After the cat eats popcorns, have a toothbrush to remove stuck fragments or drinking water.

If you have to feed your cat popcorns, make sure they are air-popped.

orange cat choking
Image Credit: HelgaKa, Pixabay

Corn vs. Popcorn

In commercial cat food, corn is listed in many instances as an ingredient. But is this safe for your cats? Unfortunately, this corn is not beneficial to your pet because it’s added as a filler in dried cat food to help bind the other ingredients.

This corn benefits your feline friend by providing carbohydrates that are converted to energy. Unlike popcorn, field corn has moisture, sugar, protein, and carbohydrates. You can feed your cat corn in small doses in the form of cornmeal, polenta, oats, barley, and wheat breadcrumbs which have some nutritional benefits.

Ensure that these wholesome foods are fully cooked to make them easier for a cat to digest. However, your cat should be eating balanced cat food that mainly contains animal meat.

On the other hand, popcorn doesn’t contain the essential fiber or protein that the cat needs. Therefore, both field and popcorn have nutrients that other healthier options can substitute. Because of this, they are not a necessity.

cooked corn
Image Credit: Pixabay

What Should You Do If Your Cat Eats Popcorn?

Once you notice your cat has eaten some of your popcorn, closely monitor them for any choking. This is essential for all cats, no matter their age.

You’ll also need to observe for any gastrointestinal complications. For example, excess salt, sugar, and dairy toppings can result in constipation, vomiting, and diarrhea. Also, ensure your cat is eating normally and note if they have a loss of appetite or increased body temperatures.

If your cat doesn’t exhibit any symptoms or complications, it’s still best to schedule an appointment with the vet for observation. Since popcorn has no nutritional value, the cat might be at risk for long-term complications if it consumed a lot of popcorn.

What Food Alternatives Can You Feed Your Cat?

Now that we’ve established that popcorns don’t have any nutritional value, you should consider some healthier options. For example, if you have to share your snack with the cat, you can give non-toxic foods such as zucchini, bananas, cantaloupe, broccoli, carrots, spinach, cucumbers, strawberries, or peas.

You can test out these different snacks to determine what they like. The cat should get a balanced diet; therefore, you should also feed them the formulated cat food for proper nutrition.

The ideal cat food has protein that supports your feline’s bones, tendons, and ligaments. It also boosts the facilitates the functioning of various hormones and enzymes. They also need fatty acids for an energy boost, vitamins for their immunity, and cell protection and minerals that contribute to cell formation.


While a piece or two of popcorns will not harm your cat, it comes with some health risks. Popcorn is low in nutritional value and should only be served as a small treat. If you have to feed your cat popcorn, make sure it’s plain, air-popped without any extra toppings and additives.

Once your furry friend has consumed popcorn, you’ll need to observe them for any choking or stomach reactions. If these problems arise, have your vet check your cat immediately. Also, consult your vet on the most suitable snacks that your cat can feed on in moderation.

Learn more about what your cat can and can’t eat:

Featured Image Credit: Pixabay

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